Or, maybe we could call this “When a good bug goes bad. Or disappears. And what we can do about it.” You may have seen a lot about probiotics in the news, on commercials, or recommended in natural-health magazines for a whole host of issues you may be having, but how much do you know about them? It’s a huge topic, so I wanted to bring you a little information in case this is something that may help you get back on track to optimal health!
What are probiotics anyway?
Well, the definition of probiotics is super broad. Usually, what health practitioners will say is that probiotics are live, tiny organisms that provide health benefits, and we also generally call these organisms “good bacteria.” All human beings have tons of microbes all over their bodies, including bacteria. In fact, we have more microbes than human cells. That is, we have 10 to the 14th power’s worth of microbes… and 10 to the 13th power of human cells—ten times the amount! So if our microbe balance is out of whack, it stands to reason that it’s going to cause some bodily problems.
Bacteria are in every part of our bodies, but there are some parts where these bacteria tend to be concentrated. Spots where we see dense amounts include the entirety of the digestive tract from the mouth through the intestines, on our skin, and in women, the vaginal tract. If a baby is born vaginally we pass along that good bacteria to the baby when he or she is born.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics help with a lot of different things. In digestion, they break down the food we eat, and create vitamins out of it. They play a role in our metabolism and cholesterol levels. They play a pretty critical part in building our immune system because our immune system starts in our gut/digestive tract. Studies are finding now that there are so many happy chemicals like serotonin created in our gut that if we have better balance of bacteria, we will have less depression and feel happier. Oh, and they have a respiratory function as well. They can help with skin health too. So, they’re playing critical roles in our body’s total orchestration.
What can cause an imbalance with our good bacteria?
- Taking antibiotics kills a lot of good bacteria in all these areas.
- If you have chlorinated drinking water or don’t drink filtered water.
- Recent studies have shown that diet soda could kill the good bacteria in intestines.
- Any pesticides in or on our food can also kill bacteria—just like antibiotics, it’s meant to kill bad bacteria, but it causes good bacteria to die off as well.
What kind of problems can an imbalance of good bacteria create?
- Diarrhea—IBS-type, Crohn’s and colitis flare-ups, or everyday diarrhea
- Lactose intolerance
- Sluggish metabolism
- Frequent colds and poor immune system
- Seasonal allergies
- Asthma symptoms
- Yeast infections
- Mood issues such as depression and anxiety
What do you do about it?
Take probiotics. Yogurt and other fermented foods have good bacteria, but it can be easier to control your intake and be effective by taking supplements. Learn about 7 great probiotic strains here!