We often think of probiotics as being good for our guts and necessary after antibiotic use, but did you know they can improve mental health and your immune system? Everyone in your family should take probiotics every day!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria. Probiotic supplements contain the same or similar beneficial bacteria already present in our body. Common microorganisms included in probiotics come from the families of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii (yeast).1)https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm The Chalkboard explains:
To start, we know that probiotics are good for us, and that they are a natural part of the body’s environment. Probiotics are microorganisms (microflora) that reside in our intestine. They are good bacteria that keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms or bacteria) in check, aid in proper digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function. Probiotics have been researched extensively, showing positive results for an array of conditions ranging from asthma and allergies, to skin disorders and vaginal and urinary infections. They crowd out bad bacteria, preventing the bacteria’s ability to host in the body, which inhibits infection, inflammation and disease.
Although this good bacteria is already present in our bodies, often our digestive system is depleted of them. This can happen from prior antibiotic use, food poisoning, digestive issues, autoimmune disorders, skin issues, allergies, asthma, mental illness or mood disorders, immune problems, yeast infections, autism, malnutrition, alcohol consumption, stress, infection, the standard American diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and lack of sleep2)https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-things-that-harm-gut-bacteria#section93)http://thechalkboardmag.com/9-signs-you-need-probioticsAlmost everyone fits at least one of these conditions.
In the peer-reviewed article “A Review of the Advancements in Probiotic Delivery: Conventional vs. Non-conventional Formulations for Intestinal Flora Supplementation” researchers explain,
The Need for Intestinal Flora Supplementation
Probiotic bacteria are living supplementary organisms that have been shown to provide beneficial health effects to the host by replenishing natural gastrointestinal flora (1–5). The human intestinal system is thought to contain over 500 microbial species and approximately 1014 functional bacterial cells and also include fungi, yeasts, viruses, and protozoa. Some bacteria, such as Streptococci and Staphylococci spp., are known to cause infectious diseases in humans (6–9). These organisms are usually depleted for various reasons such as stress, infection, antibiotic use, and environmental factors.
The Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are best known for improving digestive issues. By balancing and replenishing healthy, friendly gut bacteria, conditions such as diarrhea and ulcerative colitis get better.4)https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-of-probiotics#section6
What is perhaps the most amazing benefit of probiotics is their effect on mental health. The gut-brain connection is firmly recognized by doctors and scientists. Within the walls of your digestive system is the enteric nervous system (ENS), also called the “second brain”. Johns Hopkins Medicine explains:
The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.5)https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection
The microorganisms in probiotics are essential for mental health. Research with rodents has found that some probiotics have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects. In fact, a new treatment of psychotic disorders using “psychomicrobiotics” has been proposed. According to “The Gut-Brain Axis: The Missing Link in Depression” published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Pharmacology and Neuroscience:
Recent research has suggested that the gut microbiota has an influence on mood. Poor diet is a risk factor for depression; thus, a healthy diet may prevent depression. Regulation of the gut microbiota using diet, probiotics and FMT may have important benefits for preventing and treating depression.6)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4662178/
Another benefit of consuming probiotics is their support of the body’s immune system. Just like there is a gut-brain connection, there is a gut-immune system relationship. According to assistant professor of pathology Dan Peterson at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract. The immune system is inside your body, and the bacteria are outside your body.”7)https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet
The body’s intestinal lining acts like a barrier that is not only important for digestion but immunity as well. Dr. Jon Lieff explains:
With the trillions of microbes in thousands of interacting communities residing very close to the intestinal epithelium, these cells are masters of maintaining order. They build and support the barrier that separates the microbes from the body, communicate constantly with the friendly and dangerous microbes, and actually create the immune tissue lying below with signals between microbes and immune cells.8)http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/the-very-intelligent-intestine-epithelial-cell
Working with mice, there have been numerous studies in which researchers found the importance of the probiotic Lactobacillus in preventing disease.9)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006993/10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404433/ According to “The Probiotic Bacterium Lactobacillus casei Induces Activation of the Gut Mucosal Immune System through Innate Immunity”:
It is known that the microflora of the gut stimulates the proliferation of epithelial cells (10) and that colonization of the gut with commensal microflora influences the development of the immune system (23).
Epithelial cells are important as the first line of defense because they are in constant contact with the bacteria and the bacterial products on their apical surface and because they are in close proximity with adjacent immune cells on their basolateral side. Epithelial cells can differentiate between pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria, probably by means of the recognition of conserved structure components in the bacteria (3); this fact is important for the tolerance of the epithelium to the normal microbial flora.11)http://cvi.asm.org/content/13/2/219.full
Which Probiotics Are the Best?
Not all probiotics are effective or created equally. When looking at label, see if there is a number beside the strain. These coded strains, for example Lactobacillus rhamnosus A119, have been studied, and you can look them up specifically. Genuine Health explains:
A probiotic is a type of bacteria that has been identified as a genus (e.g lactobacilli or bifidobacteria), species (e.g. acidophilus) and strain (e.g. A058). Often you’ll see the genus and species listed beside each other, like Bifidobacterium bifidum or Lactobacillus acidophilus, but less often will you see a strain code.
Strain codes identify a particular strain, and are banked as part of an international classification of microbes. This “bank” was established as a way to identify bacterial strains. Using strains that are part of this bank shows that the company has put careful thought into choosing the right strains for their probiotics, because different strains deliver different effects.12)https://healthfirstnetwork.ca/blog/does-your-probiotic-use-strain-codes/
Colony Forming Units (CFU) identifies how much of the probiotic contains live bacteria. The product should guarantee this amount, and it is helpful when comparing probiotic supplements. Inactive or dead ingredients may be included in the grams of the product and is not the best way to identify the potency.
The other important consideration when choosing probiotics is the delivery. Does it offer a delayed release? You want the probiotics to reach your intestines and not be digested by the stomach’s acids. Two products that offers such a delayed delivery are:
Theralac: Our unique delivery system utilizes sodium alginate to protect TheralacPRO as it travels through your stomach, enabling the probiotic bacteria to pass through unharmed, providing deep, targeted delivery to your small intestine.
Genuine Health Advanced Gut Health: Our strains are put into a vegan, plastic-free, delayed-release capsule to ensure that they pass through the stomach acid, reaching the gut where they thrive.
A human clinical study found that our capsules make it to the small intestine 45 minutes after standard capsules (1) and deliver up to 10x the bacteria to the gut
Every person can benefit from quality probiotic supplementation. It’s important to choose wisely and not waste your money on inferior products.
Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.
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