Maintaining the health of your gut is probably the number one thing you can do for your overall health. While you might think your gut is in perfect shape, it may not be! After all, the body is an integrated ecosystem, so imbalances in one area of the body can manifest themselves in an entirely different area.
Researchers are becoming increasingly aware that an unhealthy gut can compromise things like immunity, cognitive function, healthy weight, hormonal balance and much more. One of the easiest things you can do to heal your gut is to add beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, to your daily diet.
Enjoy Greater Immunity
Surprisingly, 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system! That means by boosting gut health, we naturally boost our immunity too.
Many studies have shown that regular intake of
probiotics has a positive effect on immune health. Even when our bodies
are under extreme pressure probiotics can give us a much needed boost,
with research showing that long-distance runners who supplement with
probiotics enjoy greater immune function.
Chronic inflammation in the body is linked to a multitude of illnesses like asthma, allergies, heart disease, cancer, premature aging and more. Probiotics may actually help quell this excess inflammation and prevent or improve its associated conditions.
One study, carried out in
Ireland, found that certain probiotic bacteria can help treat patients
with inflammatory conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, psoriasis
and ulcerative colitis.
Reduce Blood Pressure
A review of
nine studies has shown a definite link between consuming beneficial
bacteria and lower blood pressure levels – something that should be of
particular interest to the one in three Americans suffering with
Probiotics may be one of the many foods and drinks that can help lower cholesterol, according to a study of middle-aged men. They found that a daily fermented milk drink (a natural source of probiotics) reduced total cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels by 6% and 10% respectively.
be noted that not all studies have achieved these positive results,
leading researchers to think that only certain strains of the bacteria
are effective at reducing cholesterol.
Improve Learning and Memory
The brain and gastrointestinal system share an intimate connection –
known as the brain-gut axis – which is why a healthy gut leads to a
healthy brain. In one piece of research, healthy women given a
probiotic-rich yogurt for four weeks displayed improved brain function
when compared to either the placebo or control groups.
The brain-gut axis may explain why probiotics have been found to help
fight depression and anger too. In a study carried out in the
Netherlands, scientists discovered that participants who took probiotics
had a significant reduction in negative and aggressive thoughts.
Some probiotics can alleviate the inflammatory and digestive symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) according to a review of 19 studies. These friendly bacteria may also maintain remission of Crohn’s Disease and avoid the recurrence of pouchitis – a complication of the surgery used to treat ulcerative colitis.
Prevent or Treat Diarrhea
Taking probiotics increases the ‘good’ bugs in your system, which work to crowd out the ‘bad’ ones – the ones that lead to diarrhea and other stomach problems. It’s no surprise then that several studies have found probiotics shorten the course of diarrhea in sufferers, particularly those with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
It’s also a good idea
to load up on probiotics before traveling, as they are a safe and
effective way to prevent infectious diarrhea, says an analysis of 23
Cure Urinary Tract Infections
Some research says UTIs
– which affect over 50% of women – can be prevented with regular intake
of probiotic foods, drinks or supplements.
Prevent Childhood Eczema and Allergies
Childhood eczema is an early sign of allergies – and probiotics may just help prevent both conditions in infants.
In a study of 241 women, scientists discovered that those who took
probiotics while pregnant experienced a decrease in the occurrence of
childhood eczema in their babies. While 71% of infants in the placebo
group suffered eczema at least once, just 29% of infants in the
probiotic group did.
At least one piece of
research suggests it may be possible to use probiotics to treat obesity.
Keep in mind that a sluggish digestive system (which can be improved
through probiotics) hinders weight loss.
Improve Oral Hygiene
There is a growing body of research to highlight the beneficial role of probiotics in taking care of your pearly whites – particularly when it comes to preventing and treating oral infections, dental caries, periodontal disease and bad breath.