What are probiotics? Here's what you need to know.
What is the Microbiome?
The microbiome is the collection of microbes that inhabit every surface of your body. It is even referred to as a "supporting organ" because it is so crucial to maintaining your health.At birth and during breastfeeding, we receive a certain set of microorganism species from our mothers; as we develop, we pick up additional microbe species (both harmful and beneficial!) from our food, in a process known as "colonization."
The birth canal, breastfeeding, environment, nutrition, and antibiotics all have a role in how we colonize the microbiome.
In most cases, the good (health-promoting) and bad (possibly disease-causing) microbes coexist peacefully.
However, once the balance of good and bad bacteria is upset (for instance, as a result of overusing antibiotics, eating poorly, or suffering from a prolonged sickness), our body might enter a state known as "dysbiosis," making us more prone to illness.
Certain bacterial strains are beneficial for particular health issues (vaginal health, digestive health, immunity, etc.). So we'll explain how to pick a probiotic that addresses your issue and delivers on its promises.
Staying in Harmony
Supporting your microbiome's "good" bacteria is always a good idea, but it's particularly crucial for small children and the elderly whose microbe colonies might not be as strong.
Additionally, you need to provide your microbiome with additional assistance if you believe it's out of balance, either as a result of stress, poor diet, antibiotic use, or travel-related stress, or because you've recently developed digestive or bacterial health issues (such as a urinary tract infection).
Prebiotics and probiotics are two strategies for keeping your microbiota in balance. The beneficial yeast, fungi, and bacteria in your gut feed on prebiotics, while probiotics are beneficial yeast, fungi, and bacteria that multiply in your body.
Prebiotics are a specific kind of fiber or resistant starch that your body cannot digest. They are present in plants. They can be compared to the fertilizer that your microbiome needs to create healthy microorganisms.
Simple sugars are rapidly absorbed by the small intestine, but more complex carbs migrate into the large intestine instead since they can't be digested.
After that, they are consumed by "good bugs," and the microbiota assists in breaking down their fibers and producing short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Certain malignancies and intestinal illnesses like Crohn's disease can be prevented and treated with the use of these SCFA.
The pH of your colon is lowered by SCFAs, making it uninhabitable for many dangerous bacteria types that prefer a less acidic environment. Additionally, they promote healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels and boost your immune system.
Prebiotic fibers can be found in supplements, although prebiotics are also widely available from plant foods. Inulin, resistant starch, fructooligosaccharides, gum, and pectin are some of the names given to these fibers.
As different kinds of prebiotics will feed different bacteria, it's crucial to consume a diversified diet full of plant-based foods. The following are some of the top prebiotic fiber sources:
- Fresh garlic
- Fresh onion
- Fresh leeks
- Uncooked Jerusalem artichokes
- Uncooked dandelion greens
- Green bananas
- Fresh seaweed
Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and legumes are additional beneficial sources.
It's vital to keep in mind that abruptly increasing consumption can cause indigestion and flatulence, especially in people with irritable bowel syndrome, so gradually increase intake to allow your tolerance to increase.
Live microorganisms found in probiotic-containing foods immediately boost the number of beneficial microbes in your stomach.
The average person's stomach has about 1000 different types of bacteria. Probiotic food consumption on a regular basis can increase both the variety and number of healthy species.
Consuming a range of probiotic foods is vital because they each contain a unique strain (species) of microorganisms, much as it is important to consume a variety of prebiotic foods to feed various types of bacteria. Kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha, and several other fermented and cultured foods are examples of these foods.
Particular health issues will directly result from a lack of certain species. For instance, the family or genus Lactobacillus suppresses the overgrowth of the Candida yeast. Yeast infections are brought on by the overgrowth of a dangerous family of fungus called Candida. Yogurt contains specific lactobacillus strains.
The two most prevalent groups (what's known as a Genus) are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus (from which most probiotic supplements are made). While Bifidobacterium is mostly present in the large intestine/colon, Lactobacillus is mostly located in the vagina and small intestine.
There are a number of species with specific roles within each Genus (like Bifidobacterium longum, which is associated with digestion and immunity). There are various strains of each type of species, each of which has a distinct advantage.
How Do I Choose the Best Supplement for Probiotics?
Here are a few things to think about when searching for a probiotic:
Make sure the company is utilizing strains that have been supported by studies. Verify that the strains have been studied and shown to work together because improperly combined strains may have negative effects (the best companies will link the studies they base their formula on).
Buy a probiotic supplement designed specifically to address the issues you want it to deal with.
Choosing a probiotic that has at least a billion colony forming units (CFU) overall is a decent rule of thumb.
3. Make Sure it's Stable
Choose a probiotic that contains strains from the most researched Genus (such as Lactobacillus) and avoid those that are made entirely of Bifidobacterium, which are delicate and may not withstand stomach acid.
To ensure that the probiotic survives to populate the large intestine, choose a probiotic that is delayed-release and encapsulated, or otherwise naturally preserved.
4. Additional components
Verify that the other substances support whatever it is you're seeking to treat rather than working against it. For instance, consuming too much prebiotic fiber all at once could make your stomach pain worse.