Do you know what probiotics are and the various uses they can have for our health? Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your body, especially your digestive system. They’re found in dietary supplements and certain foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and even pickles.
Research shows that these beneficial microbes may help with conditions such as gut/digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety, allergies, eczema—and more serious disorders like diabetes or cancer.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, often referred to as "good" or "friendly" bacteria, that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines . When taken daily, probiotics can help restore and maintain the normal balance of good bacteria in your gut.
The most common probiotics are strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which can be found in yogurts, cheese, and fermented foods. While many different types of probiotics exist, each strain has its unique benefits. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus is thought to help reduce cholesterol levels and improve digestive health.
What are the Benefits of Probiotics?
1. They Prevent Diarrhea
Recent scientific studies have unveiled their potential in preventing diarrhea, a common ailment often triggered by the imbalance of gut microflora. Probiotics can restore this balance, thereby mitigating the instances of diarrhea.
Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD), an adverse effect of antibiotic usage, is a particular case where probiotics have demonstrated efficacy  . These beneficial microorganisms can safeguard the gastrointestinal tract against harmful bacteria, fortifying the body's natural defense mechanism and reducing the risk of diarrhea.
2. They balance the Healthy Bacteria in the Gut
Probiotics are live microorganisms, often referred to as 'friendly bacteria', that when consumed in adequate amounts, confer health benefits on the host. They play a crucial role in balancing the intestinal microbiota the community of bacteria residing in our gut. The human gut is not a sterile environment; instead, it's a complex ecosystem teeming with trillions of bacteria.
The balance between 'healthy' and 'harmful' bacteria in this ecosystem is vital for our overall health. Probiotics, by promoting the growth and activity of healthy bacteria, help maintain this balance .
3. Improved Mental Health
Did you know that there's a significant connection between your gut health and your mental well-being? Well, it's true! Research has shown the role of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in improving mental health conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression, OCD, and autism . These tiny microbes interact with the nervous system, influencing brain function and mood.
So, while probiotics are usually associated with improving digestion, it turns out they could also play a crucial part in managing conditions like anxiety or depression.
4. Beneficial for your Overall Gut Health
Probiotics are a great way to maintain your gut health and help protect against some gastrointestinal diseases. With regular consumption of probiotics, you may experience improved digestion, a stronger immune system, and an overall sense of well-being. Probiotics come in various forms, including capsules, powders, and liquids. They can be taken orally or applied topically to the skin.
In addition to taking probiotics, there are other ways to improve gut health. Eating a diet rich in fiber and fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut can help balance your microbiome.
Exercise also encourages healthy gut bacteria and reduces stress levels which can have a positive effect on your overall health. Taking probiotics in combination with implementing these other practices can benefit your gut health greatly.
5. Boost Immune System
It's no secret that probiotics are beneficial for our gut, but did you know that they can also help boost your immune system? By adding probiotic-rich foods or supplements into your daily diet, you can not only improve your gut health but also give your body the extra protection it needs to fight off infection and illness. Studies have shown that taking probiotics can reduce the prevalence of respiratory infections. Similarly, Lactobacillus crispatus is known to reduce the risk of UTIs  .
One key way that probiotics help to strengthen your immune system is by protecting the body's barrier against pathogens. They produce substances that line our gut walls, helping to keep harmful bacteria out and beneficial bacteria in.
What are the Best Food Sources of Probiotics?
When it comes to boosting your gut health, probiotics are the go-to! But where can you find them? Here's a short list of some amazing probiotic-rich foods to include in your diet:
- Yogurt:Probably the most famous probiotic food, yogurt is fermented with friendly bacteria, mainly lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.
- Kefir:A fermented probiotic milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to cow's or goat's milk.
- Sauerkraut:Just a fancy term for fermented cabbage, and it's full of probiotics and fiber.
- Tempeh:A fermented soybean product, tempeh is a popular plant-based source of protein.
- Kimchi:This traditional Korean side dish involves fermented cabbage and other veggies.
- Miso:A traditional Japanese seasoning, produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus known as koji.
- Kombucha:A type of fermented black or green tea drink.
If you are unable to fulfil you body’s probiotics need from foods, you can always resort to supplements. Rucir’s Ultra probiotics ND50 has been developed for this very purpose.
All in all, probiotics are incredibly helpful for individuals who are looking to improve their health and wellbeing. Taking probiotics can help reduce stomach issues like diarrhea, balance out the healthy bacteria in the gut, boost mental health, and even strengthen the immune system.
Taking food sources high in probiotics such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods is a great way to ensure that you’re receiving enough beneficial bacteria. Additionally, dietary supplements or probiotic dummies containing several types of beneficial bacteria can be a great decision if you’re looking for additional sources of probiotics.
- Shahrokhi M, Nagalli S. Probiotics. StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553134/
- Guo Q, Goldenberg JZ, Humphrey C, El Dib R, Johnston BC. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2019;4:CD004827. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004827.pub5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31039287/
- Weersma RK, Zhernakova A, Fu J. Interaction between drugs and the gut microbiome. Gut 2020;69:1510–9. https://doi.org/10.1136/gutjnl-2019-320204 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32409589/
- Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients 2017;9:1021. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9091021 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28914794/
- Wang H, Lee I-S, Braun C, Enck P. Effect of Probiotics on Central Nervous System Functions in Animals and Humans: A Systematic Review. J Neurogastroenterol Motil 2016;22:589–605. https://doi.org/10.5056/jnm16018 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27413138/
- Hao Q, Dong BR, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015:CD006895. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25927096/