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Probiotics: Healing more than our guts

You already know that probiotics are good for gut health, but research now suggests that "good" bacteria may also improve our mood, and decrease the amount of time we experience flu symptoms.

Probiotics are live microorganisms (or "good bacteria") that aid your digestive processes and help your digestive organs function optimally. We often think of bacteria in a negative light—but you need these bacteria in order to properly break down the foods you eat.

Some examples of foods that already contain these helpful bacteria are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso soup, kimchi, and more. If you aren’t a big fan of these foods, you can also get probiotics through different types of supplements.

More health practitioners are beginning to recommend probiotics—not just nutritionists. “Probiotics are one of the few supplements I encourage my patients to use," states chiropractor James C. Dunstan. "Given the current popularity of pesticide use in produce, these agents can cause loss of critical digestion promoting enzymes and bacteria within the gut. Probiotics can be a means to replenish the potential loss of our gut-friendly bacteria.”

Probiotics have been on the forefront of digestive health for awhile, but in recent years, there has been increasingly more evidence to support the theory that these “good bugs” may do more for us than solely aiding digestion. Studies suggest that probiotics may also help promote weight management, immune support, oral health, and even cholesterol management.

Here’s a rundown of the latest probiotic research you need to know.

Gut and brain connection

There is now evidence that shows gut health and brain health are inextricably linked. What you ingest and how healthy your stomach is can be directly related to neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and depression.

A review from March 2015, written by Canada’s McMaster University researchers, claims there is bidirectional communication between the gut and brain. If the bacteria in our gut are unhealthy, the communication dysfunctions and can lead to metabolic, neuropsychological and gastrointestinal disorders.

Their review re-examined a 2013 study from UCLA and Danone where 12 healthy females consumed fermented probiotic milk for four weeks and compared against 11 women who consumed no probiotics. The women consuming probiotics showed increased brain activity and improved mood.

Shortened flu symptoms

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a particular strain of probiotic, L.casei 431, may reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms. Researchers conducted the placebo-controlled experiment on 1,104 healthy subjects aging 18 to 60 years old in Germany and Denmark. Half the subjects were drank a probiotic milk beverage and the other half drank a placebo for 42 days. At day 23, the participants received a seasonal flu vaccine. Those who took probiotics had shorter duration of upper respiratory symptoms.

With the increase of pesticides on much of the food we consume, probiotics are becoming more important than ever before. In a 2009 study conducted by Korea’s Gyeonsang National University, an insecticide, chlorpyrifos, was used while making kimchi, a fermented, probiotic-rich food. After 9 days, the insecticide completely degraded and was inactive.  

While probiotics are a great idea for digestion, this new evidence shows the various microbiota may have other incredible effects on our health that we weren’t aware of. If you’re struggling to fit probiotics in your daily diet, consider picking up supplements from your local natural products store.

Discuss this Blog Entry 7

on Jun 9, 2015

Research cited mentions specific strains of probiotics. Is it easy to find certain strains to target certain ailments, especially when looking for non-dairy probiotics?

on Jun 9, 2015

I am a true believer of probiotics. Have been taking them for almost 40 yrs. New ones come out an are very potent. Great improvement since the 70s

on Jun 9, 2015

Probiotics are great for gut health and prebiotics are another awesome 'bac'teria booster! It's important not to overdo any one strain to avoid overpopulating one and out competing another. Look for a probiotic with several strains and rotate probiotics from time to time if you take supplements!

on Jun 14, 2015

Good to know that probiotics provide even more health benefits than just digestive. But I'm not too surprised since I've read many articles that associate digestive health to the immune system. I really like AmyK1's suggestion of rotating the strains you take when using supplements...I hadn't thought about that and I do take a probiotic supplement, usually the same one.

on Aug 17, 2015

I love probiotic foods. It's pretty awesome how bacteria can control our health so much.

on Aug 18, 2015

Probiotics are amazing! They do more than just help with digestion. They also enhanced my mood and i'm much more positive now too. it's all research backed as well. If you don't use them yet i highly recommend you do or at least look into it. I personally use the Actbiotics probiotics. they have 30Billion CFUs and a good amount of the most important strains. Check out this review:
consumster.com/2015/07/09/actbiotics-review-is-it-worth-the-money/
And also let me know if you know of other brands that have more CFUs.

on Dec 11, 2015

What Are Probiotics and How to Choose the Best For You?
probioticamericareviews.com

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