Our body contains over 100 trillion bacteria, which is more than all of cells in our body combined! Gut health of the microbiome has been shown to be related to many health conditions today, including obesity, diabetes and depression. The quality of the microorganisms are responsible for preventing or encouraging the onset of diseases. There is a combination of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut, and when the ratio of the bacteria becomes off balance, this can lead to health issues. Our gut bacteria can easily change due to changes in our food, environment, and lifestyle. This is where probiotics can help correct imbalances and improve our health.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are helpful and benefit the digestive system. There is a great deal of research on the benefits of probiotics and how they improve health conditions. They have been shown to boost cognitive function and improve memory, anxiety, depression, autism symptoms, stress, and OCD. Probiotics improve gut health and decrease GI issues such as IBS, and they aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, such as B12, calcium, zinc and phosphorus. Intake of probiotics has also been shown to help promote weight loss, to improve HDL levels, and to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. Lastly, probiotic help reduce inflammation and improve immune health.
There are many different strains of probiotics, and some studies show that different strains are beneficial at healing certain ailments. For example, some strains may improve immune function while others promote hormonal balance. When purchasing a probiotic, purchase a reputable brand, and try to pick one with multiple strains. SBOs (soil based organisms) are a new popular trend of probiotics. They are probiotic strains/microbes found in soil, which used to be a large part of our ancestral diet. Proponents state that they increase gut diversity and benefit gut health, especially those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Common SBO strains are bacillus subtilis, bacillus clausii, saccharomyces boulardii, lactobacillus plantarum, and bacillus coagulans.
Everyone’s gut microbiome is different, and different strains will react differently in our bodies. In my opinion, a probiotic can be beneficial for just about everyone. They are especially helping for those with persistent GI issues, allergies, asthma, frequent yeast infections, autoimmune conditions, anxiety, and skin conditions. They are also beneficial with those with a history of antibiotic use and when one is on a weight loss program or traveling. If probiotics cause your digestive symptoms to get worse, stop them immediately.
by Denise Groothuis MS RD CFMP