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Improving Your Gut & Overall Health with Probiotics

Improving Your Gut & Overall Health with Probiotics

The bacteria in your body far outnumber the cells in your body – most of this bacterium resides in your gut and is actually quite helpful in providing overall health.  Having proper gut health is linked to numerous health benefits including good digestion, enhanced immune function, healthy skin, and even weight loss.  Keep reading to find out more about gut health and probiotics.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are living organisms that provide health benefits.  They are usually thought to be bacteria but can also include certain types of yeast.  Probiotics are found naturally in certain types of food (usually fermented foods including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi).  The most common types of probiotics are classified as lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.  Although more research is needed on the effectiveness of probiotics on overall health, the current body of knowledge is promising.

Probiotics & Gut Health

Microorganisms in your gut as a colony are called your gut flora.  Your gut flora is most often found in your colon/large intestine.  Interestingly, this flora acts similarly to an organ and even helps to manufacture certain vitamins in your system including K and B vitamins.  Imbalances in gut health has been shown to be a contributing factor to many diseases including metabolic diseases, obesity, diabetes, and certain brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Microorganisms also play an essential role in digestive health.  Individuals who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who have incorporated probiotics into their diet have shown a reduction in symptoms.  Further, probiotics may help with combating other stomach issues such as ulcers. 

Other health benefits of probiotics/proper gut health include: reduction of inflammation both acute and chronic (which can result in a reduction of pain), reduction of symptoms of depression and anxiety, reduction of LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure, increase in skin health, and as discussed above, increase in immune function, and weight loss/weight maintenance.

How to Pick the Best Probiotic

 If you are looking to increase to supplement your gut health with probiotics there are many options on the market, but they are not created equal.  First, probiotics should contain live and active bacterial cultures and should have in noted on the package.  It is recommended to choose a probiotic that contains at least one billion colonies and should contain Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium or Saccharomyces boulardii.  It is best to talk to your doctor before starting probiotics as it may not be safe for those with a compromised immune system; however, in general, probiotics are thought to be quite safe.  If you are looking to use probiotics to solve a certain issue (like increased immunity or IBS) do additional research on the best strain of bacteria for your specific goals.

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