The digestive system contains both ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ bacteria. Maintaining and optimal balance between these two types of bacteria is essential if you want to be healthy. The balance between good and bad bacteria can be upset by factors such as diet, medications, disease or the environment. Probiotics come in handy when you want to preserve or restore balance in your GI tract. In the following article, we will explain more about the health benefits of probiotics.
Probiotics may seem like a newcomer to the public stage and especially the supplement industry, but we have been carrying them since birth. While being delivered through the birth canal, a newborn picks up the bacteria from his mother. However, the good bacteria the baby receives is not transmitted when a C-section is performed – and this has been shown to be the reason why some newborns have weaker immune systems, allergies and lower levels of good bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics play an important role in our digestive tract as they help maintain a healthy balance between god bacteria and bad bacteria. But what can ruin this balance? Emotional stress, poor food choices, antibiotic overuse, lack of sleep and environmental influences are some of the things that can shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.
When you have a healthy GI tract, it works to filter and remove the harmful things that can negatively affect it such as toxins, chemicals, harmful bacteria and other waste products. On the plus side, it absorbs the nutrients that the body needs and delivers them to the cells. When the balance between good and bad bacteria shifts in favor of the bad bacteria, health issues start occurring. Diarrhea, fatigue, muscle pain and urinary tract infections are some of the problems that could appear once balance is lost.
Another way in which probiotics help is the influence they have on our immune system, which is crucial in the protection against germs. When the immune system does not function as it should, we can suffer from autoimmune disorders, allergic reactions and infections. These ailments can be prevented by using probiotics, which help restore the perfect flora balance to your gut.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics live everywhere in the body, from the stomach, intestines, colon, joints, urinary tract, esophagus and appendix to the eyes, ears, nose and tonsils.
Probiotics have more than 100 health benefits that can be grouped in three main categories:
- boost digestion
- improve immunity
- reduce allergies
Digestive Benefits of Probiotics
More than 90% of probiotics live in the colon, small intestine and large intestine. As most of the digestion occurs in the intestines and colon, it’s natural that probiotics have a considerable role in digestion.
Research has proven that a lack of probiotics in the intestines can contribute to IBS, intestinal permeability (leaky gut) etc.
Here are some of the digestive benefits of probiotics:
- improve function of the intestinal barrier (heal leaky gut)
- reduce bloating in cases of IBS
- relieve constipation
- reduce gas
- inhibit antibiotic-related diarrhea
- reduce flare-ups of chronic pouchitis
- help fight diverticulitis
- diminishes abdominal pain in IBS
- inhibit diarrhea or reduce it
Immune System Benefits of Probiotics
It is believed that probiotics account for around 70 to 80 per cent of the body’s immune response. Probiotic immunity starts in the mouth, ears and nose, as probiotics live in the mucus and help protect from outside invaders. This is what makes probiotics the first line of defense against illnesses. Probiotics are also important for oral health as a deficiency in the area can increase the risk of cavities and canker sores.
In small amounts, probiotics also inhabit the stomach, but the concentration of these live bacteria increases in the vicinity of the ileum in the small intestines. In the large intestine there’s a similar concentration, while a staggering 90% the probiotics in our bodies live in the colon. Probiotics help create a protective layer that excretes antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal chemicals. When there’s a probiotic deficiency in the body, extremely dangerous bacteria starts infecting our GI tract.
Here are some of the proven immunity benefits brought by probiotics:
- increase production of virus specific antibodies
- boost the immune system’s efficiency
- fight intestinal infections (eg. C. difficile)
- reduce the risk of postoperative infections
- diminish topical burn infections
- protect against ear infections
- reduce nasal cavity infections
Allergy Reduction Benefits of Probiotics
Since allergies can be considered an over-active response of the immune system, it is normal that probiotics also help in this department.
Let’s see some of the proven allergy reduction benefits of probiotics:
- decrease hypersensitivity (MCS – multiple chemical sensitivity)
- reduce inflammation
- reduce seasonal allergies (pollen specifically)
- reduce allergenic response
- reduce eczema
- reduce atopic dermatitis
Additional Health Benefits of Probiotics
Additionally, there are also other benefits to using probiotics on a daily basis:
- enhance nutrient absorption
- boost women’s health
- improve cholesterol
- protect against food poisoning
- enhance mood
- improve dental health
- better sleep quality
- help fight several types of cancer
- stomach cancer
- colon cancer
- bladder cancer
- liver cancer
- cervical cancer
- lung cancer
Benefits of Probiotics to Women’s Health
Probiotics have been shown to considerably improve women’s health. Besides their usual benefits, probiotics also support women’s vaginal health. Additionally, according to a Swedish study, infant health can be improved if a woman is breastfeeding and she uses probiotics.
- improve infant health for breastfeeding women
- prevent yeast infections
- help to inhibit vaginal candida
- fight vaginitis/vaginosis
- reduce the risk of cervix cancer
Benefits of Probiotics to Infant Health
Infants have their first contact with probiotics after vaginal birth, followed by breastfeeding. It is believed that breastfeeding is very important for an infant to properly develop a strong immune system. Here are some other benefits that infants can experience with probiotic supplementation:
- reduced symptoms of lactose intolerance
- improved growth in preterm infants
- normalized gut colonization for formula fed infants
- reduced necrotizing enterocolitis
- infant microflora establishment
- colic treatment
- fight rotavirus infections
There is no doubt that probiotics are a perfect addition to anyone’s health. Probiotics can greatly contribute to strengthening the immune system, help with digestive issues and reduce the risk of allergies. The additional benefits and how they help women and infants are another testament to the amazing qualities of these live bacteria.
If you want to know how to choose a probiotic supplement, we have put together an article containing everything you need to know on the subject along with the top four selling brands.