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Probiotics can help you tackle digestive problems and promote a range of other health benefits.

Probiotics for Better Digestion

The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells 10 to 1, and most of these bacteria live in your gut. Although you may think of bacteria as harmful, the majority that live inside your body are not only harmless, but beneficial. Having the right balance of bacteria in your gut is linked to numerous health benefits including weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, and more! Read our article below for more information on probiotics and their role in the body.

What are probiotics?

The digestive tract is home to trillions of microorganisms. Some of these are harmful, some are beneficial, and others are neutral. The term 'probiotics' refers to living microscopic organisms that provide health benefits to your body when ingested in adequate amounts. [1] They help to crowd out harmful bacteria from the body in order to keep you fit and healthy. Probiotics are usually bacteria, but certain yeasts can also be used.

What can Probiotics do?

Taking probiotics can help to balance the friendly bacteria in our intestines and promote smooth digestion. Although evidence is promising, more research is needed on the benefits of including probiotics in your diet.

Some of the suggested benefits of probiotics are as follows:

  • Help treat ailments like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diarrhoea, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and many more [2, 3, 4, 5]
  • Fight Helicobacter pylori infections, which are one of the main drivers of ulcers and stomach cancer [6, 7, 8, 9]
  • Aid in lowering bad cholesterol [10, 11]
  • Help maintain a strong immune system [12, 13]
  • Preventing harmful bacteria from attaching to the gut lining [14]
  • Improving the digestive system [15]
  • Help in decreasing allergies particularly among children [16]
  • Help reducing systemic inflammation [17]
  • Assist in maintaining a healthy weight [18]
  • Combating diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer's and depression [19, 20, 21, 22]
  • Help in absorbing important vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, Vitamins A, D, E and K. [23]
  • Reducing Blood pressure [24, 25]
  • Treating acne, rosacea and eczema, as well as other skin disorders [26]

However, maintaining a healthy gut is about more than probiotics. Day-to-day diet and exercise are just as important, as many lifestyle factors can impact your gut bacteria.

Which foods are a good source of natural probiotics?

Probiotics can be found in many natural food forms. Adding these to your diet can help you reap the benefits of a healthier digestive system and a stronger body.

Yogurt is considered to be one of the best sources of probiotics. If possible, try to avoid yogurt with artificial sweeteners and flavours.

Sauerkraut made from fermented cabbage is rich in healthy live cultures, and vitamins such as B, A, E and C. Try to choose unpasteurised sauerkraut, because pasteurisation kills the helpful bacteria in most cases.

Miso is the core of traditional Japanese medicine that is commonly used to aid the digestive system. Miso contains Lactobacilli and Bifidus bacteria that helps neutralise the side effects of pollution, and alkalinize the body. Adding a tablespoon of miso to hot water makes an excellent probiotic-rich soup. [27, 28]

Kefir, similar to yogurt, is a rich source of probiotics. Made from a combination of goat's milk and fermented kefir grains, it is high in Lactobacilli and Bifidus bacteria and is also rich in antioxidants. It balances your body's ecosystem and supports digestive health and immunity.[29]

Naturally fermented pickles are an excellent source of natural probiotics. They encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria and promote digestive benefits.

In addition to the above-mentioned foods, you can also take probiotic supplements in capsule, tablet, powder or liquid form. The most common probiotic groups include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Different probiotics address different health conditions. Therefore, choosing the right type or types of probiotic is essential. Some supplements, known as broad-spectrum probiotics or multi-probiotics, combine different species in the same product.

Side Effects

Probiotics are considered safe for most people. However, in the first few days of use, you may notice symptoms such as gas or mild abdominal discomfort. After this adjustment period, your digestion should begin to improve.

In people with compromised immune systems, for example those with HIV, AIDS, or other conditions, probiotics can cause dangerous infections. [30] If you have a medical condition, you should discuss probiotics with your doctor before taking them.

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24912386/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19220890/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19091823/

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23981066/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25525379/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24379623/

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24574741/

[8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24587621/

[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25400981/

[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22611376/

[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24330093/

[12] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1517/14712598.2015.980233

[13] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24780623/

[14] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1043661810000186

[15] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22529959/

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784923/

[17] https://www.ffhdj.com/index.php/ffhd/article/view/2

[18] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1473309913701798

[19] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025619611607027

[20] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21226616/

[21] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22972297/

[22] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24495527/

[23] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9406136/

[24] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23823502/

[25] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25047574/

[26] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962214014078

[27] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15671685/

[28] https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(16)33413-8/abstract

[29] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3833126/#b10-bjm-44-341

[30] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1517/14740338.2014.872627