Why are probiotics good for you? Health benefits explained

Heather Campbell
 min read

Why are probiotics good for you? There must be a reason for the continuous reminders!

Why are probiotics good for you? Health benefits explainedHave you ever heard or seen advertisements promoting the health benefits of probiotics?

As a whole, probiotics are living micro-organisms essential for good health. They have vital roles in our digestion and immunity. Medical treatments, pathogenic germs, and excessive fats, proteins, alcohol, and stimulants all upset our gut balance and that’s where probiotics come into play.

Do you know why probiotics are such an asset to your body? Read on to find out! We will also learn if they are really good for our health, how probiotics work and their many benefits.

Why are probiotics good for you? Introduction

Probiotics are often found as dietary supplements, but they are not uncommon in certain dairy products.

Probiotics are living micro-organisms that are beneficial for maintaining good health.

Indeed, they play several vital roles in many functions of our body, from digestion to immunity.

Taking care of your intestinal flora

Before talking about probiotics, it is essential to remind you of the importance of taking care of your intestinal flora.

There are about a hundred thousand billion bacteria, grouped into hundreds of different species, present in the intestines.

The intestinal flora plays many roles in maintaining a healthy body:

  • It promotes the degradation of toxic waste for the body, including some cholesterol.
  • It facilitates the digestion of proteins and the assimilation of vitamins.
  • It strengthens the immune system.
  • It protects the body from infectious germs. It is a natural defense barrier against dangerous bacteria.

To work properly, the proportion between the different bacteria must be respected. However, if this proportion is disturbed, the body is exposed to an increased sensitivity to infections, digestive disorders, and even food allergies.

Many factors can be at the origin of this fragility, such as:

  • Medical treatments: taking antibiotics or using laxatives too often.
  • Pathogenic germs: leading to infections such as gastroenteritis.
  • An unbalanced diet that’s too rich in fats or proteins, or the abuse of alcohol and stimulants.

Therefore, probiotics would be great allies in maintaining a healthy intestinal flora.

What are probiotics?

We can define probiotics as living bacteria that will have a positive influence on health when consumed in sufficient quantities.

But how can they influence our health, you might ask? Simply by rebalancing the intestinal flora.

Indeed, an imbalance of the intestinal flora can lead to many disorders and diseases

Some of the more obvious problems include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • And also various skin problems such as some forms of eczema and acne.

Consuming probiotics can then bring real relief as these bacteria will help the intestinal flora reconstitute itself while eliminating the harmful germs in the body.

This is a significant advantage over antibiotics, which tend to destroy both bad and good bacteria.

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Probiotics are friendly bacteria

These micro-organisms come from what we ingest, whether food or medication. Then, they pass, without multiplying and without implanting, in the digestive tract.

Probiotics are mainly lactic acid bacteria, apart from active yeast, which is only found in the form of medication.

Indeed, the latter transform sugars into lactic acid. They are called lactobacilli. These bacteria are often found in pharmaceutical preparations, particularly in food supplements.

In smaller quantities, they also exist in other types of products:

  • In products resulting from the fermentation of vegetables such as sauerkraut, soy sauce, wine, rice, or wheat flour.
  • In fermented dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and some cheeses.
  • And also in the salting industry.

Bifidobacteria, also lactic, have been introduced in yogurts and fermented milk. We find them more and more in popular yogurts.

Validated effects of probiotics

These micro-organisms have benefits for our bodies. On the one hand, we can distinguish between proven and probable effects. Among the former are:

An improvement of the intestinal transit

Studies have shown that regular consumption of specific probiotics (and thanks to their numerous effects on the intestinal flora) will improve the digestion of certain foods and regulate intestinal transit.

Present in yogurts, the bacteria “Lactobacillus bulgaricus” and “Streptococcus thermophilus” participate in the digestion of lactose (which is the sugar in milk). So lactose intolerant people may consume these dairy products.

Several probiotics have also been shown to accelerate intestinal transit. This effect will depend on the dose of probiotics ingested.

Therefore, several pieces of research have shown that consuming probiotics has a beneficial impact on people suffering from constipation.

Improvement of colopathy

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects mainly the adult population and manifests itself by bloating, pain, and transit disorders without intestinal damage.

Not all probiotics have an effect on these disorders, but some can help improve digestive comfort by reducing the secretion of fluids that cause diarrhea.

Decrease in the frequency and duration of diarrhea

Some probiotics have also been shown to effectively treat diarrhea in young children in several studies.

In fact, regular consumption of these small bacteria significantly reduces the duration of diarrhea. Other studies have also observed that recovery time from all types of diarrhea is improved.

Fighting Helicobacter pylori infections

Probiotics are also used to fight against the Helicobacter pylori bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and cancer.

Combined with standard treatment, they increase the chances of recovery and reduce side effects.

The recognized benefits of probiotics

Scientists are convinced of the potentially beneficial effects of probiotics but are more reserved than advertisers about their actual benefits.

They agree that probiotics positively influence (preventive or therapeutic) different areas.

In children

In children, probiotics improve the immune response and allow for a better response to vaccines.

Research has shown that adding certain probiotics to milk reduces the risk of diarrhea.

Probiotics have also been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of atopic eczema flare-ups in young children. Consuming probiotics during pregnancy would protect the unborn baby from this condition.

In adults

Consuming probiotics strengthens the immune system of adults by increasing the protective barrier effect of the flora and by inducing a general increase in the body’s defensive cells.

A study carried out with athletes has shown that the Lactobacillus Casei bacterium helps keep the immune system’s activity intact, which tends to decrease when the body is subjected to very intense physical training.

Moreover, probiotics regulate the transit and are effective against diarrhea (including those resulting from antibiotics), constipation, and bloating.

They also help restore the flora and reduce urogenital infections and mycoses, especially candidiasis.

Each strain has specific properties and thus specific applications. For example, some strains contained in yogurt will improve lactose intolerance. In contrast, others will act to prevent diarrhea due to antibiotics.

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Each strain has an impact on our health

There are thousands of strains of probiotics in existence, and only a few have been observed. Scientists were able to determine that some of them had very specific influences.

Studies have shown that the two strains of probiotics naturally present in yogurt (lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus) are particularly effective against digestive disorders.

Other strains present in food supplements and yogurts enriched with probiotics (such as lactobacillus caséi defensis) help boost the immune system, thus reducing the duration of certain infections such as the flu or the common cold.

When can I use probiotics?

Taking probiotics continuously is not really interesting, but this is not dangerous either. These bacteria cannot cause any side effects, whether consumed through food or supplements.

Generally, it is recommended to make punctual cures of about 4 weeks to treat a particular problem like digestive disorders.

It is also highly recommended to take probiotics as a preventive measure when your intestinal flora is at risk of being disturbed. Many factors can change the quality of your gut flora, such as:

  • Taking an antibiotic treatment,
  • A stressful event (for example, a move or a new job)
  • Or simply a significant change in your diet while traveling abroad.

Where to find probiotics?

Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut and yogurt.

There are also foods artificially enriched with probiotics. In this case, a strain of probiotics has been selected in the laboratory and then voluntarily introduced into the food to treat a particular disorder.

It can also be found in pharmacies in the form of food supplements.

What is the dosage when taking probiotics?

We generally recommend one yogurt per day for the cure to work properly.

If you choose dietary supplements instead, it is advisable to follow the product’s instructions for use.

Suppose your symptoms (such as diarrhea or constipation) do not improve after a few days. In that case, it is essential to consult a doctor who can give you the appropriate treatment if needed.

The interest in combining prebiotics and probiotics

Prebiotics are very interesting to maximize the effects of probiotics.

In fact, they are dietary fibers that occur naturally in many foods such as artichokes, rice, and bananas.

The role of prebiotics is to feed and stimulate the growth of good bacteria that colonize the intestines.

They work in perfect symbiosis with probiotics.

Why are probiotics good for you? Conclusion

The consumption of probiotics is recommended to maintain a healthy intestinal flora.

Probiotics can be found naturally in our food or as food supplements.

Although it is not essential to consume them every day, it can be interesting to do probiotic cures as soon as you feel troubles in your digestive system.

Whether for adults or children, probiotics are good bacteria for everyone!

About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More