Probiotics Prepare Your Gut (and Your Immune System) for Battle

Probiotics

We often think of bacteria as a bad thing. It’s only natural, since most of the bacteria we hear about are the kind that cause life-threatening illnesses like tuberculosis, tetanus, cholera and syphilis. That said, there are plenty of different types of good bacteria living within your body that help fight off the bad kind.

Probiotics are an example of good bacteria living in the digestive tract of all humans. Also found in many types of foods and supplements, probiotics are living microorganisms that aid in digestion and provide immune system support. Maintaining a diet with the right levels of probiotics can have great benefits when it comes to fighting off illness—and feeling better in general.

Read on to learn more about how probiotics help improve your overall health, and sneak a peek at a few tips for incorporating more of these good bacteria into your diet.

A look at the many benefits of probiotics

The biggest and most apparent benefit of probiotics is that they support good digestion. However, did you know they can also help protect your body against illnesses like the common cold?

A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium aid in the body’s fight against respiratory illnesses. According to a peer-reviewed summary of the study, “this systematic review provides evidence from a number of good-quality RCT that probiotics reduce the duration of illness in otherwise healthy children and adults.”

In another study, published on PubMed, researchers examined the psychological effects of supplementing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotic strains in humans. The results showed probiotics can help improve mental disorders like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (O.C.D.) and depression. It’s a discovery that lends further credence to the gut-brain connection.

Probiotics can also help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea and inflammation. They even make it easier for your body to break down and absorb medications. Other benefits linked to probiotics include weight loss and healthier skin.

Possible side effects of probiotics

Most people don’t experience negative side effects from probiotics. However, introducing too many probiotics into your digestive environment too quickly can result in a few unpleasant digestive symptoms. Often, this takes the form of embarrassing gas and bloating. Some people also complain of headaches after increasing their intake of probiotic-rich foods.

Individuals who may experience the negative side effects associated with probiotics include those with compromised immune systems or recent surgeries. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the side effects mentioned above.

Great sources of probiotics

Popular sources of probiotics include yogurt, coconut milk, natto, miso and tempeh. Many fermented dishes contain probiotics as well, so check out foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, beets, pickled jackfruit and pickled ginger. That said, not all fermented foods contain probiotics. When looking to increase your intake, make sure the label says something like, “contains active, live cultures.”

Poor diet and illness can lessen the number of probiotic bacteria in the body, sometimes resulting in gastrointestinal issues and a lowered immune system. If you’re having trouble getting enough probiotics from your diet, consider taking a supplement, which is a great way to introduce millions of healthy cultures into your digestive environment. Just make sure to consult your doctor before adding probiotic supplements to your regimen.

Incorporate probiotics into your diet

It’s never easy to make a drastic change to your diet. And while taking probiotic supplements is an option, health professionals generally recommend probiotic foods whenever possible. Thankfully, it’s easy to find delicious recipes online that incorporate probiotic foods.

One of our favorite recipes is a simple yogurt parfait. All you’ll need is a few cups of yogurt, a cup of granola and a handful of your favorite fruit. In a large glass, layer the yogurt, granola and fruit on top of each other. For an extra boost of nutrition, you could add flax seeds to your yogurt parfait. In no time, you’ll have a delicious and healthy snack that helps promote better digestion and boosts immunity.

Prepare your gut for battle

With the constant threat of bad bacteria and the illnesses they bring with them, it’s all we can do to boost our internal defenses. What better way to protect yourself than fighting fire with fire—or rather, bacteria with bacteria? Probiotics not only help maintain a healthy gut, they can also improve your immune system, reduce inflammation and increase weight loss. Couple probiotics with a healthy diet and exercise program and you’re sure to see the benefits right away.

Consult your doctor before adding supplements or making major changes to your diet. And, like always, do plenty of research on any supplements you’re considering. The quality of your probiotic intake matters—especially when you’re up against heavy-hitting bad bacteria.

Staff Writer

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