Chances are you’ve heard about Probiotics at some point within the past couple of years. The word itself has become somewhat of a buzz word in the health community since the early 2000’s (ish) and for good reason! These little supplements can have a huge impact on our digestive health!
Probiotics simply put; are supplements that contain “friendly” bacteria that we generally want present in the digestive tract in large numbers (1). These friendly bacteria strains perform a whole host of important bodily functions and work collectively to keep our digestive tract functioning optimally.
Here are just a few of the many benefits associated with adding a probiotic supplement to your daily regime.
1. They are responsible for maintaining the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract.
As human beings our digestive tracts are chalk full of bacteria. Bacteria strains such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli are found in the intestinal system and aid our body with the synthesis of vitamin B, food digestion and immune system strength. To add to that, our digestive systems also contain a plethora of potentially pathogenic bacteria strains, such as Streptoccus Faecium for example. Factors like stress, a poor diet, lack of sleep or increased alcohol consumption can lead to an overgrowth of the pathogenic bacteria, and suddenly the delicate bacterial balance in our gut can become compromised. When the “bad’ bacteria begins to take over, our immune system health suffers and suddenly you might find yourself getting sick more often, suffering from recurrent yeast and/or urinary tract infections or fungal infections such as athletes foot and toenail fungus for example.
2. They may improve some mental health conditions.
As mentioned above, the bacteria in our intestines plays a role in the synthesis of B Vitamins! Emerging research findings show that the B Vitamins: B12, Thiamin and Niacin play an important role in maintaining optimal mental health (2) and may help alleviate symptoms such as depressed mood and cognitive impairment (2). Furthermore, randomized control studies completed within the last 5 years on both humans and animals have found probiotics to be effective in improving Central Nervous System function including psychiatric disease associated issues such as; anxiety, depression, mood, stress response and memory abilities (3).
3. Probiotics can help reduce symptoms of digestive upset & disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Although more research is needed in this field, studies have shown that administration of a multi-strain probiotic supplement may reduce the severity of common IBS symptoms such as abdominal cramping, bloating and pain (4). Although the exact mechanism for how probiotics may aid in the reduction of IBS symptoms is unknown (4), the studies’ results suggest that it’s AGAIN, the maintenance between the “good” vs “bad” bacteria, that’s coming into play. Essentially, a greater number of beneficial bacteria would mean less inflammation in the digestive tract leading to a reduction in IBS’s nasty symptoms.
So, there’s a few interesting science-based facts to consider when contemplating the addition of a probiotics supplement. From a personal standpoint, since being introduced to probiotics by the Naturopath almost 8 years ago, I’ve noticed a huge reduction in digestive issues; namely bloating after meals and constipation. I also attribute my clearer complexion and increased immune strength in part, to these little powerhouses! Another thing to consider if you’re not ready to take the plunge into probiotics supplementation would be adding them to your diet! That’s right, you can find healthy bacteria strains in a wide array of food sources such as plain yogurt, kombucha, sourdough bread (YES- believe it), sauerkraut and kimchi to name a few.
Gut issues can have a major impact on both our physical and mental health. If you are experiencing any of the distressing gut symptoms mentioned throughout this article and could benefit from an individualized assessment into your gut health, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
3. Wang H, Lee IS, Braun C, Enck P. Effect of Probiotics on Central Nervous System Functions in Animals and Humans: A Systematic Review. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2016;22(4):589-605. doi:10.5056/jnm16018
4. Dale HF, Rasmussen SH, Asiller ÖÖ, Lied GA. Probiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An Up-to-Date Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2048. Published 2019 Sep 2. doi:10.3390/nu11092048
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