We hear about probiotics everywhere. They are supposed to help keep our immune systems strong, promote healthy bowel movements, and pay our car notes. Okay maybe not that last thing, but that’s how great the media makes probiotics sound. I’ve been taking probiotic supplements for years to help keep my ulcerative colitis in check. But, are the supplements really necessary? This question made me do a little research on the importance of probiotics and just how they support our bodies. Here’s what I found.
Probiotics are bacteria and yeast that live within our GI tract. This community of bacteria and yeast is referred to as gut flora. Having a gut with the right balance of gut flora can prevent and cure a lot of different health problems. Our flora is found mainly in our colon, but it can also be found in the urinary and genital systems.
“Did you know that the bacteria in your body outnumber your body’s cells 10 to 1?” (Health Line)
Researchers are still trying to pinpoint just how probiotics work within the body. So far it’s just agreed upon that probiotics are important and help with maintaining a healthy gut flora. A well-balanced gut flora has been linked to many health benefits. An obvious benefit is an improvement in one’s gut and digestive health. This allows for the immune system to function well too since much of our immune defense is in our guts. It has been found that some people experience an improvement in allergy symptoms thanks to probiotics. Increased mental health is another benefit of using probiotics to balance gut flora.
There are two main groups of probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus is commonly found in fermented foods. It’s mostly used to treat diarrhea and other general GI issues. In some cases, Lactobacillus can be used to treat lactose intolerance. Bifidobacterium has similar benefits and uses. Saccharomyces boulardii is a common yeast found in probiotic supplements. It can help treat certain skin conditions and UTIs. It may also fight against Helicobacter pylori and ulcers. I found some sources suggesting that you should avoid Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a type of Lactobacillus, in probiotic supplements as it could be mixed with bad bacteria that work against gut health.