Probiotics come from the Greek word “pro”, which means to promote, and “biotic”, which means life. The medical definition of probiotics is “live microorganisms that improve the health of the host (you and I) when given in the adequate dosage.”
It is no surprise that people find it hard to believe that giving them live bacteria can help improve their health, and that’s totally understandable. I mean people are taking antibiotics left and right to kill bacteria, they’re also using soaps, toothpaste, and other cleaning products to eradicate them. So, why would you consume these micro-organisms willingly?
To answer that, we need to briefly discuss the concept of symbiotic flora.
The human body contains trillions of micro-organisms finding shelter in every one of us; in fact, these micro-organisms outnumber our own cells by 10:1 ratio. That’s absolutely staggering!
However, the number of micro-organisms does not correlate with their actual weight; estimates put their weight at 1-3% of the total body weight. For instance, a person who weighs 70 kg (154 lbs.) has 0.7-2.1 kg (1.5-4.6 lbs.) of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Most of these organisms are found in gut flora and on the skin, and they are essential to keep us healthy.
These colonies are composed of relatively harmless bacteria and fungi that just sit in your gut waiting to help with the digestion process; they also compete for food, which is great for us, as this will starve other harmful bacteria to death.
Additionally, they produce some helpful compounds such as vitamin K, vitamin B12, and folic acid.
Still not convinced yet? Well, we’ll give two examples where the deficiency or the disruption of the gut flora have dire consequences.
Example number 1: Gut Flora Deficiency
If you have ever given birth or are close to someone who has, you may have noticed that shortly after a baby is born, the nurse will inject him/her with intramuscular vitamin K. The reason behind this is that the newborn gut is still sterile; in other words, the baby doesn’t have any bacteria in their gut. As a result, no vitamin K is produced, which can cause a fatal medical condition referred to as “hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.”
This has led physicians to systematically order vitamin K injections for all newborns.
Example number 2: Gut Flora Disruption
Usually, when you get signs of an infection such as fever, chills, and muscle pain, you automatically resort to taking antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are harming you. Perfectly logical, right? Well, not quite. Here’s why:
Most of the infections we encounter are caused by viruses and not bacteria, and as you may know, antibiotics have no effect on viruses. So, when you take antibiotics to kill the virus, you’re only killing the harmless bacteria found in your gut. As a consequence, a type of bacteria called opportunistic will take this opportunity to grow, and unfortunately, these bacteria can cause serious problems including bleeding, gut perforation, and peritonitis.
Now that we are familiar with the consequences of gut flora deficiency and disruption, let’s take a look at what benefits are offered by probiotics.
Health benefits of probiotics
Numerous studies showed great benefits of getting enough probiotics within your diet; these benefits are divided into two big categories:
By creating a balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut, your overall gastrointestinal (GI) health will improve. Here are some of the main benefits of probiotics:
- Enhance gastrointestinal motility
- Improve the digestion of food
- Remove unnecessary chemicals and toxins from the gut
- Protect against infectious diarrhea caused by E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, etc.
- Decrease the risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease
Researchers believe that having a healthy gastrointestinal tract will benefit all other organs. This effect is theorized to be the direct cause of boosting your immune system, but keeping it in check, at the same time.
You don’t want your immune system to be compromised as this would trigger multiple infections, and at the same time, you don’t want it to be too vigilant, where it starts attacking you (aka autoimmune diseases like lupus erythematosus disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.).
Like I said earlier, finding the right balance will have tremendous beneficial effects on your health, which is exactly what probiotics provide.
Where can you find probiotics?
Getting enough probiotics through your diet alone can be a difficult task; this is because fermented foods that contain these micro-organisms, must go through a long journey of processing to allow the bacteria to survive when passing through the GI tract, without undergoing decomposition or decreasing the food’s quality.
They can be found in these foods:
- Aged soft cheese
The average American doesn’t get sufficient quantities of probiotics in their diet, which is why a lot of people started getting probiotic supplements.
Side effects of probiotics
Like any other product, probiotics do have some side effects, which can be categorized into two groups:
Side effects in immunocompromised patients
It’s true that probiotics improve the immune system; however, if you’re immunocompromised (incompetent immune system) because of HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, and even pregnant (relative immunosuppression), probiotics will put you at a risk of developing severe infections, which can lead to sepsis and death.
This is why it’s always important to speak to your doctor before starting taking any probiotic supplements.
Side effects due to the manufacturing process
Out of the two categories, this is the more common cause of side effects. The probiotics industry is on the rise in recent years, and this has attracted huge pharmaceutical companies as well as small startups.
Unfortunately, not all probiotic supplements are created equally. Many supplements out there were poorly processed during production, and the storage conditions further decompose their structures.
Fortunately for you, our store offers probiotic supplements that exceed in quality most of the other products out there. They are naturally-processed, hand-picked, and the highest standards of production were followed to the letter.
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Probiotics can be a great asset to improve your gastrointestinal and overall health. Furthermore, a newly emerging field of science is studying the composition of gut flora and its effects on all the other organ systems, including the heart, lung, brain, and urinary tract.
The downside is that most people are not getting enough probiotics in their diet and are missing out on all their benefits, hence the need to start getting sufficient quantities through supplementation.