Probiotics have become increasingly popular over the last few years. There are countless probiotic supplement options and more seem to pop up every day. The trend is supported by doctors and health officials worldwide so there must be something to it, right?
In reality, probiotics are incredibly important to overall health and study after study has shown the benefits of supplementing with probiotics. Not many people understand the world of probiotics though, beyond knowing they are good for you.
We want to help by breaking down the what, why, and how of probiotics in a simple beginner’s guide format. By the end of this article, we hope you will see not just why probiotics are trendy but also how they can improve your individual health.
Let’s jump in!
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the healthy, beneficial microbes that make up our microbiome. These microbes include organisms, bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. Our microbiomes include the microbes both on our skin and living inside of us.
It’s weird to think of organisms living inside of us but even weirder when you realise there are literally trillions of these microbes in our gut alone. We are their host and in return for the home, they help us by supporting our digestion, improving nutrient absorption, producing vitamins, boosting our immune system, minimizing inflammatory reactions, etc.
The microbiome has been part of human anatomy since the beginning. As humans moved and settled across the globe, encountering new foods and environments, our microbiomes evolved with us to adapt and thrive in different environments.
Unfortunately, modern life has not been as kind to the microbiome. Pollution, antibiotics, unhealthy diets, and other factors have thrown off the balance in our microbiomes. Good bacteria no longer have the right environment to thrive while bad bacteria and organisms are given free rein.
The result of a thrown off microbiome can range from mild digestion issues to depression, weight gain, lowered immune system, etc.
That’s where probiotic supplements come in. If modern life is damaging our microbiomes, probiotic supplements are the medicine to keep the microbiome healthy.
Why Should You Consider Taking a Probiotic Supplement?
We’ve covered the basic idea that probiotics help with overall health through supporting many bodily systems. We’ve also discussed how modern life can damage the microbiome.
To understand why you might want to take a probiotic supplement yourself though, it can help to break down the exact issues these supplements can help treat.
Most people first research and consider probiotics when suffering from digestive system issues. This is due to the fact that a huge part of our overall microbiome lives in our digestive tract. Here the microbes help with digestion, nutrients absorption, and more. Throw off the microbiome in the gut and you are likely to quickly notice a number of problems.
Probiotic supplements are often the best option to treat a broken gut microbiome. They can help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive issues.
It is thought that 70% or more of the immune system is regulated by the gut. This makes sense when you consider the easiest way for a harmful pathogen to enter the body is through the mouth via food or water.
We’ve already covered how much of gut health and function is reliant on the microbiome. When our gut bacteria and organisms are healthy and balanced, they are able to lend a hand fighting off a pathogen, infection, or inflamation.
Probiotic supplements have been shown to boost immune system response by supporting the mucosal layer lining our digestive tract which is designed to block harmful pathogens. Probiotics can also help lower systemic inflammation and reduce leaky gut syndrome to also boost immunity.
While probiotics mostly target the gut, they can actually have a profound effect on mood, anxiety, and even depression.
New research is showing that there exists a strong brain-to-gut health connection. Some scientists even use the term “second brain” to refer to the gut. This is due to the vagus nerve, which connects the body from groin to brain, and sends signals to both.
With a healthy gut microbiome, this link remains healthy, improving brain function. Studies have shown probiotic supplements in the gut could help balance oxidative stress in the brain, reduce anxiety and depression, and possibly help treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
This probiotic effect is being labeled as “psychobiotics” with future research looking quite promising.
How to Choose a Probiotic Supplements
With trillions of microbes making up our microbiome and thousands of probiotic supplement brands, it can be hard to figure out which supplement is right for you.
At Eric’s Health Food Shoppe we offer a range of options and are happy to help customers find the right fit. Whether you are looking for a general probiotic for overall health or a probiotic supplement proven to target a specific issue – there is a supplement for you!