You’ve probably heard about probiotics before, and may or may not have given them much thought other than fast forwarding through their yogurt commercials, but probiotics are a hot topic in diet and wellness today, and with good reason. “Probiotics” is a general term for living microorganisms that are good for you, and probiotic strains are made up of a combination of these good bacteria and/or yeasts that help keep you healthy.
In your body there are many different bacteria, some of which are bad for you and cause infections, inflammation or disease, and those that are good for you, keeping your digestive system working properly and helping you to fight off allergies, colds, skin conditions and other infections, oral health and more, all depending on the type of good bacteria.
Researchers studying how probiotics work have found that some of their benefits may include acting to replace good bacteria in your body when you lose some. You lose some of your good bacteria when you take antibiotics, for example, and probiotics may help fill the gap.
Probiotics can also help by keeping the balance between your ‘good’ bacteria and your ‘bad’ bacteria on an even keel, preventing your ‘bad’ bacteria from overwhelming your internal systems and causing you discomfort or even illness. They even help send food through your digestive system by affecting the nerves that control movement through your intestinal tract.
What Types of Bacteria Are In Probiotics?
The most common types of bacteria that are used in probiotics and infant probiotics come from two groups, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, although other types of bacteria are also found in probiotic products, along with a variety of yeasts. It may be hard to imagine, but the same organism that causes bread to rise also works with your body to help aid digestion!
While ‘good’ bacteria are essential for your health and the workings of your digestive system, not all good bacteria are effective for all benefits. For example, if one type of bacteria from the Lactobacillus group helps treat or prevent an illness, there’s no evidence to expect other bacteria from the same group will also prevent or treat the same illness. In the same way, bacteria from a different group may not have any effect on the illness either, so having a diverse group of good bacteria is important to maintaining a healthy body.
Probiotics & Your Immune System
Did you know that about 70% of your immune system is in your gut? Your gut, or gastrointestinal tract, is central to keeping the nutrition you get from your food inside the body, and to removing the unusable parts of the food you eat as comfortably and efficiently as possible. When your immune system is compromised, your defenses against illness and disease can drop drastically, so keeping your immune system healthy and in balance is an important part of keeping your overall health in check.