Adding probiotics and fermented foods to your diet have quickly gained traction over the past decade, but it is important to understand what they are and how they work before using them to gain specific health benefits. Probiotics have the most significant impact on your gut health, and other health benefits they can provide are often linked to gut health. Here is an overview of what probiotics are and how they may benefit your body, as well as Carolina Digestive Health's recommendations for adding probiotics to your diet!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are a type of live microorganism that are frequently found in yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, some types of cheese, and certain other dairy products. Other foods that are rich in probiotics include kombucha, kimchi, pickles, some types of berries and vegetables, and other cultured foods, and there are also probiotic supplements available.
Contrary to popular belief, not all types of bacteria are bad for your body. Probiotics are considered good bacteria that provide a variety of health benefits when eaten in reasonable amounts, especially as far as gut health. Although there are several varieties of probiotics, the most common are typically Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, and it is important to note that not all types of probiotics are capable of providing exactly the same health benefits. For this reason, consulting a professional before adding probiotics to your diet is essential in order to ensure that you will get the results you want.
Gut Health Benefits of Probiotics and Fermented Foods
Probiotics and fermented foods can have a wide variety of health benefits, but the most significant effects of consuming foods that are rich in probiotics or probiotic supplements tend to be related to gut health. Here are some of the most common gut health benefits of probiotics and fermented foods!
Not all bacteria are bad for your body, and consuming foods that are rich in probiotics introduces a higher level of beneficial bacteria to balance out other types of bacteria in your digestive system. Having too little good bacteria in your gut can actually contribute to digestive problems and other health concerns, which can result from poor nutrition or taking antibiotics. By regularly adding good bacteria to your diet, harmful types of bacteria become less powerful and less capable of causing health problems.
Consuming foods that are rich in probiotics or probiotic supplements can decrease the symptoms of a variety of digestive problems and support your overall digestive health. Inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease are just a few of the many digestive issues that probiotics and fermented foods can have an impact on, although the overall amount of effects they may have can vary significantly. For example, studies indicate that probiotics may be as effective as medications in treating certain cases of ulcerative colitis, but their impact on Crohn's disease tends to be more minimal and should generally be combined with other types of treatments.
Consuming probiotics can also help alleviate constipation by promoting regularity. When consumed incorrect amounts, probiotics can shorten the amount of time in between bowel movements and increase your overall number of bowel movements per week, which can help prevent constipation from sitting too long in your gut.
Other Health Benefits of Probiotics and Fermented Foods
Probiotics and fermented foods can also benefit other parts of the body, and many of these health benefits can be linked to gut health. Here are some other common health benefits of consuming fermented foods and foods that are rich in probiotics!
Improve Heart Health
Certain types of probiotics can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, which can significantly benefit the health of your heart. While a certain amount of bile is necessary for proper digestion, high cholesterol is typically a result of the excess bile that is reabsorbed into the gut. Probiotics can help break down this excess bile to prevent it from being reabsorbed. Although probiotics and fermented foods do not typically have enough of an effect on these issues to completely eliminate them on their own, they can provide enough of an improvement for medications or other treatment options to be more successful.
Decrease Allergies and Eczema
Some types of probiotics may help prevent or decrease the severity of certain types of allergies, especially in children and infants. Although limited research has been done to support the link between probiotics and allergies, consuming milk that is rich in probiotics can help infants and young children avoid developing lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, eczema, and related issues later in life. In one recent study, infants that consumed probiotic-rich milk from a mother who took probiotic supplements during pregnancy were up to 83 percent less likely to develop eczema later in life than infants who consumed milk without probiotics.
Boost Immune System
Introducing good bacteria may help slow the growth of bad bacteria in your body, which can help improve your immune system by making your body less susceptible to illnesses that are related to bacteria. Probiotics can also help increase the level of natural antibodies in your body, which can help prevent or reduce the severity of respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and similar problems.
Boost Mental Health
Poor gut health can be linked to poor mental health, and consuming foods that are rich in probiotics can provide a much-needed boost in both areas. The improvement to your physical health that fermented foods and probiotics can contribute to often leads to a boost in mood and even improvements in depression, anxiety, autism, and other mental health concerns.
At Carolina Digestive Health, we prioritize helping our patients understand how the food they eat impacts both their digestive health and their overall health, as well as identify ways in which making changes to their diet can improve their digestive health. When eaten in moderation, consuming foods that are rich in probiotics, probiotic supplements, and fermented foods can improve several aspects of your health, and we are always happy to discuss how probiotics might improve your specific situation. Contact us today to learn more about the perks of adding probiotics to your diet or to schedule an appointment!