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How Can Probiotics Improve Your Health?

Updated on June 22, 2014

How Probiotics Support Overall Health

A digestive system that is flourishing with probiotics--also known as beneficial bacteria--is important for good digestion, a strong immune system, and a healthy brain.

The amount of bacteria in the human body outnumbers its cells 10 to one, so keeping your good bugs happy and prosperous is important for excellent health.

Probiotics oversee the cells that make up your intestinal lining. This lining protects the rest of your body from food particles and pathogens.

Antibiotic use, environmental toxins, and chronic stress are a few examples of common issues that destroy probiotics and cause damage to healthy cells. This allows food and toxins to pass into the bloodstream, leading to autoimmune issues, bowel disorders, and even neurological problems.

Antibiotics Kill All Bacteria--Even the Ones You Need!

Antibiotics are often necessary in order to kill the pathogens that make you ill. But antibiotics kill all bacteria, both toxic and beneficial. Use these medications only when prescribed, and be sure to consume fermented foods and probiotic supplements a couple of hours after taking them in order to restore your healthy flora.

Beneficial bacteria work to rid your body of the pathogens that cause your illness. Some people take several rounds of antibiotics without consuming probiotic supplements or fermented foods and end up getting sick over and over again because their probiotics become depleted.

Stress Kills Off Your Beneficial Bacteria

Studies have found that stress breaks down your beneficial bacteria, causing changes that increase your likelihood of getting sick. On the other hand, changes in your gut flora can influence the activity in your brain. So in order to keep your gut healthy you need to keep your stress levels down . . . and vice versa.

When stress causes changes in your beneficial bacteria levels, you not only become susceptible to illness. Diseases like obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel diseases are all exacerbated by stress-induced alterations in gut flora.


You Need to Get Probiotics From Fermented Foods and/or Supplements

Before the advent of the refrigerator, fermentation was necessary to keep vegetables from rotting.

Plants stored in vessels would produce beneficial bacteria that broke down indigestible plant cellulose. These fermented foods were common to virtually all traditional diets.

Fermented foods aren't as common in today's diets. Commercially produced pickles, sauerkraut, and yogurt are popular products that contain some probiotics, but most are diminished through processing.

Homemade ferments are simple and require few materials. Sauerkraut and pickles or pickle relish made at home contain high amounts of probiotics. Yogurt cultures may be purchased along with a yogurt maker, and some counter top varieties are available that can be left to ferment at room temperature.

A number of other fermented foods and beverages help build up healthy gut flora. Kombucha tea, kefir, and fermented salsa are a few examples of probiotic-enhancing products that promote a healthy gut.

Fermented foods contain the highest concentrations of beneficial bacteria
, but adding a probiotic supplement can also be helpful.

© Liz Davis 2012 Probiotics


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    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      @cabmgmnt: It's amazing, isn't it? I didn't expect such a difference in my health and digestion.

    • cabmgmnt profile image

      Corey 5 years ago from Northfield, MA

      I have just been learning more about probiotics and supplement as well as eat foods that help the stomach. I have definitely seen and felt the difference. My belly doesn't control my life anymore!

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Lol--I didn't realize they weighed that much! Digestive problems are so common these days, and a lot of other health issues are related to gut imbalance as well. Thanks for commenting!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

      Interesting. The show "The Doctors" had a segment the other day when they told that the bacteria in the small intestine weighs 3 pounds. Now I know why my tummy is sticking out. LOL

      It makes a lot of sense, because Crohns disease is considered a disease of modern society. Now that we don't need to ferment food, it all explains a bit. Some doctors are blaming it on preservatives, but it might be that.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      I agree--since I added fermented foods to my diet on a regular basis, I have more energy and better digestion. Thanks for the comment!

    • littlepiggy profile image

      littlepiggy 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Excellent, informative article! My wife and I absolutely love kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and other probiotic foods. We find that they really help with digestive and overall health, especially after those times where we've had to use antibiotics.