Probiotic is a term that is bandied about quite a bit on yogurt ads and in anti-natal classes, but what does it actually mean?
A probiotic is the culture of a living organism of bacteria or yeast. Not the kind of culture that involves wood carvings and tribal moon dances; but the kind of culture that favourably alters the “microflora” or the balance of bacteria in your intestines. Consumed in the right amounts, probiotics have a health-promoting effect on the body. They love you. You love them.
In humans, these bacteria are found in a more locations than you might care to know about. We mostly hear about the benefits of probiotics in relation to the intestines, since the intestines contain more viable bacteria than the total number of cells in the body! Other places these bacteria can be found include the digestive tract, the genitourinary tract, in the respiratory system, on the skin and in the eyes. If the balance isn’t right, it can all go to pot…
Their primary function is to protect us from invasion of harmful microbes like bad bacteria, fungi or parasites, which enter from outside the body without us even knowing. They can’t stop your ex from turning up on the doorstep at 2am, but, like trusty soldiers, they constantly fight to keep the bad guys out and maintain a healthy balance of flora (Yes, flora. Just like the flowers your ex never got you).
But friendly bacteria can have even more positive effects on our health than this.
The benefits of good bacteria
- Stop harmful organisms from adhering to the gut wall (translation: no one likes sticky guts)
- Regulate local and systemic immunity (translation: you harden up)
- Release of antimicrobial substances (translation: no one knows what that means, but it’s good)
- Compete with harmful microbes for nutrients and space (translation: good vs evil)
- Interact with the immune tissue in the gut and initiate anti-inflammatory responses
- Produce vitamin K, biotin and B vitamins for the body’s use
- Aid indigestion; especially of starchy and sugary foods
(translation: no more bloating = more room for seconds!)
- Detoxify external toxins entering through food or toxins produced during digestion (translation: can skip yoga)
- Produce short chain fatty acids which act as fuel for intestinal cells. They can also protect these cells from abnormal growth and promote acidic conditions keeping bad bacteria and yeast under control (translation: ultimate power)
Unfortunately, intestines are a pretty ropey bunch, and many people’s intestines are losing the battle against bad bacteria and fungi.
In our previous article on dysbiosis, we looked at several factors contributing to the loss of good bacteria, which leaves the body open to attack by harmful microorganisms and leads to a myriad of disease states.
If your gastrointestinal tract is sick, then achieving optimum health is near impossible. Many healthcare practitioners believe that toxins stemming from the gastrointestinal tract are the cause of a large proportion of chronic illnesses.
So the importance of maintaining balanced numbers of good guys in the intestines cannot be underestimated. At times, avoiding all the factors which cause a loss in probiotic bacteria can be difficult. So, supplementing good bacteria with a broad spectrum quality probiotic is fundamental.
Good must prevail! (Now it can with Return2Health Probiotics!)