We’ve all heard of probiotics helping with digestion and gut health. But can good bacterial actually impact mental health issues like depression, reduce high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, reduce allergies and even cause stunning weight loss? As we are slowly finding out – all this is just scratching the surface of the things our hundred trillion strong army of friendly bacteria can do for us!
Probiotics are known to increase our natural immunity (since 80% of our immune cells reside in our gut and that’s where most of the bacteria are as well). They are also known to help those with digestive and gut issues like diarrhea and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Over and above these, there are amazing things that research now shows probiotics can be used for.
Repeated bouts of the blues getting you down? Memory lapses annoying you? Brain degeneration with age is caused by the loss of neurons and synapses, inflammation in brain tissue and weaker activation signals in parts of the brain. Stress sits at the center of it all, stoking the fire. Repeated infections also adversely impact the brain.
Research shows that the right mix of probiotics can modulate your gut flora, which also decreases brain tissue inflammation and builds immunity. This helps the synapses in your brain to work better. Probiotics can also reduce brain hypersensitivity, helping reduce stress and anxiety, characteristic of mental health problems like depression.
Recent research suggests that there is a deep link between blood pressure and the composition of your ‘gut flora’, or the bacteria in your intestines. A reduction in the numbers of good bacteria or imbalance in this gut flora – known as dysbiosis – directly coincides with an increased blood pressure. If you get the right bacteria in and eat healthy food that feeds it, you can dial that high blood pressure back. One study even showed that using a powerful germicidal mouth wash each day led to an increase in blood pressure because the mouthwash killed certain oral probiotics, whose natural action was to help produce nitric oxide and expand blood vessels, to keep blood pressure down!
You may simply know probiotics to help with “better digestion” – but let’s look a little deeper. Probiotics help increase the secretion of particular chemicals that act to reduce blood cholesterol by preventing cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestines. Probiotics also reduce insulin resistance, helping the insulin in your body work better, lowering diabetes risk too.
In a study, whenpregnant women were given a particular strain of the lactobacillus bacteria, it reduced the incidence of diseases like asthma and atopic eczema among the newborn children. The beneficial effects of the probiotics for the children extend beyond atopic diseases and provide increased immunity, higher antibody production and a stronger gastrointestinal system. This boosted immunity helps fight autoimmune disorders that are responsible for symptoms like irritable skin and shortness in breathing. The reduction of inflammation from the probiotics also helps reduce the sensitivity of the skin to allergens.
Probiotics have been studied in otherwise healthy people to positively impact how their bodies handle weight gain (to reduce deposition of abdominal fat). In people with obesity issues, they have been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off. Research reveals that consuming the right probiotics could help your body digest carbohydrates in a different, more efficient manner.
When combined with how probiotics help improve insulin sensitivity, its not surprising that they can give you a leg up in your fight against that bulging belly.
What many of us don’t realize is that when we suffer from an infection and the doctor gives us antibiotics, these pills kill both, the good and the bad bacteria, leaving our bodies more vulnerable to other opportunistic infections. The consumption of probiotics replenishes the good bacteria, strengthening the body once again.
A study in 2012 showed that out of over 11,000 people consuming antibiotics, those supplementing probiotics had a much lower incidence of inflammatory issues related to digestion.
Dr. Benjamin Kliger, Associate Professor of Clinical Family and Social Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says “With the level of evidence that probiotics work and the large safety margins for them, we see no good reason not to prescribe probiotics when prescribing antibiotics.”
The thumb rule used by several naturopathic doctors is that for every day that you take an antibiotic, you need to take a probiotic for 3 days.
During the days you are on the prescription antibiotics, the probiotic must be taken at least 3 hours away from the antibiotic.