Probiotics 101: Demystifying Your Body’s Microbiome
What if you found out your body is teeming with trillions of bacterial cells? While that’s enough to knock anyone off their feet, not all microbes are bad guys! In fact, your body’s microbiota, a microscopic universe of microbial cells, works tirelessly to keep the wheels of your body turning– provided you’ve got the right kind and in the right balance. And probiotics, which up levels of good bacteria and keep the bad ones in check, can help you with just that!
Whether you are the average fitness-conscious person keen to avoid health niggles, a senior whose immunity has taken a hit, or someone fighting off a bout of illness, probiotics has something to offer everyone. What follows should help you get a better sense of this microbiome world within you and why probiotics can be that trusted ally in your corner.
Bacteria Are Everywhere – Inside And Outside Your Body
Odd as it may seem, the human body actually has more bacterial cells than human cells. Hundreds of different species of bacteria exist everywhere on your body – from your skin to your mouth, gut, vagina, oral cavity, intestines, colon, and even innocuous places like your belly button! Some of them are good for you, while others may contribute to diseases or infections. By some estimates, you may have as many as 440 kinds inside your forearm, 150 variants behind your ear, and possibly thousands in your intestines! The human microbiome varies not only between two individuals but even on different parts of the body of the same person.1 So the miniature world behind your ear, for instance, may be totally different from the world of microbes in your gut.
These microbes, invisible to the naked eye, go quietly about their work, keeping your immune system in good health, regulating its function, and supporting other systems so they can operate normally. They help you digest your food, protect you against the “bad” bacteria that cause diseases, and even help your body make vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine, and B12, and that all-important blood clotting vitamin K.2 They soldier away silently, running the ship, without your even being aware of it.
On the flip side, chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis have been linked with a microbiota imbalance, when the pathogens beat out the good microbes. Such imbalances are also associated with allergic conditions, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and possibly even mental and psychological diseases.3
Having the right kind of bacteria and the right balance can, therefore, make all the difference to your health. An infant, for example, may be able to fight off asthma or eczema due to an immune system strengthened by the presence of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, if he or she is fed breast milk which helps these strains thrive.4 So how do you make sure you have more of the good kind of microorganisms that help your health and not the kind that do you in with a bad bout of diarrhea, yeast infections, or skin rashes? In a word – probiotics.
Probiotics: Bacteria That Keep Your Health In Good Shape
Probiotics are live bacteria as well as yeasts that help your health. They are nature’s own immune-boosting solution. These good bacteria can be found in your daily serving of yogurt or fermented foods like kimchi. They are also found in some easy-to-use supplements that you can add to your daily routine (and these are really handy, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
So what kind of bacteria do probiotics typically contain? Specific strains of bacteria like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Bacillus, Saccharomyces, Enterococcus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus, Leuconostoc, and Escherichia coli are among those that are being explored for their probiotic benefits.5 Of these, Lactobacilli are among the most in focus, thanks to its exciting potential in building digestive and immune system strength and even fighting feminine hygiene-related problems.
You Start Collecting Probiotics Even Before You Are Born!
So the human microbiome is critical to not just our immunity but our nutrition and normal development, but where do these microbes come from? Unknown to you, your quest to acquire probiotics begins right from when you are in your mother’s womb. Your body probably took on board some of your mom’s own strains of bacteria, picked up some more on your passage through the birth canal, and then topped it up further when you had breast milk.
So what exactly did you pick up? While this may vary depending on your mother’s microbiota, Lactobacilli as well as Bifidobacterium, found in the vagina as well as the gastrointestinal tract of the mother, are among the first bacteria that usually populate a baby’s gut after it is born.6 As you grow up, your interaction with the environment, the food you eat, the lifestyle choices you make can all impact what kind of microorganisms thrive in your body.7
Many Factors Throw Your Microbiota Out Of Balance
The body naturally contains a mix of “good” (symbiotic) microbes that benefit you and undesirable “bad” (pathogenic) microbes that are to blame for illness and infection. This delicate balance can be tipped by some of these things:8
- An infection or illness that introduces more pathogenic microbiota to your body.
- Poor dietary choices like consuming inflammatory foods that allow the unfavorable microbes to thrive. For instance, if you binge on sugary foods, they allow candida strains to flourish. When these yeasts overgrow in the gastrointestinal, urinary, and respiratory tracts, you could wind up with a pesky yeast infection!9
- Prolonged antibiotic usage which can kill the good bacteria along with the bad.
- Aging can change your microbiota composition. While your microbiota is largely stable in adulthood after the initial variation in infancy and early childhood, as you grow older, the microbiota starts to change again.10
- Socioeconomic status and environmental factors can affect your microbiota diversity. Researchers have found that the colonic and fecal microbiota diversity of individuals improves as their socioeconomic status increases.11
Trouble With Your Microflora: How To Spot The Imbalance
The good bacteria in your body helps with nutrition, growth, and immune function. When your microbiota is out of balance, it can cause issues such as:1213
- Skin problems like eczema, allergies, or rashes
- Frequent illness or infections
- Respiratory problems
- Moodiness or the blues
- Tiredness, fatigue, sleepiness
- Digestive issues
- Difficulty with weight loss, possibly due to metabolic disorders
Make Probiotics Your Ally To Win Your Health Battles
Good bacteria compete with pathogens for nutrients as well as places to colonize. So in effect, the more good bacteria you have, the less likely pathogens are to take hold, replicate, and cause you problems. This protective effect is dubbed the “barrier” effect or the “competitive-exclusion” effect.14 When this balance tips in favor of the “bad” guys, cracks set in, eventually spiraling into problems you simply can’t ignore. Thankfully, probiotics offer an easy and hassle-free way to avoid that scenario. Think of them as sending in reinforcements at wartime.
Bump Up That Probiotic Intake Without The Fuss!
So how do you rally the troops and correct that microbiome imbalance in your body? One way to do it is by getting in more of probiotic-rich foods – think yogurt, fermented yogurt drinks like Middle Eastern kefir, tangy, fermented cabbage sauerkraut or its spicier Korean variant kimchi, fermented soy-based Japanese staple miso, or the poster child for healthy probiotic tea, kombucha.
But while these foods are well worth having, some hurdles often trip us up. For starters, you may not always like how some of these foods taste. They are often an acquired taste. You’ll also need to put more effort into planning meals around them and even acquiring them in the first place – after all, not every local supermarket stocks kombucha or kefir! But that isn’t the biggest challenge. It is so much harder to keep track of how much good bacteria you are getting through such foods. They don’t guarantee a fixed amount of probiotics and you may not even know which strains you are getting. And that simply isn’t good enough when your health is on the line.
To really power up your attack against pathogens and to fix an imbalance in your microbiota diversity, probiotic supplements like Culturelle® are ideal. They are a quick way to introduce exactly the kind of bacteria your body needs, in amounts and a form that can be easily absorbed by your body. Because Culturelle® is a naturally sourced probiotic strain, it works perfectly in sync with your body. This probiotic formulation is also strong enough to survive the onslaught of stomach acids once you take it, allowing the good bacteria to get to work undiminished.
What’s more, with supplements like the one from Culturelle®, you are taking a proven probiotic strain LGG® or Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG that’s backed by hours of research and expertise from professionals who specialize in this area. After all, this is a strain that’s been studied for over 30 years! So if you’ve decided you need to fix your body’s own microbiota, there’s probably no simpler or more effective way to do it. Culturelle®’s special packaging also protects the bacteria from the elements and guarantees a fixed number of live, naturally sourced cultures. The best part is Culturelle® takes the guesswork out of the entire process – you can be sure of what strains and how much of bacteria you’re getting and even their potential benefits for your body.
Your body works itself to the bone for you, so maybe it is time you returned the favor and helped it out a little? Let those good microbes do the hard work for you, but give them that extra support in the form of probiotics. It may not be possible to protect yourself from every single environmental pathogen that comes your way, but if you bolster your defenses with topnotch probiotic supplements like Culturelle®, you’ve already put the odds in your favor!
References [ + ]
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|2.||↑||[Fast Facts About The Human Microbiome](https://depts.washington.edu/ceeh/downloads/FF_Microbiome.pdf “Fast Facts About The Human Microbiome”).The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health, University of Washington.|
|3.||↑||Wang, Baohong, Mingfei Yao, Longxian Lv, Zongxin Ling, and Lanjuan Li. “The human microbiota in health and disease.” Engineering 3, no. 1 (2017): 71-82.|
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|6.||↑||Walker, W. Allan. “Initial intestinal colonization in the human infant and immune homeostasis.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 63, no. Suppl. 2 (2013): 8-15.|
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|9.||↑||Martins, Natália, Isabel CFR Ferreira, Lillian Barros, Sónia Silva, and Mariana Henriques. “Candidiasis: predisposing factors, prevention, diagnosis and alternative treatment.” Mycopathologia 177, no. 5-6 (2014): 223-240.|
|10.||↑||Saraswati, Sitaraman, and Ramakrishnan Sitaraman. “Aging and the human gut microbiota—from correlation to causality.” Frontiers in microbiology 5 (2015): 764.|
|11.||↑||Miller, Gregory E., Phillip A. Engen, Patrick M. Gillevet, Maliha Shaikh, Masoumeh Sikaroodi, Christopher B. Forsyth, Ece Mutlu, and Ali Keshavarzian. “Lower neighborhood socioeconomic status associated with reduced diversity of the colonic microbiota in healthy adults.” PLoS One 11, no. 2 (2016): e0148952.|
|12.||↑||Wang, Baohong, Mingfei Yao, Longxian Lv, Zongxin Ling, and Lanjuan Li. “The human microbiota in health and disease.” Engineering 3, no. 1 (2017): 71-82.,|
|13.||↑||Fischer, Karen. The Eczema Diet: Eczema-safe food to stop the itch and prevent eczema for life. Exisle Publishing, 2014.|
|14.||↑||Bull, Matthew J., and Nigel T. Plummer. “Part 1: The human gut microbiome in health and disease.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 13, no. 6 (2014): 17.|
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.