Probiotics supplements are very popular, and for good reason. When I was growing up, I can remember having my pediatrician (as well as doctor mom) recommend eating yogurt as a way to get “good bacteria”, or probiotics, back into my gut when faced with digestive issues like irregularity, gas and bloating after taking antibiotics. Recent research shows that the gut health and the collection of healthy bacteria in our gut (called gut flora or microbiome) play a key role in seemingly unrelated chronic diseases and ailments including allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, yeast infections, and even anxiety and mental health conditions.
On this site, learn how probiotics can help restore digestive health, boost immunity, fight obesity, prevent bacterial and yeast infections, reduce allergies, and more.
An entire universe of bacteria live instead you
Good bacteria come in many different types (species or strains). These different types all work together and perform various different jobs, much as people living together in a city do. In fact, it turns out that the average healthy adult human has around 70 to 100 trillion good bacteria living in the digestive system; together these bacteria outnumber your own cells by a factor of 10 to 1.
One type, Lactobacillus reuteri, has been shown to reduce overall cholesterol by 9% more over a placebo. The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri has been shown to kill bad bacteria that causes tooth decay and lessen the harmful effects of gingivitis. A mixture of Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Lactobacillus acidophilus probiotics was shown to to be an effective in reducing the development of eczema in newborns at high risk of allergy when taken by mom 4-8 weeks prior to delivery and continued through six months while the baby was nursing. Yet other types of probiotic bacteria such as Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Lactococcus were reported by researchers in the scientific journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity to strongly influence mood. Subjects in the group receiving the probiotics reported fewer recurrent distressing or aggressive thoughts; a key trigger for lingering depression. Although there is much still to learn, “these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood… As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression,” according to Lorenza S. Colzato, one of the study authors.
Each of us has a unique blend of probiotics in our gut. Our initial supply of bacteria and yeasts come from our mothers during birth and through breastfeeding. After that, we normally get most from the environment (dirt and soil). Remember the five second rule, where stuff that fell on the floor was “ok to eat” if it hadn’t been on the ground for more than five seconds? Well, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. By around age three, our probiotic fingerprints are established.
Children who are born via C-section and then fed formula, as well as those given given copious amounts of antibiotics and raised in ultra clean homes often have poor gut bacterial diversity. Just like a city with too few firefighters or nurses, not having enough bacterial diversity can cause several lifelong health issues like allergies, asthma, skin disorders, obesity, and even autism.
Although we’ve come a long way since probiotics were first identified over 100 years ago, the science behind our understanding of probiotics and their effects on health is still in its infancy. But in the not-too-distant future, doctors will be able to tell what diseases we might have by looking at our gut flora fingerprint. This will led to a new era in medicine. We are not far from having prescription bacteria.
Until then, taking a daily probiotics supplement may be the next best thing.
We encourage you to take a look around the site and learn more. Also be sure to check out our guide on finding the right probiotics supplement for you.