Probiotics: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Beneficial Bacteria

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Probiotics are living microorganisms that can provide a wide variety of health benefits, including digesting food, producing vitamins, and supporting the immune system. In addition to occurring naturally in the body, these “friendly” bacteria can result from the process of fermentation, be added to foods, or made in supplement form.

While there are those who claim that more research is needed to definitively prove that adding dietary forms of probiotics is health-promoting, many have experienced significant health improvements after increasing their intake of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics are said to provide relief from ailments such as allergies, digestive discomfort, Candida, high cholesterol, acne, eczema, common infections, and other symptoms.

With probiotics filling up supermarket and pharmacy shelves alike, we thought we’d dig a little deeper into how good bacteria interacts with the body to create wellness.

Here are some of the fun facts we uncovered:

  1. There are estimated to be over 400 strains of beneficial bacteria in the normal digestive tract, the most common of which are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.
  2. There are 10 times more bacterial cells in the body than human cells, but they could all fit into a half-gallon jug because they are much smaller in size.
  3. Bacteria are prevalent in several regions of the body: the mouth, nose, pharynx, intestinal tract, vaginal tract, and skin.
  4. Microbes colonizing various regions of the body differ in type and function based on the composition of their habitat.
  5. Intestinal bacteria boost the immune system by regulating the population and density of intestinal immune cells.
  6. Antibiotics, stress, poor diet, and exposure to toxic substances can reduce the number of beneficial bacteria in the body.
  7. Intestinal microbes are generally able to recolonize after being disturbed without intervention. However, supplemental probiotics can help replenish their numbers.
  8. Each individual has his or her own unique population of microbes, even if the species among people are similar.
  9. Good bacteria can prevent unwanted microbes from entering the blood stream.

10. Normal bacteria levels are fairly stable throughout life, although transitions occur at weaning and again in the elderly.

Eating whole foods that naturally contain probiotics is the best way to ensure optimal intestinal flora balance. Those foods include yogurt, kefir, lacto-fermented sauerkraut, miso, Tempeh, kombucha, natto, kimchi, and microalgae. Just make sure to read the label when purchasing these food items to confirm that they contain active live cultures.

If you’re experiencing symptoms for which a Health Coach or doctor recommends supplementing with probiotics in capsule form, keep the following in mind when shopping – effectiveness varies depending on manufacturing quality:

  •  Contains the Lactobacillus Acidophilus strain
  • Contains at least 5 billion live organisms
  • Is dairy and gluten free
  • Does not contain any artificial sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives
  • Provides both immune health and digestive support

How have probiotics helped you maintain health and wellness?

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About Diana Chaplin

Diana Chaplin is the Lifestyle Editor of the Integrative Nutrition Blog and a 2012 graduate of the Health Coach Training Program. She is a mom to a wild and happy toddler, speaks Russian, and her favorite food is sunflower sprouts! She can be reached at blog@integrativenutrition.com.