The Human Microbiome Project conducted a study recently which found that the body is made up of more microbes than human cells. That’s right; your body is seething with bacteria, but before you call the germ police, bacteria come in both good and bad varieties and good bacteria (probiotics) are vital to the healthy functioning of our bodies.
Probiotics aid in the absorption of nutrients from our food and play a crucial role in the manufacturing of hormones. Bacteria are essential for the efficient processing of food and the extraction of vitamins. They produce anti-inflammatories and even control your mood. These diminutive beasties are really essential to keeping you healthy and happy.
Probiotics occur naturally in a wide variety of foods. Unfortunately, our propensity for processed foods and the widespread use of anti-bacterial products has led to a deficiency of probiotics in the modern diet. Always choose organic products which have pre and probiotic content. Healthy snacks like those from Shasha Co. contain pre and probiotics that are resistant to heat so they retain their good bacteria through the baking process.
Probiotics in our digestive tracts help to break down food and absorb nutrients. Studies show that probiotics help to alleviate the symptoms of IBS, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Research by the Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences shows that probiotics help to reduce the recurrence of urinary tract infections by controlling the amount of bad bacteria in the system. From the study: “Many in vitro studies, animal experiments, microbiological studies in healthy women, and clinical trials in women with UTIs have been carried out to assess the effectiveness and safety of probiotics for prophylaxis against uropathogens. Most of them had encouraging findings for some specific strains of lactobacilli.”
One study conducted by a Finnish team at the University of Helsinki found that when women took a probiotic supplement during pregnancy, their children showed a 30% reduction in instances of eczema—an early indication of allergic reactions.
One of the jobs probiotics take on is to stimulate the immune response. A recent study found that patients who had healthy gut bacteria got sick less often.
A seminal 2006 Stanford study found that people who suffer from obesity have a different set of gut bacteria from those who had a healthy weight. That’s good news for all you probiotic fans! Initial findings suggest that gut bacteria helps to reduce body weight, especially in the abdominal region.
Researchers have long made the correlation between mental health and digestive ailments, but only now are they beginning to look at gut bacteria as possible causes of depression, anxiety and even autism. Research shows that 80 per cent of people with irritable bowel syndrome are victims of anxiety and depression. Patients with autism are more likely to have abnormal levels of bad gut bacteria.
Elaine Hsiao, a neurobiologist at the California Institute of Technology, conducted a study with autistic mice which showed considerable behavioral improvements after being fed a probiotic bacterium Bacteroides fragilis. “By understanding how humans interact with their trillions of bacterial inhabitants, we might one day be able to develop better treatments for behavioral disorders, including depression, autism and anxiety,” says Hsiao.