Taking probiotics to boost overall health has long been underestimated. The fact is, however, that intestinal flora has an enormous influence on both physical and mental health. The intestinal bacteria living in us not only control our immune system but also our emotions.
What are probiotics?
A probiotic is a preparation of living microorganisms (e.g. lactic acid bacteria) that have a health-promoting effect on the human organism, especially on the intestines.
Probiotics and the healthy gut
There are between 400 and 500 types of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract. If you spread out the gastrointestinal tract flat, it would be about the size of a tennis court and the bacterial colonies living there would weigh about 1.5 kilograms.
Looking at these dimensions, it seems quite logical that our gut and its inhabitants play an important role in our health.
For a long time, however, the importance of intestinal bacteria was completely underestimated, because probiotic bacteria have many more functions than just helping with digestion.
For example, probiotics activate immune reactions throughout the body, including the activation of certain defense cells – the so-called T cells.
In a healthy gut, around 85% of the total gut flora should be made up of beneficial bacteria, while a maximum of 15% of the bacteria can be pathogenic. Since around 80% of our immune system is located in the intestine, this bacterial ratio also plays a major role in our defense.
Studies also show that the composition of the intestinal flora has an enormous influence on our emotions and our mental performance.
Ten reasons why probiotics are important
Taking probiotics or probiotic foods actively supports the development and maintenance of the intestinal flora and can therefore improve physical and mental health. In the following section, we give you 10 reasons to take probiotics every day. From this, it quickly becomes clear how important the role that probiotic bacteria play in the body is:
Probiotics improve immune function
A double-blind clinical study of ICU patients has shown that probiotics can prevent multiple organ dysfunction syndromes (MODS), a condition thought to be the leading cause of death in ICU patients.
If probiotics can do this, you can imagine how they can also protect against simple colds or the flu. If the intestine is healthy and its environment is in balance, the person concerned is also healthy.
Probiotics work against allergies, skin diseases, and asthma
Effective probiotics that regenerate the intestines lead to a strong immune system and thus to better health. The result is that people are also less susceptible to allergies that attack the skin, for example.
A 2009 study showed that probiotics can strengthen the body’s defenses against skin allergies. The target group of the study was infants and young children, who are often prone to eczema or other allergic skin reactions.
In the last six weeks of pregnancy, 150 pregnant women, whose family allergies were a daily occurrence, were given three different types of probiotics or an ineffective placebo (agent without active ingredients). Neither the participants nor their doctors knew what they were receiving.
After the women gave birth, most of their children remained under medical observation and received probiotics (or placebos) for an additional 12 months. After just three months, it was found that the children who took probiotics suffered less often from eczema than those who took placebos.
At the end of the twelve months, both probiotics and placebos were discontinued. The children were observed up to the age of two years and even after reaching this age, there was still a clear difference between the groups.
While the former probiotic group also had a higher susceptibility rate to skin allergies than was the case when they were taking probiotics, they still showed a stronger resistance to eczema than the placebo group.
These study results show that probiotics can have positive effects on the offspring of allergy-prone mothers.
The positive effect of probiotics on children’s immune function is also enhanced by breast milk if the mother takes probiotics daily during and after pregnancy. If the mother is unable to breastfeed, pro- and prebiotics can also be added to baby food.
But not only allergies and skin diseases, but also asthma can be prevented and alleviated by healthy intestinal flora. You can find out more about this here: Treating asthma naturally
Probiotics work against food intolerances
A study was published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2009, in which mice were given probiotics to investigate their influence on possible food allergies. The mice all suffered from a milk allergy, which manifested itself in skin rashes as soon as they drank milk.
Now they were given probiotics and prebiotics at the same time as the milk. Immediately, the milk intolerance of the mice improved visibly – there were almost no more skin reactions.
Today, up to eight percent of children have various chronic food allergies. If this study were extended to humans, it would be possible to find out whether probiotics are also suitable for preventing or even curing food intolerance in children.
Apparently, taking a probiotic can also alleviate food intolerances such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance, because a healthy intestinal flora protects the intestinal mucosa from leaky gut syndrome (permeable intestinal mucosa), which is often responsible for the development of food intolerances.
Prebiotics are substances that serve as food for the microorganisms of healthy intestinal flora.
Probiotics protect against intestinal diseases
Probiotics can repel ulcers and can be used in the treatment of diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other inflammatory diseases that also break out due to a lack of probiotics.
In studies, treatment with probiotics – in combination with oral rehydration, of course – shortened the duration of diarrhea by one day. At the same time, the risk of diarrhea lasting longer than four days was reduced by 59 percent.
Probiotics protect against the effects of unhealthy foods
Eating a lot of processed foods and eating a very low-fiber diet allows the harmful bacteria to take over – with the result that bowel function is impaired. But even people who eat consciously eat unhealthy or contaminated food from time to time.
A healthy intestinal flora can buffer the consequences of these pollutants. It is therefore highly recommended to take probiotics daily, even if you eat consciously.
Probiotics work against fungal infections
When pathogenic bacteria mess up the 85:15 ratio between beneficial and harmful bacteria noted above, fungal infections such as candida can affect not just the gut, but the whole body. In order to give intestinal fungus, vaginal fungus, and other infections no chance, you should always ensure a healthy intestinal flora. Probiotics help with this.
They support cancer prevention
A healthy intestinal flora apparently even helps with cancer prevention. There are various studies that confirm the positive effects of probiotics in preventing colon cancer. A 2012 study showed that probiotics can also counteract the development of cervical cancer in women. It has also been found that antibiotics increase the risk of colon cancer.
In addition, a breast cancer-inhibiting effect of probiotics could be confirmed in a study on mice.
Probiotics protect against UV radiation
A healthy intestinal flora also prevents consequential damage caused by radiation in the large and small intestines, e.g. B. diarrhea. It has also been shown that probiotics can protect the skin from the damage caused by UV rays by activating the skin’s immune system.
Probiotics serve as protection against antibiotic damage
Many people take probiotic supplements after antibiotic treatment to help rebuild their gut flora.
This is enormously important in order to rebuild the intestinal flora destroyed by the antibiotic as quickly as possible. However, not only taking an antibiotic for several days, but even small amounts change the milieu in a healthy intestine and destroy the sensitive microbial balance of the intestinal flora.
Unfortunately, antibiotic residues can also be found in some foods – especially meat and dairy products. To ward off the harmful effects of antibiotics, it makes sense to take probiotics from time to time (especially if you eat meat and dairy products frequently).
Probiotics work against mental and neurological disorders
As briefly mentioned above, the intestinal flora also plays a very important role in mental health. Did you know that probiotics can even relieve autism symptoms?
dr For example, Natasha Campbell-McBride was able to help her son, who has autism, by taking probiotic bacteria (and other measures, such as a specific diet) every day. As a result, the signs of autism almost completely disappeared.
How do you supply the body with probiotics?
As you can see, taking probiotics can support our health and prevent or alleviate various diseases. One possible way to get probiotics is by eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, or similar products.
Foodstuffs fermented with lactic acids, such as vegetables pickled with lactic acid (e.g. sauerkraut) contain high-quality, prebiotically active microorganisms. To do this, however, the sauerkraut must be eaten raw, otherwise, the useful microorganisms die in the heat of the saucepan.
Another solution is qualitatively and quantitatively high-quality probiotics, which can be used in the form of capsules or liquid concentrates (possibly combined with postbiotics).