16 Jan The Dirty On Good Bacteria
There’s been a lot of buzz about probiotics and their benefits for digestion – and rightfully so. Dozens of studies tout the power of probiotics to relieve constipation, diarrhea and various other gastrointestinal irritations. But the benefits don’t stop there. A growing body of research shows that probiotics may also boost mental health by combating depression, anxiety and other conditions.
Balancing the Good Bacteria with the Bad
When we think of bacteria in the body, we often think of colds and infections (and race to the doctor for antibiotics). But probiotics are a beneficial type of bacteria, or live microorganisms, that are essential for good health.
How do we get an ideal balance of good and bad bacteria? Population of the bacteria in the gut starts from birth. By the age of 1, the guts of babies born via vaginal births who were breastfed contain a healthy complement of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes. If the gut bacteria are not colonized properly, the individual may have an impaired ability to respond to stress for life. Children who are born via Cesarean section or who are not breastfed – two practices that are becoming increasingly common – may have increased risk of allergies, impaired immunity and other problems because of imbalances in the gut microflora.
A healthy gut absorbs nutrients and disperses them throughout the body, and also helps us filter out dangerous bacteria, chemicals and toxins. Over time, the balance of bacteria in the gut can shift, often as a result of antibiotic overuse, chronic stress, insomnia, diseases, the environment and inflammatory diets, leading to a number of health problems.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotic foods and supplements can help restore optimal health in the gut and have been shown in several studies to have the following health benefits:
- Relief for digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome
- Improved immune function
- Fewer antibiotic-associated gastrointestinal problems
- Prevention and treatment of eczema and other skin conditions in youth
- Reduced incidence of yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Protection against food allergies and autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Decreased risk of common childhood illnesses such as colds, ear infections, strep throat and diarrhea
Although science is starting to take a closer look at the benefits of probiotics, more research is needed to determine which types of probiotic strains are most beneficial for specific health conditions.
Probiotics: Not Just for the Gut
A growing body of research suggests that the bacteria in the gut also can have a significant impact on our moods and behavior. We can think of the human body as having two brains: the one in our heads and one in our gut. The gut brain, also known as the enteric nervous system, uses over 100 million neurons and more than 30 neurotransmitters, including the feel-good chemical serotonin (95 percent of the serotonin in the body is found in the gut).
To read full article (and to learn more about how probiotics help with stress/depression/anxiety, ADHD, Autism, and more!), visit Psychology Today.