We used to think of the gut simply as a digestive organ, but scientists have now shown that our gut is home to 100 trillion bacteria. Different collections of these bacteria hold the power to influence our immune system, digestive health and even brain health.
Some gut bacteria are beneficial and aid in the production of essential micronutrients such as vitamins. We call these friendly bacteria “probiotics”. However, there are also “bad” bacteria that produce harmful compounds such as TMAO, which are linked to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
To optimize digestive health and overall wellbeing, it is important to have predominantly probiotics in our gut and minimize harmful pathogens. In fact, the most basic function of probiotics is to simply attach to the gut linings and leave no space or nutrients for infectious bugs. Therefore, by enriching your gut with probiotics, you naturally deny colonization by the harmful invaders.
There are three ways to boost the levels of probiotics and gut health:
- Eat more plant-based foods because fiber is the preferred energy source for probiotics
- Eat fermented foods that contain natural probiotics, such as kimchi and yogurt
- Take probiotic supplements that contain evidence-based probiotic strains
Essentially, a probiotic supplement is a quick way of introducing beneficial bacteria that have shown digestive benefits. Compared to probiotic-containing food sources, the supplement is more concentrated and effective.
Some probiotic mixes were clinically shown to improve irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. In addition, supplementing a cocktail of Lactobacillus spp. and Bifidobacterium once daily for 3 months improved mental health and reduced inflammation.
Probiotic supplements are recommended for:
- Improving digestive problems such as leaky gut
- Re-establishing a healthy gut after antibiotic treatment
- Preventing traveller’s diarrhea
- Boosting immune functions and mental health
Having said that, it is still necessary to eat fiber-rich foods that feed probiotics. Otherwise, the probiotics ingested may only stay temporarily.