Microbes on a Mission: How Probiotics Protect Against Infections
You may have heard of the terms “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria” when it comes to your gut health. These bacteria are called gut microbiota or gut flora and they play an important role in your digestive system and overall health.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They can be found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, and in dietary supplements.
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics work by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiota, which enhances the balance of microorganisms in your gut. This balance is crucial to maintaining a healthy gut and overall health.
Probiotics have been shown to:
- Improve digestion and nutrient absorption
- Boost the immune system
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent and treat diarrhea
- Improve mental health and brain function
- Prevent and treat vaginal and urinary tract infections
- Prevent and treat allergies
How do probiotics protect against infections?
Probiotics play an important role in protecting against infections by:
- Competing with harmful bacteria for space and resources in the gut. This helps prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing and causing infection.
- Producing antimicrobial substances that can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Strengthening the intestinal barrier to prevent harmful bacteria from penetrating the gut lining and entering the bloodstream.
- Boosting the immune system by stimulating the production of immune cells and antibodies that can fight off infection.
Research has shown that probiotics can be effective in preventing and treating various types of infections, including:
- Upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold and flu
- Gastrointestinal infections, such as salmonella and E. coli
- Vaginal and urinary tract infections, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis
- Skin infections, such as eczema and acne
Are all probiotics the same?
Not all probiotics are the same. Different strains of bacteria have unique properties and may provide different health benefits. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis are two common strains that have been studied for their immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory effects.
It’s important to choose a probiotic that has been clinically studied and is backed by research. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains a variety of strains and a high number of colony-forming units (CFUs) to ensure maximum effectiveness.
How can you incorporate probiotics into your diet?
You can incorporate probiotics into your diet by:
- Eating fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
- Taking a probiotic supplement
- Drinking kombucha, a fermented tea that contains probiotic bacteria
- Eating prebiotic foods, such as garlic, onions, and asparagus, which help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut
Probiotics can be a valuable addition to your diet and can help protect against infections and promote overall health. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if probiotics are right for you and to determine the best supplement or food sources for your needs.