Why are probiotics so important?
Probiotics are vital for your overall health. If you have ever been prescribed a course of antibiotics, the chances are that your doctor added some probiotics to the prescription.
Probiotics balance your good and bad gut bacteria and have been linked to a wide range of health benefits like good digestive health.
When you take a course of antibiotics, the medication doesn’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria and can throw your gut bacteria levels off balance. Probiotics, of course, replace the good bacteria.
How do they work, exactly?
The most common types of probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
They work by supplying good bacteria to your body. They can be supplemented without even taking antibiotics. Some people consider taking the probiotic when they are sick, in order to boost the good bacteria and help the immune system fight off any infections. Probiotics help the body to maintain an equilibrium of good and bad bacteria.
Think of it as keeping your body in neutral, says Cleveland Clinic. When you are sick, harmful bacteria enter your body and increase in number. This knocks your body out of balance. An abundance of harmful bacteria makes you feel ill and lethargic.
What are the benefits of probiotics?
Probiotics hold many benefits. Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods. They can also be taken as supplements. What’s more, they appear to be safe for most people.
The good bacteria in probiotics are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits like healthy weight loss, mental clarity and thriving skin, hair and nails.
These benefits are thought to result from the ability of probiotics to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria, Healthline says.
Probiotics also benefit your mouth, skin, urinary tract and lungs.
Recent studies have shown a link between poor dietary choices and mental illness. If your diet doesn’t help the good bacteria in your gut to flourish, you may be prone to specific mental health issues.
PubMed published a review of a 15-person study that found that supplementing with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus (probiotic) strains for 1–2 months can improve anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and memory.
In another study, researchers observed 70 chemical workers for six weeks. The group was split into workers who took 100 grams of probiotic yoghurt a day or took a daily probiotic capsule and those who did not. The group who consumed the probiotic in either form experienced health benefits, particularly regarding depression, anxiety and stress.
Just like the gut, the mouth also has an ecosystem. The PH levels or balance in the mouth is around 5.6 for a bad-bacteria-free, healthy tongue and gums and teeth. If the mouth is too acidic, there is a higher chance of tooth decay, and that causes other ailments.
Steven Powell, DDS, a general dentist at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, says that without proper acid/alkaline balance in the mouth bad bacteria will thrive.
“A balanced mouth is really the key to preventing cavities and improving oral health,” Powell says. “Teeth are like bones, constantly building up and tearing down through a dynamic physiological process. Loss of minerals in the bone can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis. Loss of minerals in teeth can lead to tooth decay. If you want bad bacteria to stop wreaking havoc in your mouth, create an environment where minerals remain in your teeth.”
What happens if you don’t take them?
The most common complaint from people who forego adding antibiotics to their antibiotic course is from women who experience vaginal thrush. The vagina, like the gut, has a very specific balanced ecosystem of bacteria that keeps the area healthy and maintains the proper PH levels.
When the PH levels are off, it leaves the vagina prone to fungal infections, bladder infections and many other painful conditions.
Gynaecologists have been known to prescribe probiotics to assist women with the treatment of yeast infections, urinary tract infections and even eczema.
In the gut
An imbalance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the human gut means there are too many bad bacteria, which can cause anything from digestive issues and allergies to mental health problems, obesity and more.
Probiotics are used in the treatment of several conditions such as diarrhoea (diarrhoea caused by antibiotics and from Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infection), constipation, sepsis (specifically in infants), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
The Medical Society focuses on childhood nutrition and offers professional guidance on child nutrition, including breastfeeding, at all facilities. This is a great starting point to encourage children to practise proper eating habits and be mindful of their gut and overall digestive well-being.
The Medical Society’s facilities offer a growth monitoring service, which includes checking the weight and height by age range and includes comparisons with developmental milestones against age.