The Potential of Probiotics for Whole Body Health
Chances are, you’ve heard the hype about probiotics. These powerful little microbes have numerous benefits for your body. Although many people know that probiotics are beneficial, there are certain strains that have been shown to help with specific aspects of health. While there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to uncover the true power of these microbes, here is what we do know about probiotics.
Gut Health. In the US, about 25-45 million people deal with the undesirable symptoms and stress of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Research shows that probiotics may be helpful in reducing some of these symptoms. Those with IBS typically have a lot of Enterobacteriaceae, a type of inflammatory bacteria, present in the gut and less of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Since most probiotic supplements contain these two bacteria, it’s thought that a general probiotic supplement would be helpful for this condition to help get the bacteria in your gut back up to where it should be.
Mental Health. Did you know that the gut plays a big role in your mood? Your gut actually gut produces some of the same neurotransmitters as your brain. In fact, it is the production site for 95% of your serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for your good mood. A lot of research is still needed on using probiotics to help manage anxiety and depression, but one particular strain that shows evidence of reducing anxiety is Lactobacillus rhamnosus. A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that those who were given the probiotic strain reported improved mood with a reduction in feelings of depression, anger and fatigue.
Skin Health. Eczema is a skin condition that can vary from a few small patches on the body to it covering most, if not all, of the body with dry, itchy cracked skin. Many with the condition struggle to find a treatment that works for them. Research evidence indicates that probiotics might prevent atopic dermatitis, a specific form of eczema, from developing. Specific strains that might be helpful are the Lactobacillus group, specifically Lactobacillus fermentum.
While many probiotics can be found in pill form, they are naturally found in foods as well. If you’ve ever been prescribed an antibiotic to treat an infection, your doctor likely told you to eat some yogurt during your course of treatment. That’s because yogurt contains a couple of different strains of beneficial probiotics. While yogurt is delicious, and some of us may want to eat it three times a day, fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha are other great sources of probiotics that have a lot of benefits.
If you're looking to add probiotics to your diet, be sure to work with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian to find what might be best for you. Fermented food is a great way to go, but if most of those types of foods just aren’t for you, look for highly-rated supplements. There is still a lot to learn about probiotic supplements, as it is an area of growing interest and research. If you feel you would benefit from a probiotic, discuss the possibility of supplements with your doctor. Supplements are not required to be tested and approved so it's important to make sure you're choosing a reputable product. If you're looking to target a specific condition, know that different strains treat different things, so you'll want to be sure what you're taking is relevant to whatever you’re taking it for.
Written by Kyla Sullivan, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern.