The Health Benefits of Probiotics
Have you ever tried probiotics before? If not, you’ve likely heard of them on television, the internet, or from your health-conscious friend, who always talks about the restorative powers of kale facemasks. While we can’t speak to the truth of those facemasks, your friend might be onto something with the probiotics.
Often found in foods like sauerkraut or kombucha, probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are created during the fermentation process. If sauerkraut and kombucha are a little strong for your taste, probiotics can also be found in yogurts, making them accessible to conscientious eaters. But are probiotics worth the strong flavor of kombucha? We’d argue — yes — it’s actually so healthy that it’s worth trying the strongest sauerkraut. That’s right, probiotics are incredibly healthy in a variety of ways.
Great for Gut Health
The biggest benefits you’ll get from probiotics deal with gut and digestive health. In our digestive system, there is a large number of bacteria, some good and some bad. The bad ones can make us feel ill, leading to upset stomachs and some digestive illnesses like diarrhea. The good ones help your digestion run smoothly. Probiotics help maintain the balance between these two bacteria.
Probiotics help maintain the balance between good and bad stomach bacteria.
As a result, probiotics help combat these digestive issues and are sometimes used in the treatment or prevention of them. Probiotics have also been found to help relieve constipation, which is a very common complaint among many older adults. By assisting in the regulation of your gut flora, probiotics can have you feeling better and help prevent illness, if you add them to your diet.
Helpful for Heart Health
They say the quickest way to a man’s heart is his stomach, but there’s evidence that the quickest way to heart health is through the stomach, too. Specifically, probiotics have been shown to improve several aspects of your overall heart health, adding a surprising bonus to an already beneficial bacterium. Studies have found that probiotics led to significantly increased amounts of healthy HDL cholesterol and significantly lowered levels of bad LDL cholesterol. There are a few reasons why probiotics help lower cholesterol. Not only do they help prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by your body, they increase acids which help metabolize cholesterol and prevent it from being formed in the body.
Studies have found that probiotics led to significantly increased amounts of healthy HDL cholesterol and significantly lowered levels of bad LDL cholesterol.
There is also a good degree of evidence that shows that probiotics can lower your blood pressure. Beyond blood pressure, studies are beginning to find anti-inflammatory effects in probiotics; one study found improvement after only nine weeks. Over a long period, inflammation can cause heart disease. So, not only can fighting inflammation lower your risk of heart disease, it can also improve your immune system, among other benefits. These all lead to probiotics being effective ways to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Not only are probiotics good for your stomach, they’re good for your waistline. The gut and digestive health benefits that we discussed earlier may actually go a long way to helping you lose weight. Some of this may have to do with the balance of good and bad bacteria in our stomachs. Studies found that the balance of bacteria was different in the guts of obese people, compared to those with an ideal weight. One study found that the bacteria balance in obese guts were actually better at harvesting energy from foods.
Probiotics have also been found to promote the release of satiety-inducing hormones, making you feel full quicker.
That sounds positive, but this means that you’re actually getting more calories from the same amount of food. A healthier balance of bacteria has also been shown to release more fat in excrements, which can further help prevent weight gain. Probiotics have also been found to promote the release of satiety-inducing hormones, making you feel full quicker. Finally, by combating inflammation, probiotics can help you lose weight caused by inflammation.
How Can I Add Probiotics to My Diet?
So, how can you get these healthy probiotics regularly? The best way is to add them naturally, through probiotic-rich foods. This is surprisingly easy, since there’s a ton of tasty options. First, there’s yogurt, something many people enjoy for breakfast already. Greek yogurt tends to have the most, but any yogurt has some probiotics.
Basically, any food that has been fermented has some probiotics.
But, there’s a lot more than just yogurt. Basically, any food that has been fermented has some probiotics, which includes sauerkraut and kombucha, kimchi, miso, and of course, pickles! Even some cheeses are great sources of probiotics, like Gouda, aged cheddar, or Gruyere. Of course, you can also take probiotic supplements, but you should certainly discuss it with a doctor or nutritionist first. Seeing as a gut flora balance is important, you can overdo it with the probiotics, undoing the positives you were taking them for.
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When taken correctly and naturally, probiotics can be incredibly helpful to your gut health and your heart. Evidence has shown that probiotics may be able to even boost your mood! So, by working with your doctor and indulging in a little sauerkraut or Greek yogurt, you can start gaining the health benefits of probiotics in no time!