What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that offer many health benefits from aiding digestion to supporting the immune system. When you have enough beneficial bacteria in your gut, your body can absorb vitamins and nutrients from your food properly. Some research also shows positive effects of probiotics for people with asthma [1. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/10October/Pages/probiotic-friendly-bacteria-may-play-role-in-stopping-asthma.aspx], allergies, diarrhea, IBS, IBD [2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC539443/], and skin disorders like eczema.
Recent research [3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/] also shows a connection between healthy bacteria and the brain’s neurotransmitter function. If you’re like most women, you’ve had the experience of stress or other intense emotions affecting your digestion. What they are now discovering is that your gut can also affect your brain and mood. [4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24997036] [5.http://universityhealthnews.com/daily/depression/the-best-probiotics-for-mood-enhancing-the-gut-brain-connection-with-psychobiotics/]
Picking a Probiotic Supplement
In order to be effective in supplemental form probiotics need to be:
- viable (live) at the time of consumption,
- in sufficient quantity (number of bacteria),
- and they need to provide the right strain (type) of bacteria) that has been clinically studied and shown to offer health benefits in humans.
There is huge variance among probiotics supplements in terms of quality, potency and storage requirements. While many companies boast a high count of bacteria on their label, more is not necessarily better. What is more important is that the bacteria are live at the time of consumption and they make it into the gastrointestinal tract where they can implant and confer benefits.
6 Signs You May Need Probiotics
Like most things in life, balance is the key to a healthy body. When your body becomes overrun with too much ‘bad’ bacteria, and not enough ‘good’ bacteria, you can become out of balance, with a compromised immune system and a whole host of health concerns.
Probiotics or ‘good’ bacteria help to balance ‘bad’ bacteria, assist in digestion, help your immune function, and are an integral part of the gut-brain connection.
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The Power of Probiotics
The human gut is a huge complex ecosystem where microbiota (the ecological community of microorganisms that literally share our body space) and nutrients (found in food and supplements) interact extensively. These bacterial communities that make up the gut microbiota have many functions, and when there is any disturbance, the gut microbiota may become damaged.
The strongest evidence to date finds that probiotics benefits may include:
- boosting immune system [6.Stimulation or modulation of the immune system ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/Gilli.pdf ]
- prevention and treatment of Antibiotic-associated diarrhea [7. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1151505 ]
- improving digestive function [8. ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/Gilli.pdf]
- healing inflammatory bowel conditions like IBS [9. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2007.03362.x/full]
- treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease [10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1856223/#ref4]
- managing and preventing eczema in children [11. http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749%2812%2901464-9/abstract]
- fighting food-borne illnesses such as food poisoning [12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1828830/]
- improve vaginal health, prevent candida and yeast infections [13. http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics]
- preventing and improving urinary tract infections (UTIs) [14. http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics]
- reduce anxiety and stress [15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26522841] 
- improve mood disorders such as depression [14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24997036] [16. http://universityhealthnews.com/daily/depression/the-best-probiotics-for-mood-enhancing-the-gut-brain-connection-with-psychobiotics/]
- improve constipation, gas and bloating
- reduce flu and colds [17. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub2/abstract]
- prevent cavities and gum disease [18. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160504001552] [19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16878680]
- brain fog [20. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnins.2015.00225/pdf]
- preventing or slowing the development of certain types of cancer [21. https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/110508.htm]
- lower cholesterol [22. ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/Gilli.pdf]
- lose weight
- manage Celiac Disease
- improve acne and rosacea [23. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/could-probiotics-be-the-next-big-thing-in-acne-and-rosacea-treatments]
- treat colic in babies [24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183958/]
- combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria [25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092975]
- treat liver disease [26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22661622]
- fight bacteria that causes ulcers [27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394097/]
- delay the onset of glucose intolerance that leads to Type 2 Diabetes [28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498615/]
- Autoimmune Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain [29. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/gut-microbes-linked-rheumatoid-arthritis]