Why Maintaining Healthy Probiotic Levels Is Beneficial for You
Most people think probiotics are nothing more than a class of bacteria, but there’s more to these than meets the eye. With the continual release of new studies proving their efficacy in improving health and initiating weight loss, it’s no wonder probiotics are now coming into the spotlight.
What Are Probiotics?
Beneficial bacteria or probiotics are among the trillions of bacteria living in your gut. These bacteria are part of your immune system, and optimal levels of these beneficial bacteria, can help:
- Regulate immune system response
- Lessen inflammation and allergy risk
- Create vitamins, absorb minerals and expel toxins
- Control asthma
- Boost mood and mental health
- Stimulate weight loss
- Contain the growth of disease-causing bacteria by competing for nutrition and attachment sites in your colon
Effects of Having Less-Than-Optimal Probiotic Levels
Not paying attention to your probiotic levels could result in a bacterial imbalance, which can be caused by eating pasteurized, sterilized and processed food, as well as lifestyle factors such as age, stress levels, location and health issues.
Development of disease-causing yeasts (candida overgrowth) and fungi could also happen, especially if you consume high amounts of sugar regularly. Fatigue, depression, headaches, concentration problems, muscle weakness, vaginal and urinary tract infections, indigestion and persistent heartburn are some of the symptoms of candida overgrowth.
Other studies show that unhealthy gut bacteria can even trigger insulin resistance and weight gain by prompting chronic low-grade inflammation in the body.
Probiotics Can Also Affect Your Weight Management Goals
People who want to lose weight should constantly supply their gut with beneficial bacteria. Studies have shown that the presence, or lack thereof, of a bacteria strain called bacteroidetes could make a big difference in your weight loss goals. Bacteroidetes are found in higher amounts among people who are of normal weight, while another class of bacteria, firmicutes, is abundant in overweight people.
If you want to lose weight, there should be more bacteroidetes than firmicutes in your gut, as the latter is known to be more efficient in converting calories from complex sugars into fat, a big contributor to weight gain. As you start to slim down, your firmicutes will decrease and vital bacteroidetes will increase.
Another bacteria strain called Lactobacillus rhamnosus was also tested for its effects on weight loss, particularly among women, and the results were positive. According to the late Byron Richards, a board certified clinical nutritionist:
"The controlled clinical trial was set up so that the first 12 weeks women were guided to eat less food and some were additionally given the Lactobacillus rhamnosus. After 12 weeks the amount of weight loss was greater in the group receiving the friendly flora supplement.
Over the next 12 weeks the dietary restrictions were lifted, and the friendly flora was continued. Those women not taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus now gained weight, whereas the friendly flora group continued to lose weight. The weight loss benefit was linked to measurements of the bacterial profile of the digestive tract.”
Certain gut bacteria can also influence your food cravings. A positive-feedback loop has been shown to exist between your appetite and gut bacteria strains that depend on nutrients to survive. For example, microbes that are sugar-dependent send signals to your brain, prompting you to grab a sweet treat as soon as possible.
Incorporating Beneficial Bacteria Into Your Diet
It is easy to add probiotics into your everyday diet. There are fermented food items out there that can provide high amounts of probiotics. These include:
- Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi
- Fermented dairy products made from raw and unpasteurized dairy, such as yogurt and kefir
- Fermented soy products such as natto and tempeh
- Lassi, a fermented Indian yogurt drink usually consumed before dinner
Apart from these probiotic-rich foods, make sure to incorporate these items into your daily meals to boost your health:
- Unlimited amounts of fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables
- Moderate portions of high-quality protein, such as grass-fed meat
- High quantities of healthy fats from grass-fed butter, coconuts and coconut oil, raw nuts, and animal-based omega-3 fats, to name a few
There are also lifestyle changes that you must apply if you want to harness probiotics’ potential. One of these is intermittent fasting, since timing your meals is just as important as what you eat.
There are many routines you can follow if you want to fast intermittently, but the most common schedule involves limiting all of your meals to a six- to eight-hour window, while fasting for the rest of the day. Take note that intermittent fasting is not just a diet fad, but a conscious lifestyle choice that can lead to these health benefits:
- Weight loss
- Enhanced insulin and leptin sensitivity
- Improved efficiency in burning fat for fuel
- Decreased oxidative stress and inflammation
- Lowered risk for cancer and neurodegenerative illnesses
Meanwhile, constant exposure to any of these three items should be avoided. The complications that can arise from using any of these can render your efforts wasted:
- Antibiotics: this type of medicine is the No. 1 culprit in lowering the amounts of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Although they may help fight disease-causing bacteria, they end up killing beneficial bacteria, significantly altering your gut microbiome and exposing you to harmful side effects.
- Chlorinated water: the combination of organic material and chlorine produce disinfection byproducts (DBPs) can lead to various health issues.
People frequently exposed to chlorinated water recorded higher chances of developing sinusitis, sore throat, chronic colds, chest tightness, and breathlessness while walking. DBPs can also result in damage to your central nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, weakness of your immune system and impaired functioning of your renal system.
- Antibacterial soap: triclosan, a common ingredient in antibacterial soap, has been associated with antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption. This chemical triggers estrogenic activities in breast cancer cells, thereby encouraging cancer cell growth, and infiltrates the skin and bloodstream easily.
Antibacterial soap isn’t as effective as it is promoted to be as well, since studies have shown that people who used antibacterial soap were just as likely to develop illnesses as often as people who used regular soap.
Many people are yet to discover the wonders of probiotics, but the rising numbers of tests showing their great potential and effectivity in improving your health is still progress in itself. It’s definitely never too late to consider the benefits that probiotics have to offer.
For more information about burning fat for fuel and the science behind how probiotics can contribute to improved overall health and weight, read my latest book, Fat For Fuel, and the article “How Probiotics May Aid Your Weight Management.”