What’s all the buzz about probiotics and are the health claims valid? Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria, or live microorganisms, that help restore the body’s natural balance of gut bacteria and provide a number of health benefits. While there are a number of great reasons to increase your dietary intake of these natural health boosters, here are the top three:
Improve Digestive Health
Probiotics have been found to alleviate symptoms of bowel and gut disorders such as colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Specific strains of probiotics, the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, helped reduce symptoms in ulcerative colitis patients. One study found that supplementing with the probiotic E. coli Nissle was just as effective as drugs in maintaining remission in people with ulcerative colitis.
Promote Heart Health
Probiotics can promote improved heart health by lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol. Studies have found that eating a probiotic yogurt for 2 to 8 weeks reduced total cholesterol by 4 percent and LDL cholesterol by 5 percent. Researchers have found that specific lactic acid-producing bacteria break down bile in the gut, leading to reduced cholesterol. Additional research has also shown that consumption of probiotics may modestly lower blood pressure, which is critical to heart health.
Research supports probiotics as a natural way to boost immunity by promoting the production of natural antibodies and inhibiting the growth of harmful gut bacteria. Studies show certain probiotics boost immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells that control of infection.
Science continues to support the idea that Increasing your intake of probiotics can lead to improved health outcomes. Increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, buttermilk and cottage cheese to reap the health benefits offered by probiotics.
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Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center
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