Benefits of Taking a Probiotic
The Gut Microbiome
Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. It is unique to each person and is established very early in life; your parents health and genetics, how you were birthed, and whether you were breast or bottle-fed are early determinants of microbiome variation.
The microorganisms of the gut microbiome play a key role in food digestion and absorption, but also help to regulate your metabolism, weight, mood, and immune function. While it is initially determined at birth, your gut microbiome is constantly being shaped by many factors including stress, genetics, illness, and diet.
Since each microbiome is unique to the individual, there is no ‘ideal’ healthy gut. However, it is known that disruptions to the microbiota cause an imbalance called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis may be caused by many things including stress, overuse of antibiotics, being overweight, or by eating poor quality foods.
Dysbiosis appears to affect the mucosal lining of our digestive system, allowing small particles of bacteria or food into the blood stream. This is known as ‘Leaky Gut’, and it is being increasingly linked to a range of physical and mental health problems.
The beneficial microorganisms found in probiotics join the existing microbiota and develop their own colony. As they grow in number, they help to balance the microbiome and protect against dysbiosis.
There are many different types of probiotics, with different strains being beneficial to different people. For example, L. plantarum, L. paraplantarum and L. rhamnosus found in fermented foods may modify immune responses against inflammatory diseases; L. acidophilus and B.B. lactis found in probiotic yogurt show potential for metabolic syndrome modulation; and L. reuteri in fermented vegetables may be anti-inflammatory1.
Commercially available probiotics contain many strains of microorganisms that have been proven beneficial to some individuals, especially those with digestive discomfort. They are safe for the vast majority of people but may produce some temporary side effects such as wind, bloating or constipation as the microbiome adjusts to the new colony. However, those with compromised immunity or severe illness should avoid probiotics unless advised to proceed by a medical practitioner.
1Roobab, U., Batool, Z., Manzoor, M. F., Shabbir, M. A., Khan, M. R., & Aadil, R. M. (2020). Sources, formulations, advanced delivery and health benefits of probiotics. Current opinion in food science. 32:17-28