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Good Bacteria? 11 Health Benefits of Adding Probiotics To Your Diet

Vivian KELLY
by Vivian KELLY Published on May 18, 2014

Not all bacteria is bad for your health. In fact, the benefits of probiotics can only do your body good. ​From bloat-busting powers, to reducing your cholesterol, to achieving flawless, glowing skin, probiotics can do a whole lot more than help you go number two (and that’s not even the half of it). Ladies, find out why these good germs are ESSENTIAL to great health...

Ever wondered what the big deal is with probiotics? You’ve probably heard that they're something to do with yoghurt and are supposed to be good for your digestion, right? Well here's the inside scoop.

​Probiotics are live active cultures of friendly bacteria that thrive in your gut. Good bacteria is considered essential for good health (and survival!). So with our bodies claiming home to more than 500 different types of bacteria you KNOW you’re dealing with something serious here.

It's time to quit squirming over germs! Our bodies are all made up of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria but when the balance becomes disrupted so can our bodies. Symptoms like bloating, constipation, acne and generally feeling pretty crappy can all be associated with an imbalanced gut.

But there is a solution: probiotics. There are two ways to maintain your body’s healthy bacteria - you can either take oral supplements, or consume foods which are rich in probiotics.

If you need help starting out, here’s a nice little shopping list to try...

  • Live bio yoghurt
  • Miso Soup
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Dark chocolate
  • Gherkins
  • Olives
  • Ginger beer
  • Kimchi

Girls, it's time to talk GERMS. Here's 11 good reasons to add probiotics to your diet.

1. It prevents holiday tummy trouble

With over 70% of our immune system located in our gut it’s not surprising that probiotics can help us with A LOT more than just our digestive health. Probiotics can also help support our natural defences so what better time to start taking probiotics than when you’re jet-setting around the world?

Nutritional Therapist at Bio-Kult, Natalie Lamb says, “Probiotics could help prevent an upset stomach when travelling - when abroad local strains of bacteria will be new to the body so our immune system is primed to protect against them.” Girls, traveler’s tummy will soon be a thing of the past! Thank God.

2. You're one step closer to perfect skin

We would have never thought our gut and skin were connected, but yet again science has enlightened us - probiotics really are the next big beauty food...

Head of Nutrition at Grace Belgravia and founder of Food-State brand Wild Nutrition, Henrietta Norton, explains why.

"If the gut flora is disrupted, the gut wall can become porous and allow toxins into the bloodstream, reaching areas of the body that the gut wall usually protects, such as the skin.

​"Gut flora also functions as an important part of daily detoxification and if this is low then toxins are more readily excreted through the skin, increasing vulnerability to spots."

To improve your skin health look for a supplement with at least 8 different strains of beneficial bacteria, such as this one by Wild Nutrition.

3. It can help improve your digestive health…

…dramatically. Apart from thoroughly chewing your food and eating in a peaceful environment (the TV screen and a computer don't cut it) probiotics promote optimal digestion of food.

​How does that work? Natalie says, “Individual strains have been shown to produce different digestive enzymes necessary to break food down in the small intestine.” So not only do probiotics help defend our GI (gastrointestinal) tract but they also aid in the digestion process too. Which is half the work done for us already! Where's that yoghurt pot?

4. It's mood-boosting

Feeling a bit meh? Pretty tired but can’t seem to figure out why? Pay attention to those symptoms - it could be your gut!

“Gut flora imbalances could also be indicated in numerous symptoms that may at first not be seen to be related to the gut, such as fatigue, poor concentration, anxiety, low mood, headaches etc. An effective solution is to supplement the microflora by taking a probiotic to restore the balance," says Natalie.

So next time you need some cheering up pop a probiotic. Research proves they can make you happy (and not just your belly). Remember those Yakult adverts now?

5. Get better shut-eye

Ladies, probiotics could be your answer to getting a good night's slumber. If you're finding it hard to switch off and constantly wake up at night, don't fret. Getting a good night’s sleep is a lot more difficult than you might think and even more so when you're trying to get your recommended Zzz quota.

This is where probiotics can help. Natalie says, “The hormone serotonin needed to make melatonin the ‘sleep/relaxation’ hormone is largely produced in the gut – so keeping the gut nice and healthy could potentially effect a good night’s sleep.”

6. It protects against hay fever

Sniffles? Itching eyes? Ah, we know the feeling all too well but probiotics may be able to provide you with relief during allergy season. Natalie says, “As hay fever is associated with an oversensitive immune system taking a daily multi-strain probiotic throughout the year and especially in the spring could help support a healthy immune response.”

Battle out those irritating pollens by restoring your gut and strengthening your immune system. Soon 'achoo' will be a thing of the past!

7. It can improve your cholesterol

If you've failed your cholesterol test and are trying to find a way to lower it, probiotics could be your cure...

OptiBac Probiotics Naturopath & Herbalist Megan Crowch says, “One of the most recent developments in probiotics research is cholesterol management. In particular three specific strains of bacteria have been shown, in a gold standard clinical trial, to possess cholesterol-lowering qualities using different mechanisms, to help manage cholesterol levels.”

Consuming probiotics is one of the simplest and most natural ways to help your cholesterol so what are you waiting for?​ We recommend Cardioviva for your cholesterol which combines Alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) and the particular three bacterial strains that you need for better heart health.

8. It can help ward off nasty yeast infections

Suffering from cottage-cheese like discharge and soreness? It doesn't sound pretty, but thrush is a lot more common than you think! Try restoring your body's good bacteria - it can actually do heaps for your lady garden.

​Megan says, "The vaginal flora is very delicately balanced, and bad bacteria and yeasts can cause problems such as urinary tract infections and thrush. Having a good balance of friendly bacteria can help to encourage healthy vaginal flora, and this can be promoted by taking a specific probiotic oral supplement."

In theory, probiotics help reduce your chances of developing infections 'down there'.

​No-brainer for us! See you never, thrush!

9. It can potentially help you lose weight (YES really!)

A supplement that can help you lose double the fat? Too good to be true, right? Well, recent research proves otherwise. Here's why...

"In one study conducted, the overweight mice were given a type of bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila which tends to be lacking in those who are overweight. To the researchers’ surprise the mice proceeded to lose over half their body weight! Although there are no clinical trials in humans yet, it’s a developing area of research, and hopefully in the near future specific probiotics will be available on the market to help with weight management," says Megan.

​Probiotics are also great for doing a detox as they help remove toxins from the body.

10. It relieves constipation

Yea, talking about poop is DEFINITELY embarrassing, but who wants to suffer in silence? Twice as many women suffer from constipation than men (which is totally unfair) but this can change by taking something as simple as a probiotic supplement or even by eating a probiotic-rich food.

​Megan says, "Constipation is a huge issue in our society, fuelled by our reliance on fast food, more people doing sedentary office work, and most of all our unwillingness to talk about it! However probiotics, specifically those which live in the large intestine like the Bifidobacteria family, can really help to get the bowels moving."

Start regulating your bowels with this friendly bacteria and never pass up the chance to speak about your toilet issues to your doctor. We're all in it together, girls.

11. It helps ease bloating

No girl likes a bulging belly. So how in the world can we start feeling comfortable again?

​"A high quality probiotic supplement containing well-researched strains should help with bloating. Probiotics can help to expel the pathogenic, or ‘putrefying’ bacteria, which can cause excess production of gases leading to bloating.

"​A good probiotic will also help to break down food substances such as dairy and starch (as many women experience bloating due to poor digestion of these foods)", says Megan. This is exactly the kinda thing we need. Bloat offenders - get lost! We're all over probiotics.

We say, it's time to take control of your gut! Will you be adding this healthy bacteria to your diet? Tweet us @wewomenCA!

by Vivian KELLY