What Are Probiotics?
The term probiotics was first used in the 1950′s to explain how certain supplements made of organic and inorganic substances were needed to restore the health of people who were suffering from malnutrition because of eating too much refined food.
Wow, already there was a lot of junk food back then! Then in the 1970′s the term probiotics was used to describe how the good bacteria can improve the health of our intestines, also called the “gut”.
“Pro” comes from the Greek meaning “to promote” and “biotic” meaning “life”. Today, the World Health Organization says that probiotics are live microorganisms that when taken in adequate amounts confer a health benefit to the user.
Often some articles and books refer to probiotics as the friendly bacteria that is already living naturally in our gut, but to be accurate it is the manmade supplements that are taken as pills, powders or foods from outside the body.
Regardless, already inside us or taken as a supplement, we know that probiotics are the most important microbes, or bacteria in our digestive system for maintaining good health.
So how exactly do probiotics help?
There are different types of bacteria living in our digestive tract and we can, for our purpose here without getting to technical divide them up into two groups; the good and the bad (there are ugly ones in there too!) Probiotics, belonging to the good group will multiply as they are feed nutrients from prebiotics and as they outnumber the bad guys will in turn make that group starve and diminish.
This battle for food is always going on between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. In a healthy digestive environment the good guys should outnumber the bad by a ratio of about 80-20. If these numbers were to tilt the other way then the bad bacteria would start to rule.
This could be really bad news; this harmful bacteria, also known as pathogenic bacteria releases toxins and can cause putrefaction in the intestines which mean bad smells and decay.
Pathogens are disease pushers. They can cause bad digestion, ulcers, bloating, diarrhea, and gut infections. If a serious overgrowth of certain bad bacteria were to happen, much more serious diseases could manifest such as pneumonia, inflammatory bowel disease, degenerative brain disease, and multiple organ failure. These are BAD guys!
Good guys to the rescue
Obviously, without a doubt we all want to do what we can to empower the friendly bacteria to keep the bad stuff at bay and as dormant as possible. So the question is what can we do to empower the good bacteria? The good news is that we can actually help the situation by simply adjusting our diet.
Simply put, junk, processed food and high amounts of sugar like in soda pop will only benefit the bad bacteria group because that’s what they thrive on. That’s why North Americans complain about digestive disorders every day, we have very bad dietary habits as a group.
What good bacteria thrive on is wholesome foods like whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta as opposed to the white variety. Raw vegetables, and a wide assortment of fresh fruit. There’s nothing there you haven’t heard before. What you may not realize is that the foods just mentioned are the prebiotics that support probiotics. As important as probiotics are, they aren’t self-supporting and need prebiotics.
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