Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Your body contains about the same number of gut bacteria molecules as it does cells for the rest of your body, so it’s no wonder your gut is so important to your health.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) calls probiotics “live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut.” The NCCIH makes the point that we often think of bacteria as harmful “germs;” however, probiotic bacteria actually help the body function properly.
Your skin and digestive system alone host about 2,000 different types of bacteria. Probiotics benefits have been proven effective in supporting immune function, reducing inflammation, promoting healthy digestion, as well as maintaining beautiful skin, especially when combined with prebiotics.
Your good gut bacteria are also responsible for:
- Producing vitamin B12, butyrate and vitamin K2
- Crowding out bad microbes
- Creating enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria
- Stimulating secretion of IgA and regulatory T-cells, which support immune function
Probiotics have been in our systems from the moment we were born. When a newborn is in the birth canal of the mother during delivery, the baby is exposed to the bacteria of his or her mother for the first time. This event starts a chain of events inside the baby’s GI tract, and the infant’s GI tract starts to produce good bacteria.
Historically, we had plenty of probiotics in our diets from eating fresh foods from good soil and by fermenting our foods to keep them from spoiling. Over a century ago, the Russian Nobel Prize winner Elie Metchnikoff theorized that “health could be enhanced, and senility delayed by manipulating the intestinal microbiome with host-friendly bacteria found in yogurt.” Metchnikoff was ahead of his time with his view of probiotics benefits, but he also was aware that most citizens had regular access to probiotic foods.
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