Keeping the gut biome in proper balance is essential for overall good health. When the digestive system is out of balance, it can cause heartburn, indigestion and even interfere with natural sleeping patterns. But, what are probiotics and how can they impact body systems?
What Are Probiotics?
There is a long history of using probiotics for gut health, going back long before the term’s invention. In ancient times, civilizations used fermented foods like wine and bread to relieve various digestive disorders. Ancient societies had no way of knowing the full story of the chemical reactions that were taking place, but the impact these foods had on digestion was well known and they were used frequently for relief of digestive problems.
Probiotics Have Been Used for Thousands of Years
History shows that the fermentation process was discovered by accident while attempting to store dairy products in the hot, dry climate of North Africa, where triple-digit temperatures during the day are pretty typical. In the mid 19th century, French Chemist Louis Pasteur became the first to document and explain how and under what circumstances fermentation occurs.
At this time, fermentation was a way to store foods. The health benefits of probiotics and fermented foods were not known until some time later, with an observational study of the diets in societies with longer lifespans. The term “probiotic,” which means “for” and “life,” was introduced in the mid 20th century with a study of bacteria and its effect on human health.
The Effect of Probiotics on the Digestive System
The human body contains virtually countless types of bacteria, and the majority of these live in the digestive system. When foods high in beneficial bacteria are eaten, the microbiome improves and can work more efficiently. The specific bacteria that make up each human gut biome are unique because they are almost entirely dependent on the individual’s diet. A diverse microbiome made up of various foods is considered healthy and the most beneficial to the body.
Consuming Probiotics through Foods
The typical American diet lacks ideal levels of diversity and is far too rich in fats and sugar to provide the conditions for a healthy digestive microbiome. This condition can be improved by consuming more fruits, vegetables, and beans. These foods are usually high in fiber, which feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Studies have also shown that a diet rich in these foods can help protect the individual from some bacteria-borne diseases.
How Probiotics Impact the Human Body
The benefits of probiotics go far beyond the digestive tract. Studies have shown that a healthy gut biome can positively impact anxiety, depression, and memory issues with as little as a one- to two-month change in diet to include more probiotics and fermented foods. Beneficial changes in levels of body inflammation with the use of these foods have been studied, and the initial results are pretty promising.
Certain probiotics can help lower cholesterol levels by interfering with its production and absorption in the body. This effect is particularly beneficial to those suffering from heart disease and high cholesterol. By lessening the stress on the heart muscle and increasing healthy blood flow throughout the body, probiotics have demonstrated the ability to add many healthy years to an individual’s lifespan.
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