Good bacteria have never seemed friendlier. As the fascination with these helpful microbes continues to grow, researchers are astounding the medical community with the newfound benefits of healthy bacteria in far-reaching areas of health. Recent discoveries about the exhaustive benefits of probiotic bacteria confirm they are necessary for optimal bone strength, lung health and mood support. These discoveries are leading to new approaches for countless chronic diseases and conditions, safely and naturally.
I’ve written about the benefits of probiotic bacteria for a wide range of health issues, including immunity, digestive health and more. But with all the fascinating new research emerging across so many areas of health, it’s time to take a fresh look at what scientists refer to as the “human microbiome. “
Humans have been consuming probiotic bacteria in the form of cultured, fermented foods for millennia. Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso from soybeans, and many other types of fermented foods and drinks have long been cherished for their numerous health-promoting properties. Probiotics are available today as supplements as well. As research continues to demonstrate the benefits of these health-promoting microbes, advancements in application and delivery methods will enhance their benefits, particularly to help combat drug-resistant bacterial infections that continue to emerge.
Your Brain On Probiotics
Traditional Chinese medicine and other ancient medical systems recognized the relationships between digestive health and brain health, and now science confirms these links. A large percentage of brain neurotransmitter activity actually occurs in the digestive tract. In fact, researchers call the gut “the second brain” because of these close interconnections.
Now, a new layer of gut-brain protection has been found with probiotics: Researchers recently demonstrated a correlation between increased probiotic bacteria in the gut and reduced risk of stroke. Results of the study suggest that probiotic bacteria that produce carotenoids, a class of antioxidants, help protect against cardiovascular disease factors by providing specific antioxidant support in a bioavailable, digestible form. Study authors suggest that probiotic supplements could be used to protect cardiovascular health.
Another recent human study shows that eating yogurt can result in measurable changes in brain activity. Results of this compelling study suggest that eating probiotics daily can reduce anxiety and stress and may also reduce pain, by modulating activity in areas of the brain that regulate these feelings.
Protection During Chemotherapy
A recent preclinical study suggests that probiotics may protect cancer patients from the side effects of high-dose chemotherapy. A drug called RSPO1 has been shown to stimulate new cell growth in the intestines and protect against the harmful, immune-suppressing effects of chemotherapy. Probiotics mimic this effect by promoting optimal function of intestinal cells and activating genes that promote healthy intestinal cell regeneration.
Probiotics For Bone Health
Another recent study shows that probiotic supplements help protect against osteoporosis and bone loss. (The study was done on in male mice.) Previously, researchers showed that inflammation in the gut can deplete bone.
In this new study from the Journal of Cellular Physiology, researchers showed that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, which reduces inflammation, significantly increases bone density (in the lab animals) after four weeks of treatment. While researchers didn’t see the same results in female animals, a 2003 clinical study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition showed that women who took a high-quality Japanese probiotic supplement for at least eight weeks increased their bone density up to 36 percent compared to those who didn’t take the probiotic.
Friends For Weight Control
A 2013 clinical study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that specific probiotic bacteria called Lactobacillus gasseri reduced visceral fat in people by up to 9 percent after 12 weeks of drinking milk with that specific strain. Researchers suggest that the anti-inflammatory and digestive-supporting benefits of this probiotic strain may have been responsible this weight loss. Visceral fat is a dangerous type of fat that accumulates around organs and in the midsection of the body. Other, earlier studies have also suggested that certain probiotic strains can aid in weight loss. And a fascinating new study just published in the journal Science showed that sets of twins with weight differences also had significant differences in their gut microbiota; those who were overweight had different bacteria than their thin twins. Furthermore, when probiotic bacteria from overweight twins were transplanted into thin mice, the mice became overweight as well. The researchers also showed that with a diet emphasizing fruits and vegetables, the strains of bacteria that promote thinness were able to overpower the bacteria from overweight people and promote weight loss in mice.
As research continues, fascinating evidence is emerging on the countless roles of friendly microbes in promoting long-term health. Probiotics colonize many other areas of the body besides the intestinal tract. They’re found in diverse communities populating the lungs, skin, mouth and other areas of the body where they work to support immunity, fight harmful invaders and produce essential nutrients for optimal health. Strong, efficient digestion is the foundation of long-term wellness, and probiotics are an essential component. We now know that bacteria outnumber human cells in the body by 10:1. It’s time to reach out and support our vital probiotic communities.
I encourage the regular use of the wide variety of cultured, fermented foods and beverages that are currently available. Many of them are easy to make at home. If you have specific health issues, it’s helpful to work with a healthcare provider familiar with selecting specific strains targeted to your condition. For general health, incorporate a high-quality probiotic into your daily regimen.
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