Bacteria are often seen in a negative way, so people want to avoid them. However, there are good bacteria as well as bad bacteria.
When used correctly bacteria can provide all sorts of health benefits, especially in your gut and digestive system. In fact, we need these good bacteria to survive, which is why they are a good area to focus on when it comes to biohacking.
What are probiotics? Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are essential for good health, especially in the gut and digestive system, which is why they are often called good or friendly bacteria. They can be found in food or taken as supplements.
It may sound off-putting, but our bodies have a symbiotic relationship with probiotics. They need us to survive, and we need them to survive, that’s why they are something you can use in biohacking.
How they actually work is not yet fully understood. However, a large amount of what they can help with is. This article will give you an insight into what probiotics are, what they do and what they can help with.
Probiotics in detail
As aforementioned, probiotics are the ‘healthy’ bacteria that actually benefit your body in a variety of ways. In today’s society, many have a lack of probiotics, and therefore an imbalance in the range of bacteria in their gut microbiome.
Today’s society involves high-stress levels, lack of sleep, and an increase in the consumption of processed, high sugar foods as well as antibiotics – all of which damage our microbiome.
In only recent studies has it been found that the health of your gut biome could link to many other aspects of our health including:
We’ll delve further into these benefits, and how probiotics can actually help, later in this article.
How do they work?
Probiotics work to restore the balance of bacteria in your gut when the said balance is shifted by an illness, treatment or various negative lifestyle choices aforementioned. Probiotics also help to send food through your gut by affecting the nerves which control gut movement.
When taking antibiotics our body loses probiotics and the balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria is shifted negatively.
Taking probiotic supplements or increasing consumption of foods high in probiotics such as yogurt or kefir can help to restore this balance and keep your body working to its best.
There are many types of probiotics, they are mostly all classified as the following:
Lactobacillus – This is the most common type of probiotic. It’s often found in yogurts and can help with diarrhea and lactose intolerance.
Saccharomyces boulardii – Actually a yeast which is found in probiotics. It helps to fight diarrhoea and other digestive problems.
Bifidobacterium – Found in some dairy products, it can help to relieve the symptoms of IBS and some other conditions.
It’s best to seek your doctor’s advice to find which may best help you.
What foods contain probiotics?
There is a wide variety of foods that contain probiotics, many of which are contained within the diets of those in Asia. These great sources of probiotics are thankfully available worldwide also:
As yogurt is made from milk which has been fermented by friendly bacteria (lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria) it contains a good amount of probiotics.
That said, not all yogurts contain live probiotics as in some cases the bacteria can be killed during processing.
In children on antibiotics, it has been shown to reduce the incidence of diarrhea which occurs following consumption.
A product unbeknownst to many, kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink which is made by adding grains of kefir to cow’s or goat’s milk. Kefir grains are ‘cultures’ of lactic acid bacteria and yeast which look similar to cauliflower.
It has been shown to help in increasing “bone density”, “bone volume” and trabecular thickness”. All of which are linked to bone health.
Some types of cheese
Most cheeses are fermented, but not all cheeses contain probiotics. It is important to look at the label to ensure you are buying a product containing ‘live’ and/or ‘active cultures’.
Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage are the cheeses of which ‘good’ bacteria survive the aging process.
Pickles that are left to ferment in a solution of salt and water using their own naturally present lactic acid bacteria contain live probiotics. Keep in mind however, pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.
Sauerkraut is cabbage which has been shredded and left to ferment by lactic acid bacteria. It’s a common accompaniment with dishes in Europe.
Ensure to pick up ‘unpasteurized’ sauerkraut as the process of pasteurization kills live bacteria.
A Korean specialty, Kimchi is a fermented and often spicy side dish where cabbage often takes center stage. It contains plenty of lactic acid bacteria that can benefit digestive health.
A Japanese seasoning, Miso is made from fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It is usually used in Miso soup.
What are the benefits? What does the research tell us?
As aforelisted, the benefits are extensive and varied. From cancer to brain health, probiotics have been shown in research to help with issues all over the body.
Hormone levels – the study linked above, found that “probiotic supplementation significantly increased serum sex hormone-binding globulin and plasma total antioxidant capacity and significantly decreased serum total testosterone”. Showing a balance of hormone levels.
Immune system – the study linked above, concluded that “current evidence shows promise for further developing health benefits and the efficacy of probiotics and probiotic-derived factors on the regulation of host homeostasis, including immune health.”
Heart – the study linked above, concluded that “scientific evidence exists to indicate that there is potential for the derivation of health benefits from consuming food containing probiotics.” in relation to “cardiovascular diseases”.
Brain – the study linked above, found that “it is likely that daily consumption of a probiotic supplement could have a positive effect in improving the mood, anxiety, and cognitive symptoms present in MDD” by increasing serotonin availability and/or decreasing levels of inflammatory markers”.
Weight – the study above, concluded that “there is no doubt that probiotic therapy represents an exciting new frontier in the treatment of obesity and associated metabolic dysfunctions.”
Skin – the study aforelisted found that “Oral and topical probiotics appear to be effective for the treatment of certain inflammatory skin diseases and demonstrate a promising role in wound healing and skin cancer.”
Cancer – the study linked above, concluded that “a growing body of literature had highlighted a role of probiotic balance in the maintenance of widely understood homeostasis, projecting on successful cancer therapy. The evidence from the latest studies points towards the idea of the possible implementation of probiotics in cutting-edge cancer therapies.”
Side effects and risks
As is evident, there is an array of health benefits linked to probiotics, but it can’t all be positive, can it? Well, thankfully, the side effects are minimal and only affect a small portion of the population. That said, those with major illnesses may suffer more severe side effects. Always consult with your doctor before adding something to your medication.
Side effects can include:
- Redness and swelling
Probiotics are a healthy variety of what is often seen as something negative.
They help the body to remain in homeostasis and perform to its best. It has been shown in studies to benefit weight loss, hormone levels, brain health, and heart health to list just a few.
Side effects and risks are minimal and unlikely, however, always consult your doctor before adding something on top of any medicine you may be taking.