Bacteria get a bad rap. Especially in the past year, we have been taught to believe that all bacteria are bad, and to be healthy we should go out of our way to avoid and/or kill them with Lysol sprays, hand sanitizer, and mouthwashes. The reality is not all bacteria are bad. In fact, our bodies and immune systems thrive on "good" bacteria – AKA probiotics, due to the fact we naturally have trillions of bacteria, yeast, and other organisms that work to keep our body functioning smoothly. It may sound a little gross at first, but when you really start to think about the community of live microorganisms in our bodies that work hard on the behalf of our health – it's pretty fascinating. Let's take a look at how these microorganisms work in our bodies to support a healthy immune system.
What are Probiotics?
Okay, so what are these tiny little creatures, and what exactly do they do for our health and wellness? The simple answer is A LOT. The Cleveland Clinic defines probiotics as "a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body." Probiotics are considered microbes (another term for microorganisms) and are a part of a larger system called the microbiome. Our microbiome is described as "the genetic material of all the microbes- bacteria, fungi (including yeasts), protozoa, and viruses - that live on and inside the human body," by the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health. Everyone's microbiome is unique and impacted by our DNA at birth, environmental factors, and diet. No two people have the same microbiome, even twins!
Though good microbes or probiotics are mostly found in the gut and large intestine, they can also be found in and on:
Good bacteria in our system help the body control inflammation, digest food, create vitamins, break down medications, and prevent bad bacteria from entering the bloodstream through the digestive system. Good bacteria fight off the bad bacteria, AKA germs, that can make us sick. There is evidence that good bacteria may produce enzymes or proteins that inhibit, or kill, harmful bacteria. Healthcare professionals have used probiotics to help patients with certain medical conditions for years, especially when those conditions involve gut health. Probiotics may be used to help treat:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
Diarrhea caused by antibiotics
Skin conditions, like eczema
Urinary and vaginal health
Preventing allergies and colds
As a side note, it's important to mention that probiotics are not prebiotics. Prebiotics are "are a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria. They’re carbs your body can’t digest." They essentially help the good gut bacteria grow so that they can do their job.
How Probiotics Help Our Immune System
It's clear that probiotics are important for our overall health and wellness, but how do they impact our immune health specifically? As it turns out, immune health and gut health are closely linked as the gut contains many specific immune cells. In fact, researchers have found that 70% of our immune system is housed in the gut, so adding probiotics to keep your gut happy and healthy should in turn boost immune health and function.
How to Add Probiotics to Your Routine
Now that we know how important probiotics are to our overall and immune health, let's talk about how to add them to our daily routine. In general, if you eat a balanced diet full of fiber, protein, and fermented foods, getting enough probiotics won't be an issue. That being said, make sure you're getting enough of these probiotic-rich foods:
Kefir (fermented probiotic milk drink)
Tempeh (fermented soybean product)
Kimchi (fermented, spicy Korean side dish)
Miso (Japanese seasoning)
Kombucha (fermented black or green tea drink)
Natto (fermented soybean product)
Some cheeses (Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese)
Some people may also add a dietary supplement to their diet to give their immune system and gut health a boost. The two main probiotic strains that are the most commonly studied and found in probiotic supplements are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Bifidobacteria have been found to "support the immune system, limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine, and help in breaking down lactose into nutrients the body can use." Lactobacillus produces lactase to help break down lactose, and lactic acid to help control bad bacteria.
Some people may also add a dietary supplement to their diet to give their immune system and gut health a boost. The two main probiotic strains that are the most commonly studied and found in probiotic supplements are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Bifidobacteria have been found to "support the immune system, limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine, and help in breaking down lactose into nutrients the body can use." Lactobacillus produces lactase to help break down lactose, and lactic acid to help control bad bacteria. They can also help with muscle function and the absorption of minerals. Lactobacillus bacteria are found naturally in the mouth, small intestine, and vagina. In reputable probiotic supplement formulas like 1 Body's 30 Billion CFU Probiotic, there are usually other microbe strains and substrains found in supplements, including:
L. Acidophilus - Naturally found in the vagina and small intestine, this strain may help fight harmful vaginal bacteria and digestion.
L. Rhamnosus - L. Rhamnosus is naturally found in the gut and has health benefits that include helping to relieve stomach issues like IBS and diarrhea. It is also good for overall gut health and may even help prevent cavities.
B. Longum - Found in the gastrointestinal tract, B. Longum bacteria helps break down carbohydrates.
B. Breve - This strain of bacteria helps fight off bad bacteria, breaks down plant fibers to make them digestible, and ferments sugars to help the body absorb nutrients.
L. Casei - Located in the gut, urinary and genital tracts, this strain is used to regulate the digestive system and some of the issues that may stem from digestive issues. These include acne, ear infections, and certain oral issues such as gingivitis.
B. Coagulans - B. Coagulans is actually resistant to heat and gastric acid, so it is helpful in treating digestive issues such as diarrhea and constipation. It can also help improve immune function.
B. Lactis - Derived from raw milk, this strain of probiotic bacteria helps our bodies break down waste and absorb minerals. It has also been found to fight tumor growths, improve digestion, and enhance immune system functions.
L. Plantarum - L. Plantarum helps support the digestive system and immune function as well as helping the body produce vitamins. Very Well Health also says that certain supporters claim that it can help treat or prevent anxiety, diabetes, eczema, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).
S. Thermophilus - This probiotic strain helps our bodies fight off bad bacteria that can make us sick, helps us break down food, and helps us absorb nutrients.
L. Bulgaricus - L. Bulgaricus helps keep our gut health in check, and may also help treat liver disease, the common cold, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), colic, tooth decay, periodontal disease, and other oral health problems, and preventing necrotizing enterocolitis.
B. Infantis - Naturally found in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, this good bacteria is used to help relieve symptoms associated with digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.
L. Gasseri - L. Gasseri can be found in the urinary tract as well as the digestive tract. Beyond supporting both digestive and immune functions, this strain has been found to help vaginal health by preventing bacterial vaginosis and may even aid in weight loss.
L. Reuteri - Thought to have benefits for the digestive system, L. Reuteri is also beneficial for oral health as it is naturally found in the mouth. One study even found the strain to reduce decay-causing oral bacteria.
L. Fermentum - Naturally found in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and vaginal tract, this probiotic strain has several benefits beyond supporting the immune system and digestive health. It may help reduce cholesterol, assist in weight loss, and prevent yeast infections.
S. Boulardii - S. Boulardii is beneficial for intestinal health and may help treat symptoms of Crohn's disease, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.
Generally, probiotic supplements are safe for everyone but it is important to always talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine. Those with serious health conditions or diagnosed immune system disorders may be advised against using probiotic supplements by their doctor. That being said, some people may experience mild side effects for the first few days after adding a probiotic to their diet. These side effect symptoms may include:
If these symptoms persist or you experience an allergic reaction, discontinue use and contact your doctor. It is also important to mention that probiotic supplements are regulated by the FDA as food, not as medication, meaning that they are not required to disclose the same safety information as medicine brands.
Best Probiotic Formulas for You
Because there are so many probiotic supplement formulas on the market that are not regulated by the FDA as a medication, it is important to be selective with your dietary supplement choices. Look for formulas that contain high-potency and diverse probiotic strains, acid-resistant capsules, and don't require refrigeration. 1Body's 30 Billion CFU Probiotic contains a whopping 30 billion CFU of 15 strains of the best probiotics, including Lactobacillus Reuteri, Lactobacillus Gasseri, & Lactobacillus Acidophilus in a patented vegetarian capsule that is specially designed to resist stomach acid and ensure the proper delivery of the probiotics & prebiotic to your intestinal tract. Plus, all of our formulas are created without sugar, salt, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors!
High Potency & Strain Diversity. Our formula has a whopping 30 billion CFU of 15 strains of the best probiotics, including Lactobacillus Reuteri, Lactobacillus Gasseri, & Lactobacillus Acidophilus.
Patented Vegetarian Acid Resistant Capsules. Specially designed to resist stomach acid and ensure the proper delivery of the probiotics & prebiotic to your intestinal tract
Supports Immune System & Digestive Function. Since 80% of the immune system is in your gut, adding more good bacteria helps support a healthy bacterial balance in your digestive tract.
No Refrigeration is Necessary. Shelf-stable to maintain live probiotics & prebiotic at varying temperatures.