Prebiotics and Probiotics: Potential Key to Overall Health
When the word “bacteria” is mentioned, most people instinctively think of sickness, infections, or general “gross”-ness.
Few of us think of bacteria as holding the key to overall better health and wellness.
However, there is significant current research that suggests that sources of healthy bacteria, in the form of prebiotics and probiotics, may do just that!
What are prebiotics and probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial, living bacteria that can be ingested to improve our overall health.
Since the 1990s they have been used largely to treat digestive issues, but recent research suggests that different strains or species of bacteria may benefit health issues ranging from hay fever to gum disease.
Common species of probiotic bacteria include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, but there are several other strains and species being studied for their benefits as health supplements.
Prebiotics are not live bacteria but are compounds that improve the health of normal gut bacteria.
One of the simplest forms of prebiotic is insoluble fiber, which has been shown to improve the function and metabolism in the digestive system.
This helps to support a healthier environment for good bacteria to thrive.
Meet Your Microbiome
When considering taking supplements that contain live bacteria, your “gut instinct” (pun intended!) may be to pass on this option.
However, healthy bacteria are already present in your body and play an important role in your health.
Healthy bacteria are present in your mouth and nose, in your digestive system, and even on your skin.
Your digestive system alone contains up to 500 different species of healthy bacteria, which can add up to 100 trillion individual microorganisms!
The healthy bacteria in our digestive system has many functions.
It aids in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, fights pathogens or “bad” bacteria, and plays a significant role in our immune system functioning.
Probiotics can play a significant role in keeping this essential environment of bacteria, known as your “microbiome”, happy and healthy.
There is still much research to be done in understanding the complex effects and interactions that contribute to a healthy microbiome.
As discussed in our article, “Understanding Food Sensitivities”, there are numerous small reactions occurring within our digestive tract that can contribute to improving or harming our overall health.
These interactions include the appropriate balance and diversity of the bacteria in our bodies.
One common example of a disruption of our digestive microbiome is antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
If you go to the doctor and are diagnosed with an infection, you will likely be prescribed a strong antibiotic to kill the bacteria causing that infection.
However, while that antibiotic is processed by your digestive system, the “good” bacteria in our bodies may also be eliminated.
Many people who have taken an antibiotic experience stomach upset, cramping, and diarrhea.
This is caused by the disruption in our microbiome.
Good bacteria is destroyed in the process of the treatment, which causes distress in our digestive system.
While this is a dramatic example of what happens when our microbiome is out of balance, it’s a good illustration of the essential function of healthy bacteria.
An imbalance in the bacteria in our digestive system can result in numerous unpleasant digestive issues including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and other irritable bowel symptoms.
As discussed in our article “Understanding Food Sensitivities”, these digestive issues might be warning signs of issues affecting other parts of the body.
Poor digestion and food sensitivity can result in the build-up of inflammatory molecules that contribute to heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, allergies, and immune dysfunction.
Pre- and Probiotic Supplementation: Why? What? How?
Hopefully, we have explained why it is important to maintain a healthy microbiome.
One question you may still be asking yourself is, “Do I need a probiotic supplement?”
It must be noted that diet is an important contributor to the health and diversity of our digestive bacteria.
Studies show that our diet is an important source of healthy bacteria and the nutrients that our microbiome requires to function properly.
Live, beneficial bacteria are found in many fermented food products such as yogurt, kimchi, or kombucha.
However, in the United States, due to standard food processing practices, much of the healthy bacteria that would normally be found in these foods are removed prior to packaging.
Additionally, the way in which we prepare our food often kills the naturally-occurring healthy bacteria.
Perhaps even more important than ingesting foods containing live bacterial cultures is eating foods that support the health of the bacteria already in our microbiome.
The Western Diet, high in fat, protein, and simple carbohydrates, is not an ideal diet to support our healthy bacteria.
In an article evaluating studies of diet and its impact on our microbiome, Dr. Hannah Holscher found that a diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes) was highly beneficial.
This diet provides the micronutrients required by our good bacteria to maintain adequate variety and health.
You may find that dietary changes are not enough to resolve symptoms caused by an imbalance in your microbiome.
In these situations, pre-and probiotic supplementation may provide additional support to digestive bacteria to help you achieve your health goals.
While there is still much research to be done on pre-and probiotics, numerous studies have already found them beneficial in the treatment of digestive issues and issues caused by a bacterial imbalance in the body.
While pre-and probiotics are regulated by the FDA as “supplements” and therefore cannot claim to cure or treat a specific disease, the science is present to support their use in assisting with numerous digestive issues, weight loss, immune function, and even mood and mental clarity.
Prebiotics and Probiotics: Potential Tools in the Battle Against COVID-19?
COVID-19 has infected over 86 million people and has resulted in nearly 2 million deaths worldwide.
It has affected numerous levels of our daily lives from job losses, to school closures, to socially distancing from loved ones.
While there is hope on the horizon in the form of recently-approved vaccines, other means to prevent and treat COVID-19 may warrant additional study.
One approach that researchers continue to look at is the role of prebiotics and probiotics in preventing COVID-19 infections.
One study, published in the journal Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology (Sundararaman, Ray, Ravindra, & Harmai, 2020) outlines the ways that healthy gut bacteria can protect us from infections.
According to the authors, probiotics can show antiviral properties by directly inhibiting the survival and growth of viruses, producing substances that have antiviral properties, and stimulating the body’s immune response to allow it to more effectively fight off infections.
Another study published in Nature Partners Journals (Olaimat et al., 2020) also discusses the importance of healthy bacteria and probiotics in stimulating the immune system through the “Gut-Lung Axis”.
How the “Gut-Lung Axis” works is not yet completely understood, but it is the name researchers have given to the observed relationship between healthy bacteria in the gut and its positive immune impact on the lungs and airways.
At present, there aren’t any large-scale human trials to study the impact of prebiotic and probiotic treatment on transmission and infection of COVID-19.
There is, though, a significant body of research that supports the role of prebiotics and probiotics in maintaining a healthy bacterial environment in the body and supporting improved immune function.
The science indicates that the immune benefits of pre-and probiotic supplementation may provide protection against many different viruses, including COVID-19.
The Betr Health System and Gut Health
The Betr Health system is designed to stimulate and maintain the growth of healthy bacteria.
By shifting to a more plant-centered diet, Betr Health utilizes current scientific data to improve your overall health and wellness through supporting gut and digestive health.
While the Betr Health eating plan provides lots of fuel to promote an ideal environment for a healthy microbiome, you may find it beneficial to start a probiotic supplement to maximize the effects of the Betr Health system.
The Betr Health team has designed a proprietary blend of 11 probiotics that have been shown to provide a host of positive health benefits.
Our 11 strain probiotic blend includes the following species of beneficial bacteria:
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus– produces lactic acid and promotes immune function
- Bifidobacterium Longum & B. Bifidum– naturally occurring bacteria that aid in nutrient digestion and absorption, and promotes a healthy bacterial balance in the gut
- Lactobacillus Plantarum– naturally occurring bacteria that promotes the production of essential amino acids and inhibits the growth of unhealthy bacterial strains
- Lactococcus Lactis– promotes the immune system function and skin health while helping to counteract allergy disorders, hypertension, and bowel inflammation
- Bifidobacterium Breve– supports skin health and helps to protect against allergy disorders, digestive inflammation, and digestive disease
- Bifidobacterium Infantis– naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth and gut which promotes proper digestion
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus– naturally occurring bacteria that inhibit the growth of unhealthy bacterial strains
- Lactobacillus Casei– helps regulate digestion and promotes healthy bacterial balance in the gut
- Lactobacillus Helveticus– promotes improved mood, mental clarity, bone health, healthy blood pressure, and immune function
- Lactobacillus Salivarius– promotes reduced allergic symptoms, inflammation, and lowered cholesterol
Taken in capsule form, once daily, and in combination with our healthy eating plan, the 11 strain probiotic blend provides support for the development and maintenance of a microbiome that supports your digestive health and overall well-being.
Hopefully, this discussion on the role of good bacteria in your overall health has given you some “food for thought”.
Betr Health has designed a natural and satisfying nutrition system that promotes gut health, lowers inflammation, and can help you reach your health goals.
Our probiotic blend is just one of the natural supplements we offer to support your journey to better health.
Though probiotics have overwhelmingly been found to be safe, it’s important to speak with your healthcare professional prior to starting a new supplement.
We apply the highest industry standards to ensure that our probiotic blend is manufactured safely and accurately so that you can feel confident in our product.