Maintaining the health of your gut is probably the number one thing you can do for your overall health. While you might think your gut is in perfect shape, it may not be! After all, the body is an integrated ecosystem, so imbalances in one area of the body can manifest themselves in an entirely different area.
Researchers are becoming increasingly aware that an unhealthy gut can compromise things like immunity, cognitive function, healthy weight, hormonal balance and much more. One of the easiest things you can do to heal your gut is to add beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, to your daily diet.
Enjoy Greater Immunity
Surprisingly, 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system! That means by boosting gut health, we naturally boost our immunity too.
Many studies have shown that regular intake of probiotics has a positive effect on immune health. Even when our bodies are under extreme pressure probiotics can give us a much needed boost, with research showing that long-distance runners who supplement with probiotics enjoy greater immune function.
Chronic inflammation in the body is linked to a multitude of illnesses like asthma, allergies, heart disease, cancer, premature aging and more. Probiotics may actually help quell this excess inflammation and prevent or improve its associated conditions.
Reduce Blood Pressure
A review of nine studies has shown a definite link between consuming beneficial bacteria and lower blood pressure levels – something that should be of particular interest to the one in three Americans suffering with hypertension.
Probiotics may be one of the many foods and drinks that can help lower cholesterol, according to a study of middle-aged men. They found that a daily fermented milk drink (a natural source of probiotics) reduced total cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels by 6% and 10% respectively.
It should be noted that not all studies have achieved these positive results, leading researchers to think that only certain strains of the bacteria are effective at reducing cholesterol.
Improve Learning and Memory
The brain and gastrointestinal system share an intimate connection – known as the brain-gut axis – which is why a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain. In one piece of research, healthy women given a probiotic-rich yogurt for four weeks displayed improved brain function when compared to either the placebo or control groups.
The brain-gut axis may explain why probiotics have been found to help fight depression and anger too. In a study carried out in the Netherlands, scientists discovered that participants who took probiotics had a significant reduction in negative and aggressive thoughts.
Some probiotics can alleviate the inflammatory and digestive symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) according to a review of 19 studies. These friendly bacteria may also maintain remission of Crohn’s Disease and avoid the recurrence of pouchitis – a complication of the surgery used to treat ulcerative colitis.
Prevent or Treat Diarrhea
Taking probiotics increases the ‘good’ bugs in your system, which work to crowd out the ‘bad’ ones – the ones that lead to diarrhea and other stomach problems. It’s no surprise then that several studies have found probiotics shorten the course of diarrhea in sufferers, particularly those with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
It’s also a good idea to load up on probiotics before traveling, as they are a safe and effective way to prevent infectious diarrhea, says an analysis of 23 trials.
Cure Urinary Tract Infections
Prevent Childhood Eczema and Allergies
Childhood eczema is an early sign of allergies – and probiotics may just help prevent both conditions in infants.
In a study of 241 women, scientists discovered that those who took probiotics while pregnant experienced a decrease in the occurrence of childhood eczema in their babies. While 71% of infants in the placebo group suffered eczema at least once, just 29% of infants in the probiotic group did.
At least one piece of research suggests it may be possible to use probiotics to treat obesity. Keep in mind that a sluggish digestive system (which can be improved through probiotics) hinders weight loss.
Improve Oral Hygiene
There is a growing body of research to highlight the beneficial role of probiotics in taking care of your pearly whites – particularly when it comes to preventing and treating oral infections, dental caries, periodontal disease and bad breath.
19 Probiotic Powered Drinks
While you may be aware of the many probiotic-rich foods, there is also an impressive list of beverages that contain beneficial bugs. Here are some of the best:
Kombucha – sweet, tart and fizzy, kombucha is an acquired taste that is high in probiotics, a powerful antioxidant called DSL and Vitamin C. This fermented tea is said to detoxify the body and protect against cell damage and inflammation, all whilst boosting the immune system.
Simple Milk Kefir – this fermented milk drink is made with a starter known as ‘grains’ (a symbiotic blend of bacteria and yeasts). A tangy probiotic wonder-food, milk kefir is delicious on its own or blended into smoothies. It can usually be consumed without problem by those who are lactose intolerant.
Simple Water Kefir – this refreshing drink is easy to make and is suitable for vegans and the dairy-free. Once your batch is done, you can enjoy it immediately, or double ferment it with a fruit juice to make a refreshing, sparkling drink that pleases both kids and adults alike.
Raw Almond Milk Kefir – technically not kefir, this recipe certainly tastes like it! It’s ideal for those who can’t get their hands on milk kefir grains as it uses high-quality probiotic capsules along with organic almond milk. Perfect for vegans and those with severe dairy allergies.
Probiotic Lemonade – an easy lacto-fermented probiotic drink that you can make with basic ingredients from your grocery store. Although it’s not quite your traditional lemonade, it’s still popular with kids of all ages.
Herbal Kefir Iced Tea – an all-natural vitamin water and energy drink made by adding an herbal infusion of iron-rich nettle and dandelion to water kefir – just another reason to pick these backyard weeds with extraordinary health benefits!
Beet Kvass – traditional in Russia and the Ukraine, this jewel-toned lacto-fermented beverage is earthy, salty, sour and sweet and full of probiotic goodness. Drink it straight-up, use it in salad dressings and soups or as an interesting cocktail mixer!
Easy Probiotic Strawberry Limeade – a healthy alternative to pure fruit juices yet just as popular with little ones, this easy beverage is made with honey, stevia, strawberries, fresh lime juice and unflavored kombucha.
Beat Winter Bloating Probiotic Green Smoothie – there are at least 13 reasons to drink green smoothies, although this recipe adds in yet another one…it’s rich in beneficial probiotic bacteria! Made with coconut water kefir, apple, pear, cucumber, spinach, avocado, celery, ginger, lemon and lime, it’s also bursting with nutrients and flavor!
Fermented Orange Juice – filled with probiotic goodness, this deliciously sparkling and subtly sweet drink is reminiscent of Orangina! It also makes a delicious jello.
Ginger Bug Ginger Ale – adults and kids alike will get their dose of beneficial bacteria without even realizing it thanks to this gingery soda. Ginger, known for aiding digestion and alleviating nausea, is blended with lemon juice, salt, sugar and a ‘ginger bug starter’ for a truly healing treat.
Cultured Strawberry Soda – a ginger bug starter will also come in handy for this fun, summertime drink flavored with strawberries.
Gut Friendly Blueberry Smoothie – antioxidant rich blueberries blend with milk kefir, banana, avocado and chia seeds for a quick, easy and gut-friendly breakfast.
Probiotic Green Juice – as if green juices weren’t healthy enough, this recipe comes along, adding a sneaky probiotic capsule to the mix of spinach, kale, celery and parsley!
Kombucha Coffee – described as an ‘unusual’ flavor, this drink – a kombucha coffee instead of tea – is only for the adventurous!
Apple Pie Apple Cider Vinegar Drink – naturally fermented raw and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar boasts a ton of health benefits and provides your daily dose of beneficial bugs along with the great taste of organic apple juice, liquid vanilla stevia and cinnamon.
Bonfire Cider, The Natural Flu Remedy – say goodbye to cold and flu by keeping this culture on hand throughout the fall and winter months. Simply take raw apple cider vinegar, add immune boosting and antimicrobial herbs and spices, and leave it to ferment for a month.