Everywhere you turn in the wellness community, you’ll find a lot of buzz about the benefits of probiotics. Lots of experts, from holistic practitioners to nutritionists, are touting the benefits of probiotics and their ability to keep us healthy.   These bacterial microorganisms live in our guts and serve an important purpose. There are over 500 different types of bacteria in our gut, some good and some bad bacteria.  Each of them plays a role in your health.  The good stuff helps your digestion, increases your immunity and can fight off illness. Some studies suggest good bacteria aids in weight loss and can affect your mood.  The bad bacterium hinders the good and can lead to illness, such as diarrhea, IBS and other GI tract infections.

It’s a delicate balance between the good and the bad bacteria, with each side fighting for more room within the gut. If the bad outweighs the good, our health may suffer. The good bacteria, on the other hand, help our immune systems by releasing more white blood cells to attack the bad. The two engage in a never-ending battle. To find harmony, the two need to balance or tip slightly in favor of the good.  The best way to achieve balance is to take a probiotic supplement or eat foods like yogurt, kombucha or other fermented foods.

Probiotics aren’t the only consideration for good health.  They work in conjunction with prebiotics found in fruits and veggies.  The prebiotics give the probiotics something to feed off in the gut. If you are lacking both prebiotics and probiotics in your diet, your system will be off balance.

While some studies suggest that probiotics will assist in weight loss, they are not a weight loss miracle. Their effectiveness in your weight loss will largely depend on your diet.  The good bacteria said to aid in weight loss do not thrive in a high saturated fat and low fiber environment.  In order to reap the benefits of these good bacteria, it needs an environment where they can thrive.  A diet rich in fruits and veggies, and low in saturated fats will provide an environment where probiotics can multiply better, helping with your weight loss.

Researchers are now beginning to take a long look at the connection between our guts and our brain functions.  Did you know that 95% percent of your serotonin comes from your gut bacteria?  Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that helps you to be happy, think clearly and aid in decision-making.  We know there is a link between nutrition and depression, so it stands to reason that our gut bacteria has a lot more control over our brain chemicals than we give it credit for.

Probiotic in its simplest terms means “for life” or “promoting life”.  They are found in fermented foods, supplements, and some high-end chocolates may contain probiotics.   It may seem like a new trend, but in reality, the idea of eating fermented foods goes back centuries.  It was not until the early 20th century that scientists suspected a connection between the consumption of fermented milk and longevity.  People living in the countryside drank fermented milk on a regular basis, and lived significantly longer than people in the city that did not eat fermented foods.  This discovery lead to further study and what we’ve come to understand about gut health.

If you’re considering adding probiotics to your routine, they can be found in fermented foods, and quality supplements.  Shakeology is another great source with a mix of pro and prebiotics, including Yacon Root, Chicory Root and Bacillus Coagulans.

Yacon Root

Yacon Root is a perennial plant, grown and cultivated for its tuberous roots. It’s a vegetable that is often thought to be a fruit. It’s benefits include the ability to lower LDL cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, assist with weight loss, and strengthen the immune system.

Chicory Root

This woody herbaceous plant offers a wide array of health benefits. It is said to prevent heartburn, boost the immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease, and prevent bacterial infections. It also has natural sedative properties and can protect against kidney stones.

Bacillus Coaglans

Bacillus Coaglans is a beneficial probiotic bacterium that helps treat IBS, boosts the immune system, and helps prevent the common cold.