A healthy diet and physical activity are two of the best approaches to getting fit. But sometimes, health issues take over and cause all sorts of problems. Your journey to wellness might move in fits and starts if your digestive or immune health gets bogged down. The good news is that probiotics can help support your health and give you the boost you need to reach your fitness goals.
Probiotics are microorganisms that take many different forms, such as:
Together, they work inside your body and share health benefits.
While bacteria tend to get a bad rap, they’re not all bad. Some are good and help balance your body functions, preventing harmful bacteria and viruses from taking over. All these microorganisms make up your microbiome. The beneficial bacteria and yeast tend to push and pull to create a healthy balance.
For microorganisms to receive the name probiotics, they must live independently, be available in large quantities, make it through your digestive system, and benefit you — their human partner. Most probiotics live in your intestines, also called your gut. However, they also reside in other areas, including:
Probiotic bacteria come in different types or “strains.” These strains often prefer to live in specific parts of the body, which is why you might see probiotic products that target one body system over another. The two largest probiotic bacteria groups are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Within these groups, common probiotic strains include:
Along with these different strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, you’ll often see yeast such as Saccharomyces boulardii as a probiotic. Other bacteria strains, such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Akkermansia muciniphila, are native to your gut. Newer research shows their probiotic benefits and how they support your health, naturally moderating life in the intestinal tract.
Studies show that healthy microorganisms do a lot for the human body, from reducing gut inflammation to restoring energy levels. So, how do probiotics work inside you? As beneficial species, probiotics share some of their natural properties in exchange for living comfortably in your body. In addition, they cooperate with other microbes, helping push off harmful bacteria or boost reserves of good bacteria.
One huge benefit of probiotics is their role in reducing inflammation. You can develop inflammation in many areas, from the intestines to the gut to the joints. Probiotics are highly effective at calming gut inflammation and reducing the effects of health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Living with gut imbalances can be challenging, yet probiotic bacteria can help your body strengthen the gut wall barrier, push out harmful bacteria, and increase healthy mucus linings. With a stronger gut wall and lining, your intestinal tract can fight back against harmful microorganisms. In addition, when your intestines don’t let bad bacteria filter into the bloodstream, your immune system doesn’t trigger its inflammatory response.
Your immune function is essential for healthy living. You’re better at fighting off common viral infections like colds and cases of flu when you have a strong immune system.
Although their digestive health benefits are most well known, probiotics also benefit your immune health because of the close ties between your gut and immune system. About 70% of your immune system is in your intestines, so what affects one affects the other.
Some probiotic microorganisms release antibacterial properties, while others focus on releasing antibodies. Antibodies can target many different diseases, but they’re best at raising the alarm if you get a viral infection.
Along with gut and immune health benefits, trials of probiotics show that different strains of probiotics can improve your overall health. Not all probiotics work the same, and they help at varying levels. Other bacterial strains prefer specific environments and affect your body’s cells in different ways.
Some probiotics affect bile acids and help your body lower cholesterol levels. Others can reduce allergic reactions by increasing mucus barriers. In particular, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis can reduce eczema flare-ups and calm their severity. Probiotics also fight back against urinary infections and help balance vaginal health.
Enjoying probiotic foods is an easy way to benefit from these helpful microorganisms. You can also take probiotic supplements. Whether interested in boosting your overall health or tackling a specific health condition, you should always talk to your doctor. While probiotics are considered safe, they could cause a reaction in sensitive people.
What are some common foods with probiotic benefits? Let’s find out!
Yogurt and fermented dairy products like kefir are excellent sources of probiotics. They are rich in many probiotic strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria and show “live and active cultures” on the label.
When searching for probiotic dairy, make sure you check the package. Some yogurts have minimal probiotics, while others are teeming with good bacteria. In general, kefir and other fermented dairy drinks will contain many more strains of probiotics.
Soft and hard aged cheeses that have skipped the heating process are probiotic-rich. Look for softer cheeses like feta, Gouda, Brie, provolone, mozzarella, and cottage cheese. For semi-hard to hard cheese that wasn’t heated, look for cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan, Swiss, and Emmental.
You could also try raw cheese in soft or hard styles. Since the milk was not heat-pasteurized, the aged cheese offers high concentrations of probiotics.
Fermented vegetables like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi give you plenty of probiotics. While sauerkraut and kimchi are always in fermented form, pickles aren’t. If you want fermented pickles, you need to find ones that say “naturally fermented” on the label. If they have vinegar as a pickling ingredient, they aren’t fermented. That means they don’t contain any healthy probiotics.
If you’re ready to dive into the healthy probiotic lifestyle, look no further than Muscle Mac! Enjoy a delicious bowl of Muscle Mac Pro — full of probiotics and 20 grams of protein. Just one serving of Muscle Mac Pro has your daily recommended serving of probiotics. It’s an easy (and tasty!) way to get ready to face the day.