5 Surprising Ways Good Gut Bacteria Affect Your Overall Health
The benefits of adding good bacteria to your system with probiotics reach far beyond your gut health.
For every cell you think of as “you,” there are about 10 microbial cells living in or on your body. This includes hundreds of trillions of bacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract.
By now, it’s common knowledge that “good” gut bacteria help support digestive health, while an overabundance of “bad” gut bacteria can cause serious gastrointestinal problems. Probiotics are commonly used to repopulate the gut with “good” bacteria and help relieve IBS, IBD, infectious diarrhea, and antibiotic-related diarrhea. Probiotics can also help improve digestion by giving you more of the “good” bacteria that are needed to extract nutrients from food and to turn certain nutrients into metabolites that can be used elsewhere in the body.
However, improving gut health and function is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of “good” gut bacteria. Researchers are also discovering that changes in your gut flora can affect:
Immune Health: When “bad” bacteria overpopulate the gut, the lining of the intestines can become permeable, allowing partially digested food to pass through. This triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. Eventually, the inflammation will become chronic and the immune system will begin attacking healthy cells. Chronic inflammation is linked to all kinds of health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some cancers. Restoring “good” gut bacteria to healthy levels can help fight inflammation and protect against disease.
Obesity: “Good” gut bacteria support a healthy metabolism for a healthy weight. In studies on obese mice, researchers found that certain strains of Lactobacillus (a type of “good” bacteria found in human breast milk) were effective in limiting weight gain and reducing fasting glucose and insulin levels. In another study, researchers took gut bacteria from thin and obese humans and put them into mice. The mice all ate the same amount of food, but those with the obese humans’ gut bacteria gained more weight.
Allergies: Various studies have shown a link between probiotics and allergies. This makes sense considering allergy symptoms result from an overactive immune response, and probiotics affect the immune system. Specifically, treatment with Lactobacillus helped kids with food allergies improve their tolerance for milk and peanuts. An analysis of studies on seasonal allergies also found a link between probiotic treatment and improved symptom relief.
Response to Cancer Treatment: Many chemotherapy drugs need to be activated by enzymes in the liver. Researchers found that mice that lacked “good” gut bacteria had higher levels of these enzymes, so the drugs got activated faster but were also detoxified and excreted from their bodies faster, leaving less time for the drugs to act on cancer cells. Another study found that when mice with liver cancer were given probiotics, they produced more anti-inflammatory bacteria, which helped block tumor growth.
Depression: This year, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found a concrete link between “good” gut bacteria—specifically Lactobacillus—and depression symptoms in mice. The researchers found that when Lactobacillus diminished in the gut, a depression-driving metabolite called kynurenine increased in the blood. When the mice were fed Lactobacillus, kynurenine levels dropped and their depressive symptoms improved.
How to Improve Your Gut Health
By changing your diet, you can restore a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut and enjoy many health benefits. Cut out foods that are high in sugar and white flour, as these foods tend to feed “bad” gut bacteria. To get more “good” bacteria, eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, and live culture yogurt, or take a quality probiotic supplement. Renew Youth’s™ Probiotic Plus is an excellent choice because it contains 9 species of “good” bacteria including 4 strains of Lactobacillus.