What comes to mind when hearing the word probiotic? Perhaps a yogurt commercial, or something that helps with digestion? Probiotics are live bacteria that replace or add to the beneficial microbes normally present in your microbiome.
In recent years, a number of studies looking into the effects of taking probiotics on illness, immunity, digestion, and metabolism, have discovered some pretty positive effects.
Starting with the National Institute of Health in 2012 discovering, as part of the Human Microbiome Project, that your microbiome actually works harder for your health and survival than your own cells. With the microbes inside you producing 360 times more protein-encoding genes responsible for survival than your own body!
One double-blind, randomized, controlled study looked at the effect of probiotics on common cold episodes over a three week period during cold/flu season. Not only did supplementing with probiotics reduce the severity of symptoms overall, the length of the cold was shortened by 2 days.
Which begs the question:
How can eating bacteria reduce a cold or flu?
Turns out just by being there. The bacteria provide a barrier for infectious viruses and harmful bacteria by out competing for resources and by producing beneficial compounds like vitamins or antibiotics. A healthy microbiome also actively works with the immune system by reducing inflammation and training immune cells to fight off infection. Taking probiotics adds to this healthy microbiome, increasing its ability to help our immune system keep us healthy.
Awesome! How else do probiotics help?
Well, probiotics can modulate your metabolism by consuming fats and sugars before your body can absorb them. Probiotics have been shown to be capable of modestly regulating blood glucose levels, and have even been shown to significantly decrease triacylglyceride (fat) levels in the blood nearly 12%. Triacylglycerides are the main component of body fat. Which means you can eat 12% more tacos! — or maintain your current taco intake and reduce your overall fat intake by 12%.
Whether you want to be sick less, more healthy and fit, or just want to eat more tacos, adding probiotics to a healthy diet and exercise can help you get there. The best part is that there are a number of foods that naturally contain probiotic bacteria, including:
- Sourdough bread
And my personal favorite: cheese! (as long as it is raw and aged).
P.s. If you have any good recipes for probiotic containing dishes, we’d love to try them if you’ll share them with us.