The Live Well, Work Well newsletter is an employee newsletter that is produced monthly and covers topics like health, wellness, fitness, nutrition and personal finance. This month’s issue discusses probiotics and gut health.

Probiotics and gut health

You may know that your body contains many helpful bacteria, but did you realize that most of these bacteria live in your gut? Having the right balance of helpful gut bacteria can lead to numerous health benefits, including:

  • Better digestion
  • Ease in maintaining a healthy weight
  • Enhanced immune function
  • Healthy skin
  • Reduced risk of contracting or developing certain diseases

Balancing gut bacteria

Multiple studies have found that having an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria can lead to an increased risk for developing certain diseases, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes

Having the proper balance of good gut bacteria can help reduce your chances of developing many of the common conditions associated with poor health. Good gut bacteria can also help improve your overall health and well-being. Most of your gut bacteria can be found in your colon (large intestine). Your gut bacteria are responsible for many functions that are critical to your overall health, including:

  • Manufacturing vitamin K and some B vitamins
  • Stimulating the immune system when a foreign substance enters your body
  • Using fats to perform metabolic functions

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are a specific type of helpful bacteria that provide health benefits and there are dozens of different kinds. Certain foods contain probiotics, and some people take probiotic supplements to boost their healthy bacteria even further. Foods that contain probiotics include:

  • Kefir (fermented milk drink typically made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk)
  • Kimchi (traditional Korean dish comprised primarily of fermented cabbage)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Tempeh (traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans)
  • Yogurt

Targeted benefits of probiotics

In addition to helping to balance gut bacteria and promote the many health benefits already discussed, studies have shown that regularly ingesting probiotics can have positive effects on numerous other health conditions. Probiotics may help reduce the incidence of flare-ups of the following digestive conditions:

  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Gas and bloating
  • H. pylori infections, which can lead to ulcers and stomach cancer
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcerative colitis (UC)

If you have a digestive condition that causes you troublesome symptoms, you may want to consider eating foods that contain probiotics or taking a probiotic supplement. Increasing your intake of probiotics may help to balance your gut bacteria, and you may see improvements to the function of your digestive tract. As always, you should seek the advice of your doctor before starting a new regimen.