By now you probably know a thing or two about probiotics, right? Of the trillions of bacteria in your body, probiotics are the good guys—the beneficial microbes that help balance your intestinal flora and maintain your health.‡ But just how good are they? And where do they come from? Here are 9 fun and interesting facts you may not know about these good-for-you bacteria:
- You have roughly 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in your body (over 100 trillion), and all together they weigh about 4 pounds—that’s the weight of a brick!
- While most of your bacterial cells reside in the gut, where up to 80 percent of your immune system can be found, there are actually bacteria throughout your body in your mouth, nose, stomach and even your armpits.
- Each person has a unique bacterial environment (like a thumbprint) that new research reveals may begin to develop inside the womb.
- Studies show there are over 1,000 different probiotic strains living in the human body. Bifidobacteria are most prevalent in the large intestine (colon), while Lactobacilli are the most prevalent good bacteria in the small intestine as well as the urogenital tract.
- Probiotics support healthy immune function by priming the immune system to properly respond to what passes through the digestive tract.‡
- Probiotics can be found naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese and sauerkraut, and our ancestors were consuming fermented foods as far back as 10,000 years ago.
- Your good bacteria help your body absorb valuable nutrients from your food during the digestive process.‡
- Gut bacteria play an important role in manufacturing needed vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin K.‡
Outside factors such as stress, poor diet and the use of certain medications (including antibiotics) can deplete the number of good bacteria in the gut, but taking a daily probiotic supplement has been shown to help restore a healthy internal balance.‡
Salt, sugar and unhealthy fats are the staples of the Standard American Diet—and they are taking a serious toll on our country’s health. Our love of heavily processed, high-carbohydrate foods has triggered a nationwide rise in heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and now a new study reveals our immune systems may be in danger too.
Dr. Ian Myles of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently led a study to determine the impact of a Western diet and lifestyle on immune health. His findings, published in Nutrition Journal, reveal that the way Americans eat may lead to increased inflammation and a significant decline in overall immune function.
According to the study authors, as we continue our poor eating habits over time, they become ingrained in our DNA and could permanently alter the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut—which can weaken our immune systems even more. And this affects not just us but future generations, since research reveals these changes can be passed on to our children.
“Our bodies are a kind of mini-ecosystem, and anything that disturbs our bacteria can alter our health in profound ways,” said Myles. He stressed the need to eliminate processed sugars and unhealthy fats from the diet to support healthy immune function.