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What are probiotics?
One of the very surprising facts that we may not know is that our bodies have bacteria that are way more than all our body cells. The word bacteria can baffle us so much, considering the fact that these microorganisms are considered as harmful pathogens that cause diseases. This may make us want to shun away any notion that there are some beneficial bacteria.
This is exactly what probiotics are. These are good bacteria that are symbiotic to us and provide us with extensive biological benefits. We help them thrive and they help us in various body functions, among them being outweighing the bad pathogens found inside our guts. If we look at our guts, we have billions if not trillions of god bacteria that help us properly digest food and, thus, also on our general health. Sometimes the microbiota in our guts may be diminished due to our lifestyles or some disease which may make the bad bacteria outweigh the good ones.
This leads us to what a probiotic does to our guts. A probiotic is a supplement composed of the good bacteria that helps to replenish any lost good bacteria inside the gut. It floods our guts with the good colony forming units and the benefits are basically endless.
The Importance of probiotics
Our intestines contain the largest percentage of our immune system. This means that the health of our guts will ultimately affect our general health. Any disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract may lead to a reduce immune response to pathogens. Probiotics are good in assisting in good bowel movements which are crucial in ensuring an optimal digestion. Antibiotics are also known to destroy both the good and the bad bacteria in our guts.
As a result, this reduction in their numbers may lead to an increased number of the harmful pathogens we wanted to protect ourselves against in the first place. Thus, the probiotics are able to revive back the check of the good microbiota inside our guts. This will help prevent issues like diarrhea that may arise as a side effect of taking antibiotics.
Our intestinal walls come into contact with corrosive digestive juices that can lead to ulcerations if the mucosal lining is destroyed. The probiotic is able to supply live bacteria that produce mucin. This is a protein that helps in the production of mucus covering the intestinal walls and preventing the corrosive effects of the intestinal acids like the hydrochloric one.
Since our guts have the largest percentage of our total body immunity, taking the probiotic drugs help improve our immunities in general and, thus, will lead to a better functioning organism. Probiotics can come as natural products like yoghourts, fermented soy beans, sauerkraut, and sour pickles among many others. Likewise, in the event one is unable to get these products, there are probiotic supplements that are sold in the retail shops that pack live bacteria, providing you with the exact same results.
Dealing with Depression
The World Health Organization has defined depression as a mental condition. This may an affection that causes feelings of sadness, anger sometimes despair and people suffering from depression usually are unable to relate and socialize with those around them. As a result, they could end up being isolated by others. This isolation may further compound the depressed mind which worsens everything.
Symptoms of depression
Some of the common characteristics of someone who may be suffering from depression are:
- Recurring sadness
- Self-harming tendencies
- High drive for sex
- Feelings of being worthless
- Low self esteem
- Hopelessness and feeling of guilt.
Gut health and depression
A study was done by McMaster University and a correlation was obtained between the gut health and mood changes that may lead to depression. Another study was done by University College Cork in Ireland that was able to discover that indeed there is a relationship between our gut health and our brains, which in return affects our mood.
A particular probiotic strain, the Bifidobacterium identified by the University College Cork in Ireland was identified to treat the behavioral tendencies of being anxious and depressed. Sometimes, the bacteria in our guts may get into our blood stream due to medical conditions that may make our guts walls permeable and vulnerable to these bacteria. The bacteria leaked into the blood stream may lead to the activation of autoimmune responses that may prompt depression to the affected person.
Sometimes, when our guts have less of the good bacteria, the bad bacteria are able to thrive well due to the alkaline conditions present. Some pathogens like the H. pylori cells may also be able to permeate through the infected intestinal wall and reach the brain.
Once in the brain, this pathogen affects cognitive abilities of an individual which may also cause depressive tendencies. A study was done to some students and it was discovered that students who were doing stressing examinations had less of the Lactobacilli strain of probiotic bacteria in their stool, contrasted to those for whom the examination was less stressful. This is likely to show a relationship between these bacteria and our brains.
Another study was done on healthy women. The study involved the Streptococcus thermophiles bacteria strain. The female subjects were made to consume bacteria filled yoghurts and the study showed that the brain areas responsible with triggering emotions had less activity. This means that the risk of developing depression was significantly diminished.
Probiotics and depression
Probiotics have varying strains of bacteria and different companies may choose different probiotic bacteria to include in their products. However, there are some strains that are always in existence in the probiotic supplements. Some of the probiotics found in the supplements are:
These species are involved in the production of lactic acid inside the stomach. This acid changes the stomach environment to acidic, as opposed to alkaline. Alkaline conditions are very conducive for the bad bacteria like the Pylori and, as it has been seen earlier on, perforations inside the gut due to illnesses may cause this bacteria to reach the using the bloodstream.
Thus, taking a probiotic will introduce these good bacteria into the gut and the lactic acid produced will make the conditions in the stomach unconducive to these bad bacteria which will cause them to die off. This may be able to prevent them entering into the blood stream and, ultimately, reach the brain. Some of these Lactobacilli strains are the lactobacilli acidophilus, fermentum, plantarum, rhamnosus, gasseri, reuteri, as well as many others. The following bacterial strains are known to be quite effective in fighting off symptoms of depression.
The Bifidobacterium Strain
When our gut walls are not strengthened, the bad bacteria may permeate to the blood stream and, thus, reach our brains which may affect our emotions in the process. This strain of good bacteria that is found in probiotics helps to strengthen our gastrointestinal tract, among other benefits. It also provides the majority of energy our intestinal walls require so that they can be able to remain in fully operational condition. Some of the strains of the Bifidobacterium probiotic are the bifidum, longum and the infantis.
The Bacillus strain
This is another probiotic strain found in probiotics that helps ward off depression. It is among the few strains to withstand the heat in the intestines and any moisture content and this helps it to thrive longer and flourish. In addition it makes our stomachs resistant to the negative effects of the gut acid and prevents any potential ulcerations that could cause the bad bacteria to enter the blood, reach the brain and alter our cognitive capabilities. This is one way by which this bacterial strain helps us to prevent the development of depression.
The Streptococcus strain
This is yet another one of the many strains of bacteria found in probiotics. There are two specific strains of this probiotic that work wonders in ensuring our gut health is in check and helps us stay safe from pathogen related depression. The Streptococcus Salivarius K12 is known to produce a substance that prevents the thriving of the bad bacteria in our guts like the Pylori, whose effect to the brain may lead to depression. The other strain in this category is the Salivarius M18 which is mainly found in the mouth, and one of its many roles is to also protect the body against any pathogenic invaders.
It is now very evident that probiotics are not just meant to enhance the health of our guts. Their effects are going well beyond that and we can even identify brain benefits related to the consumption of probiotic rich foods. With depression being an extremely harmful mental condition that can basically debilitate the individual, taking probiotic as a way of relieving some of the symptoms is priceless. Furthermore, taking a probiotic does not mean replacing your entire diet. With a glass of yoghourt or a tablet of probiotic supplement in some retail store, you will be good to go. Our brains are affected by our gut health and the sooner we realize this, the better. As a conclusion, we should constantly have probiotics with us and use them whenever we feel necessary.