What are friendly bacteria?

There are a large number of different kinds of bacteria in your digestive system at any one time. But for the system to work properly it is important that you have the right balance of bacteria in there. Friendly bacteria are, as the name suggests, the micro-organisms that you want plenty of. They are also known as probiotics. The World Health Organisation definition of probiotics is that they are live micro-organisms which provide a health benefit to the host. Paying attention to the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut is important because that balance can suddenly change for a whole host of reasons. One way of paying attention to it is to eat probiotic foods such as miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi and yoghurt. The other is simply to take a probiotic supplement. What probiotic supplements do is colonise your digestive system with the right kind of bacteria – the friendly stuff. The most common groups of bacterial probiotic are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

They might not mean anything to you, but here is a list of some common ones:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus bulgarius
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Bacillus subtilis
Probiotics can have a big impact on the health of your digestive system. They are known to combat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can be tremendously debilitating. It has also been claimed that probiotics bring benefits to people suffering from more serious bowel conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as potentially warding off Helicobacter pylori infections, which cause ulcers and stomach cancer. Research also suggests that taking a probiotic can lead to weight loss. This may be because probiotics limit the absorption of dietary fat, meaning your body takes fewer calories from your food. Probiotics also help release appetite-reducing hormones. Studies have also shown that certain probiotics reduce systemic inflammation. This is a driver of many diseases such as heart disease and cancer. There is also evidence that they reduce the symptoms of depression, lower cholesterol, enhance immune function and improve skin condition.

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