Are Probiotics a Gut Health Superhero?
Probiotics have been a trend in regulating gut health for years. But what actually are they and are they the superhero that we need?
By: Honeybee Hub
Bacteria don’t have the best brand image, but good bacteria are essential for regulating your gut health. Let’s take a step back though, what even is gut health and why does it matter?
Gut health refers to the bacteria in our digestive system and it plays a big role in keeping you feeling happy and healthy. The bacteria in our gut need to be in balance to help us break down food and absorb nutrients in a way that is nourishing for our bodies - allowing us to meet our latest gym goal and have the energy to make all our baking creations from the sourdough we started in the early COVID era.
Surprisingly, issues with gut health are quite common, with over 70 million Americans reporting digestive issues.1 These imbalances in gut bacteria can have serious implications not only for the gut, but also for the rest of the body.
Breakthroughs in Gut Health Research
Fortunately, there has been lots of interest in the space of gut health. Just look at all the connections that researchers have made between a properly functioning digestive system and our overall health and happiness.
Disease and Immunity
Researchers found that the ecosystem of the gut plays a significant role in our immunity, digestion, and metabolism.2 It can affect not only our digestive system but also other organs and systems. An imbalance in gut bacteria can cause chronic diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, cancer, and autism.3 Thankfully, a renewed interest in gut health has led to explorations of how gut bacteria can influence various disease progressions both within the gut and elsewhere.4 These discoveries have led to the exploration of therapies that might maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, like the use of probiotics.4
A 2016 study found that a particular strain of bacterium called Lactobacillus johnsonii might protect us against some cancers. The researchers gave mice a mutation that is linked to a high occurrence of certain cancers and found the mice treated with the bacterium developed cancer half as quickly.5 Research like this could be groundbreaking for new developments in our cancer treatments.
Scientists have found that poor metabolic health, culminating in metabolic syndrome, can predispose us to type 2 diabetes and serious cardiovascular disease.6 A clinical trial found that taking a probiotic bacterium called Akkermansia muciniphila on a daily basis improved many indicators of metabolic health.6 Research like this really shows how our everyday quality of life can be affected by our gut health.
A 2019 study found that certain strains of bacteria, like Coprococcus, are associated with higher quality of life and have lower production in people with depression. These bacteria, found in the gut, show that staying healthy and happy must include our gut health.7
The Common Denominator: Probiotics
What role do probiotics play in all of this? Probiotics are foods and supplements that are meant to improve good gut bacteria so that we can maintain our digestive health.8 We naturally consume probiotics when we eat yogurt or fermented foods but probiotic supplements are also widely available; all the bacteria strains discussed above are also sold as probiotic supplements.8
Are probiotics superheroes? Researchers have been hard at work trying to uncover the mysteries of probiotics and how they can help improve gut health. Even though this topic has been around for so long, there is still so much we have to learn about probiotics. We know that gut health is important to our wellness and probiotics can play a role in this, but research is still being conducted to understand the concrete effects. Keeping our bodies healthy and happy is essential and this starts with our digestive system happy because, let’s be honest, we have to be prepared for when we can do travel food tours.
Current research in probiotics could help you and others feel like the best version of yourselves, ready to conquer anything that comes your way. Consider contributing your time to help researchers pave the way to make our lives healthier, while earning cash and rewards by checking out Honeybee’s current probiotic studies!
1. Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States | NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed May 5, 2021. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/digestive-diseases
2. Doré J, Simrén M, Buttle L, Guarner F. Hot topics in gut microbiota. United Eur Gastroenterol J. 2013;1(5):311-318. doi:10.1177/2050640613502477
3. Zhang Y-J, Li S, Gan R-Y, Zhou T, Xu D-P, Li H-B. Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;16(4):7493-7519. doi:10.3390/ijms16047493
4. Quigley EMM. Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;9(9):560-569.
5. Publishing HH. Can gut bacteria improve your health? Harvard Health. Accessed May 5, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health
6. Depommier C, Everard A, Druart C, et al. Supplementation with Akkermansia muciniphila in overweight and obese human volunteers: a proof-of-concept exploratory study. Nat Med. 2019;25(7):1096-1103. doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0495-2
7. Valles-Colomer M, Falony G, Darzi Y, et al. The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression. Nat Microbiol. 2019;4(4):623-632. doi:10.1038/s41564-018-0337-x
8. Probiotics and prebiotics: What you should know. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 5, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/probiotics/faq-20058065