10 Surprising Health Perks of Probiotics

By Mary West,

bacteria Every day, battles are waged inside your gut between beneficial bacteria and pathogenic bacteria, the outcomes of which have far-reaching effects, often influencing social and emotional behavior as well as physical health.

Research shows when you increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut through consuming probiotic-rich foods and supplements, you can make victorious outcomes over poor digestion and the skirmishes you’ve become uncomfortably accustom to. But what about the other, untold benefits of probiotics? After all, digestion influences nearly every bodily process.

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics are foods cultured with live beneficial bacteria, which include yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut. These healthful microbes may also be procured in the form of supplements, which should be taken in addition to eating the probiotic foods rather than as a substitution for them.

1. Probiotics May Keep E.coli at Bay

In a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, pigs were given feed supplemented with the probiotic Enterococcus faecium. The results showed it greatly reduced the numbers of pathogenic E.coli bacteria in the intestines. This microbe is one of the most common pathogens affecting pigs.

2. Probiotics Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Research indicates Lactobacillus reuteri promotes healthy teeth and gums, helping prevent tooth decay and reducing inflammation of the gum tissue. This benefit is even more important because poor oral hygiene is associated with serious maladies such as diabetes and heart disease.

3. Probiotics Help Reduce and Prevent Diarrhea

Harvard Medical School reports many studies that show probiotics can help reduce or prevent diarrhea from an infection. Diarrhea is also a common side effect of antibiotics; research indicates probiotics can help reduce the incidence of this problem as well.

4. Probiotic Therapy May Alleviate Autism

Scientists have known that gut bacteria can affect social and emotional wellness, but a new study is the first to show negative changes in this bacterial population can contribute to autistic-like symptoms. In the study published in Cell, researchers found that autistic mice had leaky gut, a condition that has been reported in some people diagnosed with this illness. When they treated the mice with probiotic therapy, the leaky gut was healed and, amazingly, their autistic behavior was alleviated.

5. Probiotics May Help Reduce Cholesterol

A small study presented at a recent American Heart Association meeting found Lactobacillus reuteri, a probiotic in dairy foods, lowered low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, 12 points more than the control group. Moreover, the total cholesterol count was lowered by 9 percent.

6. Probiotics May Help Prevent Eczema, According

A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology discovered babies who are at risk of getting eczema may benefit from their mother’s consumption of probiotics. Allergy-prone mothers who had eczema were given probiotics two months before the birth of their baby and during the first two months of breastfeeding. The findings showed their babies had a significantly lower risk of developing the skin inflammation. Another study indicated that probiotic therapy early in life can also reduce a child’s risk of developing eczema by up to 50 percent.

7. Probiotics May Prevent Respiratory Infections

Scientists reviewing studies from the Cochrane Library found probiotics seem to reduce the incidence of respiratory infections. In a another study published in the British Medical Journal, children in 18 daycare centers in Finland who were given milk enriched with probiotics had a 17 percent lower likelihood of contracting a respiratory infection than those who drank milk without the probiotics.

Some probiotic studies show a strong benefit, while others have weak findings. But eating probiotic foods cannot hurt and it may prove to be very beneficial.

8. Probiotics Can Help Prevent Female Urogenital Problems

Several factors can upset the bacterial population in the female urogenital tract, permitting the overgrowth of harmful microbes. According to Harvard Medical School, probiotics may possibly restore the normal bacterial balance, thus helping prevent bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections and urinary tract infections.

9. Probiotics May Help Your Baby to Cry Less

A 2007 study published in Pediatrics discovered breastfed babies whose mothers daily consumed a probiotic cried 194 minutes less than the control group. In a later study published in 2010 of the same journal, researchers found similar results.

10. Probiotics May Help With Bloating, Gas and Constipation

Some yogurt companies are putting extra strains of beneficial bacteria in their product in hopes of providing more health benefits. An example is Dannon’s Activia, which contains an additional bacterial culture, Bifidobacterium animalis. John Hopkins reports on an Activia study that showed those who ate two 4-ouce servings per day experienced less abdominal bloating and discomfort along with more frequent bowel movements after a few weeks. Another study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found yogurt with this bacterial culture alleviated the discomfort and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

What we learn from this research is that the condition of the gut affects the entire spectrum of wellness. Therefore, improving the health of the bacteria in the intestine through probiotics may result in many health benefits.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205141900.htm

http://www.naturalnews.com/043233_probiotics_bacterial_infections_pig_farming.html

http://www.shareguide.com/probiotics.html

http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/surprising-benefits-probiotics#1


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.


Herbal, Black or Green? How to Know Which Tea Offers the Best Health Perks for You

By Brit DeLong,

different types of tea

After water, tea is the most frequently consumed, cheapest beverage worldwide and one that delivers a host of health benefits. Various studies have linked tea intake with potential cancer-preventative effects, improved heart and metabolic health, and more.[1] While all different types of tea offer general health benefits, certain teas are more effective than others at targeting specific health conditions and ailments. Read on to see what your favorite teas can treat.

Green Tea

One of the more widely studied teas, green tea is full of antioxidants and noted for its polyphenol and flavonoid concentration. These compounds help fight free radicals and combat cell damage, both contributors to certain diseases and health conditions.

Polyphenols are compounds found in natural plant food sources and have antioxidant properties—green tea reportedly contains the highest concentration of the compound.[2] Consumption of green tea and its correlation to polyphenols shows that those who consume the beverage have a stronger defense against ultraviolet radiation and aggression by pathogens compared to those that don’t drink green tea.[3] These polyphenols also appear to have a prebiotic effect as research on green tea found that the polyphenols help balance gut flora by increasing good bacteria and reducing the number of bad bacteria.[4]

Similarly, flavonoids are a group of plant metabolites with potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Green tea is the best food source of a flavonoid group called catechins, which are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells.[5] Studies have found that these oxidative properties prove an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers.[6]

Black Tea

The polyphenol compounds found in green tea are also present in black tea, but with different types of flavonoids present due to the degree of oxidation during processing where black tea is fermented the longest.[7] While black tea possesses some of the same health attributes of green tea, there are some distinctions.

Black tea contains the most caffeine content of all types of tea, anywhere from 14-70 mg per 8-ounce cup.[8] Also found in the drink is the stimulating substance theophylline, which can speed up heart rate.[9] As such, black tea is commonly used to increase energy. Conversely, while black tea can increase alertness, it also has an effect to decrease stress hormone levels in the body. Studies show that those who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood after a stressful event than those who didn’t.[10]

One unique benefit of black tea is that it provides more fluoride per serving than other teas—consuming fluoride can help harden your teeth and prevent cavities.[11] Another interesting finding shows that black tea may help prevent lungs from injury caused by exposure to cigarette smoke.[12]

White Tea

White tea, uncured and unfermented, is the least processed of all teas. Among the rarer of tea types, white tea may have the strongest potential of all teas to fight cancer. White tea contains greater proportions of antioxidant-rich polyphenols than green tea in addition to also inhibiting mutations more effectively.[13] A study on colon cancer found that white tea consumption inhibited the proliferation of cancer cells and helped protect against further damage.[14]

Research has shown that white tea also outperforms other teas in healthy aging effects—out of a panel of 23 plant extracts, white tea showed the highest inhibiting activity.[15] White tea prevented the activities of enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, which can lead to wrinkles.[16]

Oolong Tea

Partly fermented, oolong is a traditional Chinese tea. It is lauded for its potential to decrease body fat content and reduce body weight through improving lipid metabolism.[17] Oolong tea has also been linked to reduced ovarian cancer risk—a two-year case-control study with 1,000 participants showed that ovarian cancer risk declined with increasing frequency and duration of overall tea consumption.[18] Lastly, while more studies are necessary, oolong tea has been cited to potentially lower bad cholesterol and hypertension.[19]

Herbal Tea

Herbal teas are made from herbs, fruits, seeds and roods steeped in hot water and often include varieties of ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, hibiscus, jasmine, rosehip, mint, rooibos and echinacea. While herbal teas generally have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas, findings show that certain herbal teas can help with specific issues.[20]

  • Hibiscus: Those looking for a more holistic approach to cutting blood pressure should consider hibiscus tea—drinking three cups of herbal tea containing hibiscus each day resulted in a seven-point drop in systolic blood pressure.[21]
  • Chamomile: Bioactive phytochemicals found in chamomile have been touted to have therapeutic effects such as reducing anxiety.[22] In many cultures, chamomile tea is particularly used to treat stomach ailments such as diarrhea and indigestion.[23]
  • Ginger: Ginger is most widely known as a natural way to soothe stomach discomfort and studies suggest that it can help relieve motion sickness, morning sickness and nausea induced by chemotherapy or surgery.[24]
  • Verbena: Verbena tea, sometimes referred to as verbain, is made from the leaves of the purple verbena flower. While further studies are needed to investigate its health benefits, certain chemicals in verbena tea are known to reduce inflammation and treat depression, painful periods, and colic.[25]
  • Elderflower: The blossom from the elder tree is lauded as a natural cure for colds that acts as a decongestant and helps clean nasal passages. Studies have shown that use of elderflower shortened the duration of the flu by three days and reduced flu symptoms.[26]

Those with specific issues may consider increased consumption of any of the teas mentioned above to potentially help with particular ailments. The great news is that whichever tea you prefer, it will offer a tasty slew of health benefits with each cup.

So how do different teas get such differing flavors despite being from the same tea leaf? How many teas get their unique flavor profiles and medicinal properties is a rather complicated and interesting process. Here’s a fabulous infographic that explains the tea-making process from the time the leaf is plucked to the pour into your cup.

tea21

Sources:

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055352/
[2] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/727.full
[3] http://jn.nutrition.org/content/141/6/1202.full
[4] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1348-0421.2012.00502.x/full
[5] http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/benefit_of_drinking_green_tea
[6] http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/green-tea
[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055352/
[8] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372
[9] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/black-tea-uses-and-risks
[10] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/media/library/tea
[11] http://www.livestrong.com/article/416351-what-are-the-benefits-of-green-tea-vs-black-tea/
[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1802835/
[13] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000410084553.htm
[14] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814614010280
[15] http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-9-27
[16] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810085312.htm
[17] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19271168
[18] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107758
[19] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15277285
[20] http://www.webmd.com/diet/tea-types-and-their-health-benefits?page=2
[21] http://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20081110/hibiscus-tea-may-cut-blood-pressure
[22] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/
[23] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-chamomile?page=1
[24] http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/expert-answers/ginger-for-nausea/faq-20057891
[25] http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2180001#hn-2180001-uses
[26] http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry


Brittany DeLong Brittany DeLong is a health enthusiast and freelance writer and editor based in Sterling, Virginia. For the past eight years she has focused her writing on health, fitness, and lifestyle topics for various publications including The Health Journal, Posh Seven Magazine, and Washington Family Magazine. Brittany earned a master’s degree in electronic publishing from The George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from George Mason University. She is an avid hiker and most recently hiked to the summit of Huayna Picchu in Peru.


Can This Supplement Help Reduce Heart Inflammation?

By Carlene Thomas RD, LD,

8_heart Are you one of the millions of Americans who worries about heart health? You’ve likely read about the important lifestyle changes like avoiding unhealthy fats and refined sugars, but a new study shows you may be able to reduce your risk even more with the help of a certain antioxidant. … Continue reading