Is a probiotic part of the assortment of vitamins you're taking every day? If not, it's time to add one to your routine. Trusted by moms to soothe their kids' tummies after a bad stomacache and to keep their own trains running on schedule, probiotics -- as we've known for some time now -- can do a lot. But, it turns out your daily probiotic has even more impact on your day-to-day health than previously thought and now there’s the science to prove it.
As someone with a sensitive stomach who's also looking to stay as healthy as possible, I take a daily probiotic to ensure that my stomach stays calm, cool, and collected. I also use probiotic skincare because maintaing a low pH on the skin ensures that good bacteria reigns supreme and bad bacteria is kept at bay. That, in turn, leads to fewer breakouts and better hydration levels. I recently learned that a daily probiotic also impacts anxiety, depression, hormonal regulation, and even your allergies -- all in a good way. It almost seems too good to be true, but as world-renowned microbiologist Kiran Krishnan tells me, it makes a big impact.
When it comes to your hormones, Krishnan explains that not only are they affected by a probiotic regulating your microbiome, but the opposite is also true. For example, if you don’t have a healthy bacterial composition in your gut, it can lead to overgrowth of bad bacteria and higher levels of stress hormones. "This is one way that stress can make you sick. The release of stress hormones can actually make certain groups of bacteria more virulent," he says.
And with regard to the happiness hormone, serotonin, a balanced microbiome is even more important, particularly because approximately 90% of serotonin creation actually happens in your gut and not your brain. In other words, bysbiosis (that means microbial imbalance) "in the gut leads to lower levels of serotonin production, which is a feature of anxiety and depression," explains Krishnan. “This is an example of hormones produced by the microbiome affecting the host. The microbiome can produce essentially all the hormones found and used by the human host.”
What does this mean for you and me in our day-to-day? Well, if our stomachs don’t have the proper balance of good bacteria, it could throw off our hormone production and influence our proclivity toward depression or anxiety, make us even more stressed out, and in turn, get us physically sick.
If you’re a woman, a probiotic could even be more crucial to maintaining a healthy balance in your internal eco-system. In fact, there's a part of your microbiome called the estrobolome that metabolizes estrogen and as Krishnan explains, “It is now believed that women who suffer from estrogen driven conditionshave a deficiency in this critical set of genes that are housed by the microbiome.”
So, if you have symptoms that indicate an estrogen imbalance, like heavy periods, a daily probiotic could help.
But that’s not all. Not only can probiotics help keep you from getting sick, decrease stress levels, and even improve your emotional well-being, they can also help with your seasonal allergies.
First, it's important to note that allergies are your body’s immune reaction to a food or an allergen. The immune system recognizes the allergen as "foreign" and in an attempt to protect the host, the immune system attacks these allergens, which results in an allergic reaction. This mechanism involves T-Regulatory cells, according to Krishnan, and -- you guessed it -- they're induced and, to a certain, extent controlled by gut bacteria.
According to Krishnan, “a 2010 study found that spore-forming bacteria induced the formation and regulation of T-regulatory cells, thereby supporting the suppression of the allergic attack.” So, if you have allergies, taking a daily probiotic that contains a spore-forming strain, like baccillus, may help ease your body’s immune response to an allergen and lessen symptoms.
The point being, a small daily ritual or addition to your routine could make a world of difference in your life. Who knew?