So. You had one too many hot dogs at the end-of-summer barbecue and now your tummy hurts.
While we do hope you’re not currently stuck on your aunt’s toilet as you’re reading this, we hope most of all that you know you’re not alone.
In fact, nearly 70 million people in America struggle with digestive issues — that’s roughly 20% of the population — so you’re in good company!
And with over-processed foods lining the grocery aisles and the stress of the daily grind turning our stomachs into knots, is it any wonder good gut health is hard to come by these days?
Central to this quest for a happy gut are the microbial powerhouses we call probiotics. These supplements have gained popularity in recent years for their role in maintaining digestive balance, but how much do we really know about probiotics outside of TikTok?
Read on, fellow tummy ache survivor, to uncover the truth about probiotics for GI health — and how they’re really helpful for so much more than that.
In This Article
- How probiotics can support holistic health
- Probiotics for general gut health and inflammatory diseases
- Probiotics for immune support
- How probiotics can influence the gut-brain connection
- Probiotics for urinary tract health
How Do Probiotics Support Holistic Health?
If you didn’t know it already, your insides are crawling with live bacteria (and yeasts) that live cozy little lives in your organs.
But before you get the heebie jeebies — not all bacteria is bad.
In fact, the bacteria in your gut works overtime for your overall health, helping you digest foods, synthesize vitamins, get the nutrients you need, and keep “bad” bacteria in check. When you have the right balance of good and bad gut bacteria floating around, that’s the elusive “optimal gut health” state you’ve heard about in movies.
You can think of probiotics, then, as the “good” bacteria your stomach needs to stay healthy.
While we always recommend a food-first approach to getting the nutrients (and bacteria) your body requires, it’s not so straightforward when it comes to probiotics. Most of us are getting very little beneficial, bioavailable probiotics from our diets.
(Sorry kombucha lovers, but it’s true.)
That’s why Dr. Neal made probiotics part of his Vital5 — the quintessential quintet of nutrients we need to thrive but don’t quite get enough of in the modern age.
What Makes Probiotic Supplements a Holistic Option?
The word holistic is a bit like the word bacteria — we contemporary, science-fearing humans have a lot of strange ideas about what it means. We often mix up holistic with terms like homeopathic, and it paints a pretty confusing picture.
A holistic approach to health is, simply, one that looks at the whole body or the whole being for root causes and long-term healing. We don’t just slap temporary band-aids on chronic symptoms around these parts — we dig deep.
Probiotics are considered holistic because, while they’re (rightfully) touted for their gut health benefits, they actually affect multiple bodily systems and our overall quality of life.
Don’t believe us? Keep reading.
Probiotics for General Gut Health
“Some people see a clear need for probiotics because their guts are a hot mess.”Dr. Neal Smoller
Before we dive into the specifics of how probiotics can benefit everything from the immune system to inflammatory diseases, let’s get one thing straight.
Even if you don’t have obvious symptoms of a gut issue, you probably still need probiotic support.
Because, as Dr. Neal so subtly phrases it, our guts are constantly under attack. An endless stream of stressors, toxins, and mediations pairs with rapidly declining food quality and inconsistent nutrient intake to create a perfect, gut-degrading storm.
As a result, our bodies fight a never-ending battle, striving to maintain homeostasis in an environment that’s directly antithetical to health and well-being.
Issues like widespread gut dysfunction and malnutrition are so pervasive, they’re almost impossible to see. Warning signs of bad gut health tend to be normalized and laughed off, and a lot of people don’t deal with their tummy troubles until it’s seriously impacting their lives.
So, to boil it all down, take a probiotic if you:
- Have occasional stomach issues
- Have a chronic stomach condition
- Want to optimize your gut health
- Live in the modern world
And skip probiotics if you:
- Have perfect gut health, flawless eating habits, and zero exposure to stress or disruptive environmental factors
Probiotics and the Immune System
Plus, as we’ve alluded, the benefits of probiotics go far beyond the tummy
Nothing in the body exists or functions independently, so it should come as no surprise that, actually, 70-80% of your immune system is located in your gut. Functionally, that means that the cells responsible for helping your body fight sickness and balance inflammation — the core roles of the immune system — are doing their job from within your GI tract.
So while you might say, “I take probiotics for gut health,” there is no real separation between gut health and immune health.
Taking probiotics can support both the GI and the immune system’s adaptive functions by creating a viable home for those immune cells in the gut microbiome. It’s a two-for-one, folks — what’s not love?
Learn More: Getting Proactive About Probiotics
Probiotics for Support with Inflammatory Diseases
Ever wonder why so many gut-based issues are discovered to be symptoms of inflammatory or autoimmune diseases? Well, that inextricable link between our immune systems and our gut microbiomes has its downsides, too.
The microscopic life inside your gut can impact both your immune system’s ability to function and to discriminate between the self and foreign invaders.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! As we now know, we can target the immune system and gut microbiome in one fell swoop with a comprehensive blend of probiotic strains.
Some of the most common symptoms of inflammatory gut diseases that probiotics can help combat are:
- Antibiotic-induced diarrhea
Learn More: Probiotic Buying Guide: Probiotic Misconceptions
How Probiotics Influence the Gut-Brain Connection
Yep, it’s true! Your gut health can even influence your nervous system, and subsequently, your mental health.
Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that’s been nicknamed the “happy chemical”, has been at the forefront of conversations on mental illness for a hot minute now. But how many of us knew that serotonin is produced in the gut before we heard it from Dr. Neal?
Turns out, instead of probiotics being a two-for-one, they’re really a five-or-six-for-one type of data-backed supplement.
Probiotics for Urinary Support
Probiotics can also help support proper urinary functioning and health, so we’re getting pretty close to just calling these microbial strains a pancea.
When the good bacteria encapsulated in your probiotic supplement is introduced to to your gut microbiome, it roves about your intestines leaving a trail of positive effects in its wake. When properly formulated, these beneficial strains can survive long enough to reach your urinary tract system and improve the microbiome there, too.
Translation? UTIs have met their match.
Being Proactive with Probiotics
TL;DR — Probiotics are totally worth the gut-health hype they get, but don’t pigeonhole them! The benefits of a comprehensive probiotic show up in the whole body, not just the stomach.
By the same token, if you’re currently struggling with tummy troubles, a probiotic supplement that contains the highly studied strains might be what gets you to back to the family barbeque. Chat with an expert first to avoid wasting time and money — our Counterside Consults are always open and always free.