There are so many reasons to be amazed by the human body. Like the fact that your brain is capable of generating 23 watts of power (put two brains to work and you could fully charge your laptop) and that you have more than 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your body (they could wrap around the world four times!)
Lately, too, more and more of us are becoming aware of just how cool (and influential) our guts can be. That’s right, it’s beyond time to add our digestive systems and their microbiomes (colonies of “good” bacteria) to any favorite-things-about-our-bodies lists. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. You have more than 100 trillion microorganisms living inside and on you – mainly in your digestive tract or “gut.” Lumped together, says the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), they’d weigh about six pounds – as much as a newborn. According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry these “beneficial” bacteria span 1,000 species and 7,000 strains and outnumber your human cells ten to one.
2. Your gut is unique to you. Like a fingerprint, the microorganisms that call your digestive tract home are entirely your own. They have a singular recipe given to you first by your mother and then accumulated over time until your gut was fully populated around the time you turned three. In these early years, your microbiota played an essential role in your growth and development; from digestion and the activation of your immune system to the production of neurotransmitters for behavior and cognitive function.
3. Your brain and your gut are linked. The American Psychological Association (APA) tells us that gut bacteria produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate learning, memory and mood. Scientists are still learning about this but in studies it seems that adding more “good” bacteria can influence feelings – especially in mice. NIH reports that mice consuming particular probiotics (aka doses of selected bacteria) displayed more relaxed behavior than those that did not consume the probiotics. NIH also notes that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus contains a neurotransmitter that helps regulate brain activity and can calm anxiety in mice. (Both Florajen Women and Florajen Kids contain L. rhamnosus.) Meanwhile, the British Journal of Nutrition reports that a 30-day course of probiotics containing Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacteria longum led to decreased anxiety and depression in healthy human volunteers. (Bifidobacteria longum is found in Florajen Digestion.) We can’t wait to learn the results of more human studies regarding the brain-gut connection and how probiotics (like Florajen) containing live, active colonies of potentially beneficial bacteria might help.
4. Your gut-brain connection is a two-way street. Not only can gut bacteria influence the brain, the brain can influence gut bacteria. According to the APA, research indicates that psychological stress suppresses beneficial bacteria.For example, during exam week, stool samples taken from university students contained fewer lactobacilli than the samples taken earlier in the semester. Similarly, in mice, living with stress has been linked to decreased numbers of beneficial bacteria and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, making the critters more susceptible to infection and gut inflammation. Probiotics could help in these situations as they contain microorganisms that are the same as or similar to those naturally living in the body and help the microbiome to replace what may have been lost due to illness, stress, or taking antibiotics (which kill bacteria that are both harmful and useful to your body.)
5. Our “modern” probiotics are a “new” twist on ancient wisdom. Academics say that fermented milk products may have been used to treat digestive illnesses during the Roman times and that one version of the Old Testament attributes Abraham’s long life (supposedly 175 years) to his “consumption of sour milk.” Later, in 1907, Russian microbiologist Elie Metchnikoff recorded an association between Bulgarians’ consumption of large amounts of fermented dairy products and their good health and longevity. Travel the world and you’ll find that nearly every culture’s diet includes some form of fermented food and has been doing so for a long, long time. This is especially amazing considering that the microbiome and its importance to our health wasn’t really recognized by the scientific community until the late 1990s.
6. Diversity is good — this applies to your office as well as your gut. According to National Public Radio (NPR), people with more diverse microbiomes tend to be healthier overall. To help keep diverse microbiomes healthy, you can feed them the prebiotics they need (namely lots of different types of fiber) and help stimulate their populations through the use of probiotic supplements like Florajen.
When you look in the mirror, we hope you feel the awe that we do for the amazing human body and the microbiome that keeps it running smoothly.
If you’re considering adding probiotics to your wellness routine, we encourage you to look at labels and do research. Ask knowledgeable doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare providers about which probiotic to choose depending on your situation and goals.
Probiotics are generally considered safe and to have no side effects, says Harvard Medical School. But they aren’t for everyone. For instance, people who have an immune deficiency, are critically ill, recently had surgery, or are being treated for cancer should not use probiotics without thoughtful discussion with a knowledgeable doctor first. Also talk to a doctor before giving probiotics to your baby, especially if he or she is sick. Florajen Kids, for example, is only recommended for children over 6 months of age. For most other people in good health, says WebMD, probiotics won’t cause any issues. If there are any side effects, they’re usually very mild (like a little more gas than usual.)