Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that play a huge role in our overall well-being. Some of the health benefits of probiotics include reducing digestive issues, preventing yeast infections, and boosting the immune system. You can find these good gut bugs in some foods as well as in supplement form. Wondering if probiotics are for you? Read on to find out.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics, by definition, are good bacteria. These live bacteria (along with friendly yeasts) are present throughout the body, but are most plentiful in the digestive system.
They help balance out the bad bacteria to reduce health issues such as candida, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and skin complaints. Probiotics also play a role in producing important nutrients such as some B vitamins and vitamin K.
There are many types of probiotic bacteria and yeasts, although some are more helpful than others for specific health issues. Some of the most commonly studied include:
- Lactobacillus.You’ll find this probiotic in yogurt and fermented foods. It may be especially helpful for people with diarrhea and lactose intolerance.
- Bifidobacterium. This type is present in dairy and is great for treating the symptoms of IBS.
- Saccharomyces boulardii. This yeast is good for people with poor digestion and diarrhea.
What are probiotics used for? In practice, people take probiotics for an array of health complaints, from bowel issues and urinary infections to eczema and allergies.
Research into the benefits of taking probiotics is still ongoing ,but it’s a complex process. This is because there are so many strains that it can be difficult to know what strains work best for various conditions in different people.
Below, we discuss the use of probiotics for several common conditions.
Probiotics for Weight Loss
Research shows that people of normal weight have different gut bacteria than those who are overweight. Taking probiotics may help adress the balance and encourage a healthy body weight.
Some types of probiotics, including those from the Lactobacillus family, reduce the absorption of fat and increase the amount of fat that the body excretes. Probiotics may also reduce appetite and quell inflammation in the body, which is linked to obesity and other metabolic diseases.
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Although supplements aren’t a magic bullet for weight loss, shedding extra pounds may be one of the advantages of probiotics, especially if you adopt other healthy lifestyle strategies. Also, be sure to track your weight regularly on a body fat scale.
The best probiotics for women will keep Candida in check. Candida is a yeast that grows in the mouth, vagina, and folds of the skin. It can also affect men, but is more common in women.
When dealing with yeast, probiotics are a must. They boost the immune system to help the body fight off Candida. They also maintain proper levels of acidity in the gut to kill yeast, which prefers an alkaline environment.
In addition, probiotics work to “crowd out” Candida yeast and other bad yeasts and bacteria. This means that when Candida die off, probiotics fill the space to ensure other pathogens don’t flourish in its place.
IBS is a chronic condition that causes stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. People with IBS may notice a big reduction in symptoms if they take probiotics for bowel health .
This is because there are links between IBS symptoms, inflammation, and changes in gut bacteria. People with IBS have lower levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Supplementing with these types of probiotics may reduce symptoms while also fighting inflammation.
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Probiotics for Constipation
Over-the-counter remedies for constipation are often ineffective. Instead of using these products, get to the root of the problem by addressing imbalances in the gut.
Research suggests that probiotics increase bowel movements, help soften stools, and slow gut transit time. When it comes to constipation, probiotics containing Bifidobacterium may be the most effective.
Some types of diarrhea respond well to probiotic supplementation. If you have traveler’s diarrhea or diarrhea after antibiotics, probiotics may be just what you need.
Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, which is why they can cause diarrhea in some people. Reduce your chances of this nasty side effect by taking probiotics during and after antibiotic treatment, especially Saccharomyces boulardii and some strains of Lactobacillus.
Traveler’s diarrhea arises when you eat or drink contaminated items. Try taking a probiotic supplement with you on vacation, preferably one containing all three probiotic superstars: Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
Probiotics for Heart Health
For a healthy heart, try probiotics. In addition to fighting inflammation, they may lower cholesterol (especially some types of Lactobacillus). Probiotics can also lower blood pressure, according to some research, in addition to reducing blood triglycerides.
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Other ways to protect your heart include regularly monitoring your vital signs using a stethoscope and a blood pressure monitor.
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Probiotics with Antibiotics
If you have a bacterial infection, a doctor may recommend an antibiotic. Antibiotics are fantastic for killing bad bacteria, but they also get rid of the good—leading to an imbalance of gut flora.This can cause all types of complications, usually antibiotic-associated diarrhea or a yeast infection. To prevent this, many doctors recommend taking a probiotic during and after antibiotic use.
When taking probiotics and antibiotics at the same time, it’s a good idea to space them out during the day, leaving several hours between the antibiotic and the probiotic. This is so the antibiotic doesn’t destroy the probiotic bacteria before they’ve had a chance to work their magic.
You can also buy probiotics that are specially formulated for use with antibiotics. These supplements include strains that can survive in the gut, even when taken alongside antibiotics.
Probiotics Side Effects and Risks
Probiotics are natural supplements, so the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates them like foods, rather than medications. Manufacturers do not have to prove that their probiotic supplements are safe or effective. Therefore, you should always choose a reputable probiotic brand.
We recommend speaking with your doctor about probiotics before you take them, especially if you have serious health conditions. Generally, there are few effects of probiotics and they are safe for most people.
Some people can experience mild side effects in the first few days of probiotic use as their body adjust to the influx of new bacteria. Side effects include:
Less commonly, they may trigger an allergic reaction. If this is the case, stop taking the supplements and see your doctor.
How to Take Probiotics
The best time to take probiotics is in the morning, on an empty stomach. At this time, stomach acid is at its lowest so more probiotic units survive in the gut. Avoid taking probiotics with hot or acidic liquids as heat and acidity can kill the bacteria. You can eat breakfast fifteen minutes after taking your probiotic.
When selecting a supplement, look for one that has undergone testing and is made according to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Ensure there is a high level of colony forming units (CFUs) in the product you choose, as this means more good bacteria reaches your gut.
Store probiotic products in the refrigerator, away from heat and light. Some supplements, especially those designed for traveling, do not need refrigeration. It’s still a good idea to refrigerate them if possible, or at least store them in a cool place, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Avoid handling capsules and then returning them to the bottle as this introduces moisture from the hands into the probiotics. Finally, keep track of your supplement intake using a pill organizer.
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Foods that Contain Probiotics
Aside from taking probiotic supplements, you can get beneficial bacteria from foods. Bear in mind that you do not know the type or number of probiotic units you are getting from food products.
Probiotic-rich foods include:
- Natural yogurt
- Milk kefir
- Water kefir
- Traditionally fermented vegetables
- Traditional buttermilk
- Traditional sourdough
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics are a type of carbohydrate that feed probiotic bacteria. Humans cannot digest prebiotics, but our gut bacteria can. Unless you have a digestive disorder that says you should steer clear of prebiotics, aim to consume some each day to help your good bacteria thrive.
You’ll find prebiotics in:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Dandelion greens
Some of the Best Probiotics
Choosing a probiotic supplement can be tricky. Below we list some of the top-rated probiotics to help you choose the best one for your needs.
Garden of Life Probiotics Primal Defense Ultra
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These gluten-free probiotics promise digestive support to those who have gut issues such as constipation. They contain fifteen billion CFUs from thirteen strains including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria.
These Garden of Life probiotics enhance nutrient absorption and promote regular bowel movements. They are shelf-stable and suitable for vegetarians.
Essential Formulas Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics
These unique probiotic pills work by PH balancing your digestive system, for long lasting health. (See Product on Amazon)
Dr. Ohhira’s live probiotics capsules have been fermented for three years to produce a top-quality supplement. They contain twelve strains of live bacteria along with prebiotics to provide proven benefits. During the fermentation period, the probiotics product an array of vitamins, amino acids, short-chain fatty acids, and many other compounds which contribute to your overall well-being.
Each capsule is resistant to stomach acid and delivers probiotics to the colon to enhance digestion and support immune function. This product is free from artificial additives, chemicals, and preservatives and does not require refrigeration. The capsules are suitable for vegetarians and are free from dairy and gluten.
Renew Life Probiotics with 50 Billion Live Cultures
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The Renew Life oral probiotics boast an impressive 50 billion live cultures for digestive and immune health. They contain a potent blend of ten strains and are free from dairy and gluten. Each capsule is vegetarian and is designed to reach your colon with minimal destruction of units.
Jarrow Probiotics, Jarro-Dophilus
The carefully-chosen bacteria strains in these supplements will make for a balanced, healthy gut. (See Product on Amazon)
The popular Jarro-Dophilus probiotics for gut health feature five billion CFUs and eight complementary strains in an enteric-coated capsule to protect against stomach acid. This product has been tested and shown to positively alter the gut’s flora to support a healthy intestinal tract. Each capsule is vegetarian and shelf stable.
Choosing and Using Probiotics for Better Health
For many people, taking probiotic supplements is a vital part of their health routine. These beneficial bacteria support digestion, enhance nutrient absorption, stave off infections, and protect the heart and immune system. Probiotics are also a fantastic complement to antibiotics, especially if you wish to avoid complications such as diarrhea and yeast infections. When choosing the best probiotic supplement, consider the number of CFUs, the included strains, and the reputation of the company. Don’t forget to increase your intake of probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods for top-class gut health.