Probiotics can have a considerable positive impact on your digestion and immune system. They do this by ensuring that the microbiota flora living in your gut remains balanced. This stops "bad" bacteria from taking over and causing issues. It is an excellent preventative step so that you can lower the risk of developing cardiovascular, immune system, or stomach-related conditions and symptoms.
If you often find yourself feeling bloated, nauseous, or if you have been diagnosed with a condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), then probiotic supplements can help get you feeling better. A massive 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. When "bad" bacteria overtake that area, they can significantly damage the immune system or slow its response time leading to possible infections and injury. By regularly including probiotics into your diet and taking supplements to enhance their benefits, you will boost your immune system and notice yourself feeling more energized.
What Are Probiotics
You may have heard the term probiotics used in yogurt commercials. This supplement consists of tiny microorganisms that live in your gut. They are "good" bacteria that flourish among the other flora within your intestines.
Research has shown that various strains of probiotics can help your body in the following ways.
- Improves digestion
- Treats diarrhea
- Lowers the risk of vagina infections
- Can prevent certain autoimmune diseases
- It helps skin stay healthy
- Combats urinary infections
How Do Probiotics Work?
These microorganisms help make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals from your food by aiding in the breakdown and absorption of essential nutrients. They also combat harmful bacteria that live in your intestine and mouth. They can replace them with "good" bacteria. If you ever get prescribed antibiotics, chances are you will also be asked to take probiotics to replace the bacteria that gets eradicated by the antibiotics.
Each body is different. The way your body responds to a certain probiotic might not be the same as someone else. Like our fingerprints, we each have a unique mixture of microorganisms within our bodies. They number in the trillions. This is entirely normal and is one of the reasons why there are subtypes of probiotics for more targeted uses.
Most Common Types Of Probiotics
There are a number of probiotics that you may encounter. These each have their own benefits and slightly different properties. Most studies you read that feature probiotics include one of these two species.
The majority of supplements and foods are going to have this type of probiotic. In addition to limiting the number of "bad" microorganisms in your gut, they also boost the immune system and assist with breaking down lactose which is often difficult for the body to fully absorb.
This species is found naturally throughout the human body. It is responsible for creating the enzyme that breaks down lactose, making it especially important. For people who have difficulties digesting dairy items, a supplement with this species can make it easier and lower the symptoms that can come from lactose intolerance.
There are a number of probiotic Strains, and each one has its own special properties. Ones with "B" are alternative strains of Bifidobacteria, while ones that start with "L" originate from Lactobacillus. These may be found in various areas of the body, including the digestive system, vagina, and mouth.
- B. longum: this is an antioxidant that can assist with the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- B. breve: this strain breaks down plant fibers, naturally ferments sugars, and combats both yeast and infection by targeting "bad" bacteria.
- L. reuteri: this is found in the mouth and intestines and breaks down harmful bacteria. It is responsible for protecting the teeth against decay.
- L. acidophilus: fermented soy and yogurt both often feature this probiotic strain which is excellent for digestive and vaginal health. It is useful for removing "bad" bacteria.
- B. lactis: this is used as a starter for buttermilk, cottage cheese, and various other types of cheese. It is often found in probiotic baby formula and is extracted from raw milk.
Probiotic Supplement Benefits
Many essential functions are affected by your gut health. This is due to several things but primarily the fact that your immune system and metabolism both rely on your gut to be in good shape in order to function properly. Probiotics allow the flora in your intestines to balance out so your cells can stay strong and in working order.
There are a number of direct health benefits as well. Below we describe briefly how probiotics have been known to help improve your physical well-being.
General Gut health
Your gut is an ecosystem of bacteria that work together to ensure you get the nutrients you need to stay healthy. A 2014 study by the Université Paris Descartes reported that probiotics have a definitive ability to treat symptoms of diseases and provide overall gut health.
May Help Relieve Constipation or Diarrhea
A 2010 review from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium looked at clinical studies that used probiotics to treat constipation showed that there was a significant improvement in adults and some children.
Another review, this time from 2013, went through research concerning the treatment of diarrhea with probiotics. They found that there was plenty of data that showed a positive effect on participants from all over the world.
Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms
A 2010 study from the Washington University School of Medicine in Washington provided some evidence that certain probiotics could treat IBS. However, researchers could not determine the exact cause of the success. They believed that the anti-inflammatory properties of probiotics might have played a significant role. More research studies still need to be done, but that does not detract from the fact that it worked successfully as a treatment.
Might Help You Lose Weight
In 2018, a paper from the Università Degli Studi di Perugia in Italy showed that probiotics could be used to assist with maintaining weight or losing weight in individuals who regularly exercise and eat healthily. This showed true for both adults and children that took part in various studies.
May Improve Heart Health
A 2016 review of the data by the University of Manitoba in Canada concluded that microbial imbalances in the gut could play a substantial role in the development of cardiovascular disease. They believe that probiotics could be used successfully as a treatment and possible preventative measure. More research needs to be done to find all of the connections between heart disease and probiotics.
Can I Get Probiotics From Food?
You can find probiotics in certain fermented foods. You can also take them with supplements to enhance the positive effects. Sometimes supplements or probiotic medications are necessary to treat certain conditions or lower risks of certain symptoms, and you can increase the effect with foods featuring these microorganisms. Below are some of the best natural sources of probiotics.
- Yogurt: this by far the most well-known probiotic product. Usually, it is made by fermenting milk with Bifidobacteria.
- Kefir: this is made by adding kefir grains to milk, and it often features multiple strains making it one of the best food sources for probiotics.
- Sauerkraut: cabbage that has been fermented in lactic acid bacteria has been used as a health food and probiotic among natural healers for generations.
- Tempeh: the fermentation process that the soybeans undergo also produces Vitamin B12.
- Kimchi: this food is incredibly similar to sauerkraut. It is made from spicy cabbage, which is fermented with Lactobacillus lactic acid bacteria.
- Miso: this is a mixture of fermented soybeans and other ingredients (e.g., barley, rice, rye, etc.)
- Kombucha: fermented tea that is usually made from black or green tea.
A few other common foods that contain strains of probiotics include those listed below.
- Some cheese
Are there any storage instructions for probiotics?
How you store, your probiotic is going to depend on the type you get. There are ones that require refrigeration and others that are designed to stay on a shelf. No matter what kind you get, they should never be subjected to high heat. You will want to check the directions for whatever product you get where it will give detailed instructions on how to store it to keep it good longest.
For those probiotics that are designed for living on a shelf, room temperature is best as it will keep the microorganisms alive and healthy.
Some foods and many pill forms of probiotics require refrigeration. Pills require cool temperature and low moisture because moisture can activate the microorganisms. For probiotics that need to be refrigerated, keep them towards the back of the fridge, where the temperature is constant. If you keep them in the door, the frequent opening and closing can cause temperature shifts that may damage the delicate organisms.
How safe are probiotics?
While taking probiotics is generally very safe, there can be some uncomfortable side effects at the beginning when you first start to take them. There are also some circumstances where you may want to avoid taking probiotics. If you identify with the following, then you will want to avoid probiotics until they are approved by a medical professional.
- Weakened or otherwise compromised immune system (e.g., undergoing chemotherapy, etc.)
- Experiencing a severe illness
- Recently underwent surgery
Never give probiotics to infants who are sick or have an infection without speaking to a pediatrician.
Can probiotics hurt me?
The probiotics found in supplements and food sources ready exist in your body even if you have deficiencies and they are present in smaller amounts. Because your body is used to these specific microorganisms, most people can take them without any kind of side effect. Depending on your health, the type of probiotic you eat, and other factors, you may experience mild symptoms within the first few days. This usually tapers off after a short period as your body adjusts. Symptoms may include the following.
Do I need to take probiotics after I take antibiotics?
If you are on antibiotics due to an injury, sickness, or some other reason, then you will want to avoid probiotics, foods, and probiotic supplements until after at least two hours have passed. This gives your body enough time to adjust to the changes and makes certain that the probiotics will not interfere with your body's ability to absorb and implement the antibiotics.
Antibiotics are also known to sometimes cause diarrhea. A 2013 study by the University of Chicago concluded that probiotics were an excellent treatment for antibiotics and symptoms they may cause.
Should I take probiotics if I am on medication?
While you certainly can take medications and probiotic supplements, you will want to check with your doctor to determine if they will have any serious side effects that may impact your health. They may suggest that you make sure there is a block of time between taking medications and probiotics to make sure they will not interfere with your medicine's absorption rate.
The medication you are on, your current diet, and the make up of microorganisms in your body are all going to play a part in determining if you require probiotics or not.
What lifestyle changes can enhance the effects of probiotics?
One excellent way to enhance the benefits of probiotics and keep yourself healthy is to make sure you eat foods that support these helpful microorganisms. Fermented foods and enriched products can help your stomach maintain an ideal environment for probiotics so that they can continue to work effectively. Antioxidants are also going to help cut down on free radicals, which can harm cells and genetic materials. By changing your lifestyle to accommodate this dietary change, you can keep yourself from suffering from various digestive issues such as IBS.
Supplements are useful, especially for individuals who have experienced infections or injuries, which may have led to a decrease in helpful bacteria. However, you can always get probiotics in various amounts and strengths within foods like yogurt, cheese, and miso.
Can probiotics lower your heart rate?
Several studies reported probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus, could successfully treat hypertension. It can lower the heart rate for people who have unusually high blood pressure. There is also ample evidence that probiotics are good for general heart health.
- Kava Kava for anxiety
- Omega-3 fatty acids and stress
- Magnesium and stress
- Influence of S-adenosyl on chronic stress
Probiotics are organisms, many of them native to the human intestine, that assist the digestive process by keeping a healthy balance of Flora (friendly bacteria) in the digestive system. Probiotics also strengthen your immune system by helping to defend your body from any foreign bacteria that would disrupt your health's natural balance that may cause discomfort (gas, bloating and cramping).
Super Lactobacillus Probiotic with FOS thrives in environments with low oxygen like the small intestines. Contains over 11 billion Colony Forming Units (CFUs) of viable beneficial bacteria per serving.
ExtraFlora™ 50 Billion CFU Probiotic was designed for those who may need a more robust probiotic blend. Contains 50 Billion colony forming units from 8 carefully selected strains of probiotics to support the large and small intestines.