What are probiotics?
Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that are naturally present in your body. Bacteria are usually thought of as things that make you sick. However, there are constantly two kinds of bacteria in and on your body-good bacteria and bad bacteria. Probiotics are composed of beneficial bacteria that help keep the body healthy and functioning well. This kind of beneficial bacteria can help you in many ways, including resisting harmful bacteria when you consume too much harmful bacteria and helping you feel better.
Probiotics are about bacteria and your body-part of the larger picture of your microbiome. Think of the microbiome as a diverse biological community, such as a forest, that work together to keep your body healthy. This community is made up of things called microbes. There are trillions of microbes inside and outside your body. These microorganisms are:
- Fungi (including yeast)
Everyone's microbiome is unique. No two people have the same microbial cells-even twins are different.
For a microorganism called a probiotic, it must have several characteristics. These include being able to:
- Isolation from humans
- Survive in your gut after ingestion (being eaten)
- Bring you proven benefits
- Safe to eat
Where do the beneficial probiotics (microorganisms) live in my body?
Although the most common location associated with beneficial microorganisms is your intestine (mainly the large intestine), there are several places inside and on your body that can hold beneficial microorganisms. These locations are connected to the "outside world", including your:
- Urinary Tract
How do probiotics work?
The main function of probiotics or beneficial bacteria is to maintain a healthy balance of the body. Think of it as keeping your body neutral. When you are sick, harmful bacteria enter your body and increase the number. This will make your body lose balance. Good bacteria can fight bad bacteria and restore balance in your body, making you feel better.
Good bacteria maintain your health by supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation. Certain types of good bacteria can also:
- Help the body digest food
- Prevent harmful bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick
- Create vitamins
- Help support the cells in the intestines and prevent harmful bacteria that you may ingest (through food or drink) from entering your blood
- Break down and absorb drugs
This balancing act happens naturally in your body all the time. You don't actually need to take probiotic supplements to achieve it. Good bacteria are just a natural part of your body. Eating a balanced diet rich in fiber every day helps keep the number of beneficial bacteria at an appropriate level.
What are the most common types of probiotics?
Although there are many types of bacteria that can be considered probiotics, there are two specific types of bacteria that are common probiotics in stores. These include:
- Lactic acid bacteria
Probiotics are also composed of high-quality yeast. The most common types of yeast in probiotics are:
Can I use probiotics to help treat diseases?
There is currently a lot of research around the idea of what probiotics can do for your body. Although there are many possible positive results, researchers are still struggling to find clear answers about how probiotics can help treat various diseases.
However, under certain medical conditions, probiotics may be helpful. This may vary from person to person, which means that what works for one person may not work for another person. These may also vary depending on certain probiotics taken.
Some conditions that may help improve by increasing the number of probiotics in the body (through food or supplements) include:
- Diarrhea (diarrhea caused by antibiotics and C. diff infection)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Yeast infection
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Gum disease
- Lactose intolerance
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Upper respiratory tract infection (ear infection, common cold, sinusitis)
- Sepsis (especially infants)
Can I take or eat something to increase the beneficial probiotics (microorganisms) in my body?
You can increase the number of beneficial microorganisms in your body through food, beverages, and supplements. Your daily diet may already contain certain foods that contain probiotics. Especially fermented foods (such as yogurt and kimchi) are home to many beneficial bacteria that are beneficial to the body. There are also fermented beverages, such as kombucha (fermented tea) or kefir (fermented milk beverage), which can add extra probiotics to your diet.
In addition to food, you can also add probiotics to your diet through dietary supplements. These are not drugs and therefore do not need to be approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Before starting any type of supplements or making major changes to your diet, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.
Can I get probiotics from food?
You can definitely increase the beneficial microorganisms in your body from the food you eat. Certain foods contain probiotics (good bacteria), which can benefit the health of the microbiota.
These foods can be added to your diet at any time of the day. You may even eat them often now without realizing that they contain probiotics. You need to check whether there is a "live and active culture" on the food label. Some suggestions for foods rich in probiotics that can be added to your diet, and sometimes you can try them include:
For breakfast, try:
- Sourdough bread
For lunch, try:
- cottage cheese
For snacks, try:
For dinner, try:
- Fermented sauerkraut
- Miso soup
Make sure that every time you sit down to eat, you are still creating a balanced and healthy meal. Although adding foods rich in probiotics to your diet will not harm you, balance is still the key. Adding too much of one food will prevent your body from benefiting from other food groups.
How should I take probiotic supplements?
You can take probiotic supplements in many ways. They come in many forms, including:
- Capsules or pills
Probiotic supplements can be used in combination with prebiotics. Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that can feed microorganisms in the intestines. Basically, prebiotics are "food sources" of beneficial bacteria. They help feed good bacteria and keep them healthy. Prebiotics include inulin, pectin and resistant starch.
When you have a supplement that combines probiotics and prebiotics, it is called a synbiotic.
How effective are probiotics?
Researchers are currently not sure how effective probiotic supplements are for treating diseases. Research on this topic continues. Although many studies have produced positive results on the effects of probiotic supplements, more research is still needed.
It is also important to remember that, unlike drugs, dietary supplements do not require FDA approval. This means that manufacturers can simply "declare" safety and effectiveness to sell supplements.
Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider (or pediatrician) before taking supplements or giving supplements to your child. Supplements may interfere with the medications you are taking. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult your provider before taking any supplements.
Are there any storage instructions for probiotics?
Several probiotic strains are very fragile and need to be protected from heat, oxygen, light and moisture. If probiotics are exposed to these elements, they may start to decompose or die. Therefore, you may need to refrigerate the probiotics or store them in a specific place. Refrigerating certain probiotic strains ensures that they are still effective when you use them and still provide the full benefits of probiotics. Please be sure to read the labels on any probiotic products you purchase to ensure correct storage and use within the expiry date.
How safe are probiotics?
Because the microorganisms used as probiotics are already naturally present in your body, probiotic foods and supplements are generally considered safe. They may cause allergic reactions, and may also cause mild stomach upset, diarrhea or flatulence (flatulence) and bloating in the first few days after starting the administration.
Some people need to be cautious when using probiotic supplements. Some people are at risk of infection. These people include those with:
- Weakened immune system (e.g. immune system receiving chemotherapy)
- A critical illness
- Recently had surgery
Caution should also be exercised when giving probiotics to seriously ill infants.
Before you start taking probiotic supplements, be sure to consult your healthcare provider.
Will probiotics harm me?
For most healthy people, probiotics will not cause any harm. They are generally considered safe, and often "try" to see if they can help treat various diseases. There is a lot of research on the subject of probiotics. Scientists are trying to determine when and how to use them, and how effective they are. Before you start taking probiotic supplements, consult your healthcare provider, because in some cases you should not take them. Before starting a new supplement, it is best to have a conversation.
Probiotics are generally considered safe. However, these supplements have some risks. These risks will increase if your physical condition weakens your immune system, has had recent surgery, or has other serious medical conditions.
The unlikely but possible risks may include:
- Infection occurs
- Develop resistance to antibiotics
- Develop harmful by-products from probiotic supplements
Should I give my child probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial to both adults and children. If your child has a disease that requires antibiotic medication, taking probiotics can help shorten symptoms. Probiotics can also be used to help relieve constipation, acid reflux, diarrhea, flatulence and eczema in children.
Introducing probiotics into children's diet through food is usually a safe way to provide them with probiotics. Foods such as yogurt and cottage cheese are usually part of a balanced diet and can add beneficial bacteria without much risk.
There are probiotic supplements specifically designed for babies and children on the market. However, it is important to talk to your child's pediatrician before giving them any probiotic supplements or changing your child's diet to include foods rich in probiotics.
Do I need to take probiotics after taking antibiotics?
Antibiotic drugs are usually needed to fight the infection. However, while antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they are also destroying good bacteria in the body. Some people experience symptoms such as diarrhea after taking antibiotics. In others, this may allow really harmful bacteria to take over and fill the intestines, such as Clostridium difficile. Some studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between taking probiotics after taking antibiotics and alleviating diarrhea. This has not been confirmed and does not apply to everyone.
The idea of re-adding probiotics to the body after taking antibiotics is that it can repopulate beneficial bacteria destroyed by antibiotics and restart your system. The extra good bacteria help refill your intestines and fight any remaining bad bacteria. Many people think that adding probiotics will not cause harm, may help you feel better and prevent diarrhea.
Should I try probiotics?
If you are interested in adding probiotics to your diet, it is worth talking to your healthcare provider. Many providers may suggest that they give it a try to see if they contribute to your overall health. It is important to remember that not all probiotics behave in the same way and are effective. Everyone has their own personal interests. They usually cause no harm. An easy way to start is to simply add foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, to your diet.
Before starting any supplements, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. Your supplier may point you in the right direction and help you determine the best probiotics, how much to take, and when to take them. When it comes to your health, the conversation is always worthwhile.