Bacteria in your food may not sound like a good thing, but it is when you’re talking about probiotics. Probiotics are viewed as ‘good’ bacteria that help to maintain your digestive health and live in your gut and intestines. You can obtain them from a few food courses as well as supplements, but should you take probiotics? Let’s dive into what exactly they are, what they do and whether they’re safe and effective for adults.
What Are Probiotics?
According to WebMD, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are considered good for you, especially your digestive system.
These living microorganisms when ingested, can help keep your gut healthy as they resemble the bacteria already present in your gut and promote a good balance of helpful bacteria in your system.
How Are Probiotics Obtained?
Probiotics can be obtained from supplements, just like vitamins are, or from foods prepared by bacterial fermentation. Some Probiotic foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh and kimchi.
Different species of probiotics can help address different types of health conditions, so choosing the right type of probiotic is essential. Probiotic supplements known as broad-spectrum probiotics combine various species of probiotics in the same product.
So keeping all of this in mind, should you take probiotics? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons!
Benefits of Probiotics
We have many microbes in our lower intestinal tract that help us to digest food and regulate the immune system. In the event that an imbalance of microbes occurs, causing diarrhea and other health problems, probiotics can help restore the balance.
Probiotics have also been shown to secrete protective substances, which prevent pathogens from taking hold and causing disease.
Additional evidence suggests that probiotics can help to cure diarrhea caused by antibiotics. When people take antibiotics, especially for a long duration of time, they can often experience diarrhea. This is due to the fact that antibiotics kill a lot of the natural ‘good’ bacteria in your gut, which then in turn allows the harmful bacteria to thrive.
Generally though, probiotics are used to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and can help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). So if you’re still wondering should you take probiotics? You may want to consider it if you’re experiencing the symptoms listed above.
Risks of Probiotics
Probiotics are considered to be supplements, not drugs, therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor the manufacture of probiotics and does not require approval before marketing them to the public. As a result, some companies take advantage of this fact and label their probiotics doing things that aren’t backed by evidence. So even if a product looks good from the outside, you never know if it’s truly high-quality or even contains the probiotics bacteria that is listed on the label.
Additionally, when you first start taking a probiotic supplement, you may experience some side effects such as gas or mild abdominal discomfort. If you’re someone with a compromised immune system, including having HIV, AIDS or other conditions, probiotics can cause you to have some dangerous infections. So consult with your doctor before you start taking probiotics.
Other Things to Note
- Probiotics research is still in the infancy phase as new gut bacteria are being identified every year, and as a result, researchers are facing the challenge of identifying all the microbes in the human gut.
- There is also currently no system or standardization over the therapeutic recommendations for probiotic uses.
- Maintaining a healthy gut requires more than just taking probiotic supplements. Other factors such as diet and exercise also have an effect on your gut bacteria.
- Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any probiotic supplement to ensure you’re taking the right strains and the right dosage to reduce any side effects.