The human digestive tract is like an ecosystem, containing hundreds of different types of bacteria that live in balance with each other.
Your body needs the right balance of ‘good’ bacteria to help digest food and absorb nutrients. When these bacteria are not in good health, it can lead to various digestive disorders.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms in yogurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products. These bacteria have health benefits when eaten or applied to the body, such as helping digest food or destroying disease-causing bacteria.
They are helpful because they help maintain a healthy balance in the gut, a region of the digestive tract known as the “microbiome.” A healthy gut microbiome contributes to digestion and immune function, supports blood sugar levels, and influences mood and mental health. But when the natural population of bacteria in the intestine becomes unbalanced or disrupted, it can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In addition to probiotics in foods or dietary supplements, many people also take oral supplements. These supplements typically contain various types of bacteria, often from groups known as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
However, the specific strains used in these products vary and must be chosen based on your body’s needs, so you should know how probiotics work. Some are more beneficial than others, and some work faster than others.
It can take a few weeks to notice a difference from taking probiotics. Your digestive tract will need time to adjust to the new bacteria in your system. It’s also normal to experience stomach bloating or discomfort during this process.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Probiotics are a group of live bacteria that help your gut work. These bacteria also help keep your immune system strong and reduce inflammation.
Everyone has a different microbiome. This is a collection of all the bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms in your digestive tract. The microbiome comprises good bacteria that help your body work and harmful bacteria that can make you sick.
The good bacteria in your gut help fight the harmful bacteria, making you feel better and healthier. They also help your intestines absorb nutrients and help your body break down protein.
You can get these good bacteria from foods like yogurt, but you can also take a supplement that contains specific strains of bacteria. Some people with diarrhea or digestive issues find that certain probiotics can help reduce their symptoms.
In addition, some research suggests that probiotics can boost the immune system and improve mental health. Studies are still in their infancy, but some metabolites produced by the bacteria in your digestive tract have been shown to affect mood and stress resilience.
Probiotics are a great way to support your gut, but consult your doctor before taking them. This is especially true if you are pregnant or have a preexisting medical condition.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that help maintain the balance of your digestive system. This balance is critical for overall health. When it breaks down, it can lead to various issues, including gastrointestinal discomfort, skin problems, and hormonal imbalances.
Adding probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt and soft cheese, can boost the healthy bacteria in your gut. This can improve digestion, support the immune system, and reduce inflammation.
A balanced microbiome also helps prevent infections and keep your body functioning well. This is particularly true for children, who may have compromised immunity and are more prone to illnesses.
Studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics can help reduce cold and flu symptoms and even increase your chances of a successful immune response. Additionally, probiotic supplements can help to boost a healthy immune system by providing a balanced environment for the growth of antibodies.
One study found that kids who consumed a daily probiotic yogurt drink were less likely to get sick and missed school than those who did not finish the supplement. Another study showed that a probiotic supplement could help reduce eczema and acne symptoms.
Probiotics aren’t a short-term solution like a medication you take to relieve pain or a headache. They’re meant to be used with a healthier lifestyle and a balanced diet to support your overall health.
What Are the Side Effects of Probiotics?
Probiotics are safe for most people to take, but there are some side effects to be aware of. These include a temporary change in bowel function that may result in constipation or diarrhea.
Most of these side effects should subside as your body gets used to the new gut bacteria. However, call your doctor if you experience severe abdominal pain or swelling.
The most common side effect of probiotics is gas and bloating. This is because some probiotic bacteria produce gas as a normal byproduct, which can cause trapped gas in the intestines, leading to bloating.
These side effects are generally mild and should subside after a few weeks. Aside from gas and bloating, other side effects can include diarrhea or constipation.
As a rule, starting out with a lower dose of probiotics is best and gradually working up to higher dosages over time. This is especially important if you’re taking antibiotics because the drugs can disrupt your good bacteria.
In addition, it’s recommended to stay hydrated when you’re using probiotic supplements because dehydration can cause the most severe and uncomfortable side effects. Avoiding biogenic amines or salt products is also a good idea, as these can exacerbate stomach discomfort.
In addition, it’s essential to know that consuming large amounts of certain probiotics may transfer antibiotic-resistant genes into the potentially harmful bacteria in your gut. This is a rare occurrence, but it’s worth knowing about so you can take steps to avoid it.