Are Probiotics Good for You?
There are trillions of bacteria in your body. They are found in your gut and they are paired with other organisms, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. This is known as the microbiota, or the microbiome.
Each person’s bacteria is unique to them as it is determined by diet, lifestyle and partially by your mother’s microbiota. There are almost two million genes living in your gut and there are from three hundred to five hundred different types of these genes. These genes line the entire digestive system but the bulk live in your intestines and colon.
These genes help you process food, affecting everything,which includes your metabolism, your immune system and your mood. These genes may be tied to a risk of some diseases, including obesity, diabetes, colon cancer and depression.
Probiotics are actually live microorganisms found in yogurt, sauerkraut and other fermented food, which is supposed to maintain good bacteria (the normal microflora) in the digestive system. You may also buy probiotic pills in any drug store or health food store. You can also make your own probiotic supplement. Kombucha is a popular drink that is manufactured by several companies, which is supposed to be loaded with probiotics.
Probiotics are thought to have several health benefits but not all doctors agree. When you take an antibiotic it kills the good bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics are helpful in restoring the natural bacteria in your system.
There are also prebiotics in your system, which primarily comes from high fiber foods. The prebiotics are food for the microflora in your system. They also help balance the microorganisms. In addition to the whole grains, prebiotics are also found in greens, onion, bananas, garlic, artichokes and soybeans. Your body is unable to digest prebiotics.
There are several types of probiotics and some of them are:
- Lactobacillus - the most common type, found in yogurt and other fermented foods
- Bifidobacterium - found in dairy products, yogurt and fermented foods
- Saccharomyces boulardii - a yeast found in probiotic
The lactobacillus (120 species with at least 12 used in supplements) can help with diarrhea and those that are lactose intolerant. Saccharomyces boulardii will ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics Use for These Diseases
Probiotics will help several types of digestive problems, including:
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Diarrhea that is caused by antibiotics
- H. pylori (cause of stomach ulcers)
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites)
They may may also help other areas of the body, including:
- Various skins conditions, such as eczema
- Urinary infections and vaginal health
- May prevent colds and allergies
- Improved oral health
There is a great deal of research into probiotics although some doctors do not think probiotics are helpful. In addition, not all probiotics are the same and obviously different bacteria will affect your body differently. Research has shown that probiotic therapy is useful in the treatment for diarrhea, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
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When to Take Your Probiotics
If you eat fermented food should you still take probiotic pills? Doctors have different opinions about this question also. The climate where these foods are grown is probably not as good as it was a few decades ago. There are too many pesticides and herbicides being used, which makes the soil become sterile. Glyphosates are a herbicide that was patented as an antibiotic and it reduces the beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
Some doctors say to take the probiotic pills on an empty stomach and others say take them with a meal. I think it is a good idea to take them any time that fits on your schedule.
Healthy Eating Suggestions
In addition to eating fermented food, there are some other tips for eating healthy, which include:
- Eliminate sugar as much as possible as sugar is fuel for yeast.
- Eat organic food as much as possible to reduce exposure to glyphosates and antibiotic residue in foods.
- Use a water filter filtration device to remove chlorine from your tap water or buy bottles of water for drinking. Chlorine is a disinfectant that reduces the spread of microorganisms, their bacteria and viruses, so it can eliminate the good gut microorganisms.
- Avoid highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and red meat.
- Eat a balanced diet without sugar or too much fiber.
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Studies on Gut Bacteria and Diets
Numerous studies have been done on diets and good gut bacteria. One study showed that people who consumed too much animal protein had a higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which may reflect very poor gut health.
Another study in 2010 compared the gut bacteria in children. Italian children’s gut bacteria was compared to children in Burkina Faso, Africa. The children in Italy ate more meat and the African children ate diets high in fiber. The African children had healthier gut bacteria. The Italian children’s gut bacteria had more bacteria that is associated with disease and inflammation.
In 2019, a study showed that red meat raises the level of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is a byproduct of gut bacteria but it can increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
A 2016 study evaluated 452 people using probiotics for treating periodontal disease with positive results that depended on which probiotic they used.
Probiotics are probably helpful for anyone that is suffering with a digestive tract ailment, and probiotics are probably a healthy choice for anyone. The studies are not clear as to how many probiotic pills you should take or when to take them.
It is good to carefully check the label to see exactly what you are buying. Shop at a health food store or purchase a familiar name brand for probiotics. Eating healthy fermented foods is also a good idea.
If you are taking antibiotics, then the probiotics are especially helpful. If you have a digestive system disease, then try probiotics to see if they help. Ultimately, it comes down to how you feel when you take the probiotics.
Do you use probiotics?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Pamela Oglesby