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Probiotics - Helpful Bacteria That Keep Our Gut Healthy

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Probiotics - Helpful Bacteria That Keep Our Gut Healthy

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Most people think bacteria and other microorganisms are harmful germs, but many microorganisms help our bodies function properly.

Written by

Dr. Hemalatha

Published At November 1, 2016
Reviewed AtMarch 14, 2024

What Is Meant by Probiotics?

Probiotics are called good and helpful bacteria. The meaning of probiotics is "for life" (pro-biota). Probiotics have been in our system since the moment of the formation of the fetus in the birth canal. Probiotics are bacteria and yeasts that are good for health, especially the digestive system, to keep our gut healthy.

What Are the Functions of Probiotics?

Probiotics refer to food and health products containing live beneficial microbes intended to enhance the populations within the gut and other areas of the body, aiming to bolster those communities. Their purpose is to prevent and address dysbiosis, characterized by an imbalance or shortage of beneficial microbes in the microbiome. Effective probiotics facilitate the incorporation of microbes into the body, supplementing the existing populations.

Varieties of probiotics exhibit distinct functionalities within the body. Consequently, certain types may be more or less beneficial for particular conditions. Additionally, probiotics lack FDA regulation, meaning manufacturers are not obliged to demonstrate the quality or composition of their products. Seeking advice from a healthcare professional well-versed in probiotics is advisable to determine which ones may be most effective for the requirements.

Under What Circumstances Are Probiotics Advised?

If a person experiences symptoms indicating dysbiosis in the digestive system or other areas, their healthcare provider may suggest probiotics to restore balance to their microbiome. Similarly, if the person has undergone an illness or treatment that has compromised the microbiome, their provider might recommend probiotics to aid in its restoration. For instance, they may advise incorporating probiotics following the completion of an antibiotic regimen.

Certain individuals opt for a daily probiotic supplement as part of their routine to support overall well-being. This choice may be particularly suitable for those susceptible to gut health issues who find it beneficial. A balanced gut microbiome can enhance overall immunity, mitigate inflammation, and promote regular bowel movements. Factors such as stress and dietary choices can adversely affect the gut microbiome, and probiotics serve as one method to aid in its restoration.

What Types of Probiotics Demonstrate Effectiveness?

For a probiotic to offer any health advantages, it should meet the following criteria:

  • It belongs to a type with established benefits for the body.

  • It exists in a form that is safe for consumption or application to the body.

  • Consists of viable microbes that have endured commercial processing.

  • Demonstrate the ability to withstand the passage through the digestive tract if it is taken orally.

Among the extensively researched and recommended probiotics are:

  • Various species within the Lactobacillus genus, such as L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, and L. plantarum.

  • Various species within the Bifidobacterium genus, including Bifidobacterium breve and Bifidobacterium longum.

Lactobacillus acidophilus, commonly known as acidophilus, is one of the most recognized probiotics on the market today, possibly due to its versatile applications. Acidophilus naturally occurs in several body regions, including the gut, mouth, stomach, urinary tract, lungs, and vagina, aiding in the restoration of balance across these microbiomes.

These items are readily accessible without a prescription and are found in grocery stores, pharmacies, and health and wellness outlets. They are offered as dietary supplements in various forms such as capsules, liquids, or powders, as well as topical lotions or creams, catering to diverse needs. Consulting healthcare providers can assist in identifying a suitable option tailored to the requirements.

Probiotics are also available in milder concentrations through fermented foods and beverages like:

  • Cottage cheese.

  • Kombucha.

  • Pickles and pickle juice.

  • Yogurt and kefir.

  • Miso soup.

  • Sauerkraut or kimchi.

Consuming fermented foods and beverages is a method to increase probiotic intake in the gastrointestinal tract. However, it is important to note that food processing may occasionally eliminate these natural probiotics. Therefore, it is advisable to inspect labels for "live and active’’.

What Are the Uses of Probiotics?

The uses of probiotics are discussed below:

  • It will help move food through the gut in IBS, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease - inflammation in some parts of the intestine), diarrhea, fight food-borne infections, and Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) infection.

  • It also helps in conditions like eczema.

  • Probiotics help maintain urogenital health and restore the balance of microflora of the vagina (yogurt is used as a folk remedy with limited support) and are also helpful in urinary tract infections.

  • It can reduce the risk of certain recurrent common infectious diseases.

  • It will reduce crying time in colicky babies.

  • It is beneficial for brain function, and it improves immunity function.

  • Lactobacillus probiotics are very useful in reducing bad cholesterol levels like LDL and blood pressure.

  • It also prevents allergies and colds and maintains good oral health.

What Are the Side Effects of Probiotics?

Probiotics are not all alike. The effect of probiotics varies from person to person. Although some probiotic formulations have shown scientific evidence to support the uses of probiotics, for most conditions, it is lacking. Information on long-term safety is limited. The common side effect of probiotics is diarrhea. The risk of serious side effects may be higher in people who have underlying health conditions. Though considered safe, there is a theoretical risk for people with impaired immune function.

Is It Good to Take Probiotic Supplements?

Probiotic supplements are nowadays gaining popularity, and everyone wants to take them. These supplements are available in the form of tablets, powders, or liquids. Recently chewable gummies have been introduced into the market. These chew gummies are a good option for those kids who do not like to take tablets, powder, or liquid. According to a survey, the third most popular dietary supplement among adults, after vitamins and minerals, was probiotics.

However, while taking these supplements, one should be aware of the fact that not all the probiotics supplements available on the market contain the same concentration of bacteria. All the prebiotic supplements do not work the same way. If individuals feel uncomfortable after taking this supplement, they should discontinue it. On the other hand, the probiotic supplement should only be taken with the advice of a healthcare professional. It should not be taken on their own just by getting fascinated with a probiotic advertisement that claims to improve health. This is because not everyone requires a prebiotic supplement, and not every supplement contains the same strain of bacteria.

Conclusion:

To conclude, probiotics are considered to be a good health supplement for improving health conditions; however, more research still needs to be carried out to prove their efficacy. Some studies have shown that these supplements have improved some medical conditions, but it has not been proven that all probiotic supplements are good. Therefore, a healthcare provider should be approached before starting these supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Is It Good to Take Probiotics Every Day?

You can take probiotics every day because it is a natural supplement and not a medicine. It is safe and does not cause any harmful effects on the body, so it is recommended to be taken daily.

2.

Which Is the Suitable Form of Probiotic to Take?

The best form of probiotic to take is the Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

3.

How To Know That You Require Probiotics?

The signs that you need probiotics are:
Suppose you have taken antibiotics, it usually kills all the bacteria in the gut. Therefore taking probiotics after an antibiotic therapy will help you put the normal bacterial flora back into the gut.
- Food poisoning.
- Upset stomach.
- Mood issues.
- Yeast overgrowth.
- If you are often feeling sick, it is good to take probiotics.
- Skin diseases.
- Digestive irregularity.
- When sugar cravings are out of control.
- Slow metabolism.
- Skin issues like psoriasis, eczema, and itchy rashes.

4.

What Are the Fruits That Contain Probiotics?

The fruits that contain probiotics are:
- Green banana.
- Apples.
- Blueberries.
- Watermelon.
- Grapefruit.
- Raspberries.
- Mangoes.
- Pears.
- Kiwi.
- Avocado.
- Oranges.

5.

What Are the Contraindications for Taking Probiotics?

The people who are immunocompromised and those under treatment for cancer should not take probiotics without the doctor's opinion.

6.

Which Is Better - Taking Probiotics or Eating Yogurt?

Yogurt is a good probiotic, but if you are allergic to dairy products, then supplements are a better choice. Probiotics can be taken even on an empty stomach. Probiotic pills have a longer shelf life than yogurt, but do not offer other nutrients and minerals like yogurt.

7.

Can Probiotics Help With Belly Fat?

Studies have proved that taking probiotics like strains of Lactobacillus can help reduce belly fat. The probiotics will reduce the total number of calories that are absorbed from the food, and also affects the proteins and hormones that are related to fat storage and appetite.

8.

Is Apple Cider Vinegar a Probiotic?

Probiotics restore the beneficial bacteria inside your gut. Apple cider vinegar is not a probiotic, but it is a prebiotic. The term prebiotic means the origin of nourishment in the fermented food, which is the food for the good bacteria present in the gut. Therefore, in simple words, prebiotics promote the flourishing of the gut's good bacteria.

9.

Which Is the Best Natural Probiotic?

The best natural probiotics are:
- Yogurt.
- Kombucha.
- Kefir.
- Pickles.
- Miso.
- Sauerkraut.
- Kimchi.
- Dark chocolates.
- Tempeh.
- Green olives.

10.

Which Probiotic is Helpful in Weight Loss?

Several types of strains are there in both Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus families, which helps reduce belly fat and weight. But Lactobacillus gasseri is the most effective strain, which helps reduce weight.

11.

What Will Happen When You Take Probiotics?

While using probiotics, a few people may initially experience side effects related to digestion like bloating, gas, and diarrhea. This may be due to some gut microbiota changes where the bacteria will produce more gas than usual, leading to bloating. These side effects will get resolved, and digestion will be improved within a few days to weeks after taking probiotics.

12.

What Is the Sign That Probiotic Is Working?

The signs that probiotic is working are positive changes in the body like:
- Improved digestion.
- Improved mood.
- Clearer skin.
- More energy.

13.

When Should You Take Probiotics, Morning or at Night?

It would be best if you take probiotics early in the morning on an empty stomach, and it should be taken at the same time every day.

14.

Can Probiotics Make You Poop?

The increase in the number of good bacteria after taking probiotics will help detoxify the digestive system and absorb more nutrients efficiently. But the probiotics, which contain a mix of bacteria, will increase the frequency of bowel movement and improve constipation symptoms like stomach pain, incomplete evacuation, and straining.

15.

How Long Can Probiotics Stay in Your Body?

The probiotics appear to stay only for a short period in your gut; therefore, you should continue taking them for a good result. If you stop continuing them, the gut may return to its pre-supplementation state within one to three weeks.

16.

Can the Long Term Use of Probiotics Be Dangerous?

The long term use of probiotics may be dangerous and cause side effects like:
- Increased risk of infection.
- Increase in the histamine levels by some strains.
- Adverse reactions like allergy or intolerance.
- Unpleasant digestive symptoms.
- Amines in the probiotics can cause headaches.
- Production of harmful substances by the microorganisms in the probiotics.
Dr. Hemalatha
Dr. Hemalatha

Dentistry

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probiotics side effectsgut bacteria imbalanceintestinal beneficial bacteriaprobiotics
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