There has been a lot of talk recently about probiotics and how they can impact our health. You may be asking yourself if you should be taking one. There is developing research out there on the effectiveness and benefits to incorporating probiotics into your supplement routine. The truth is, as of now there isn’t clear-cut evidence that states whether probiotics should or should not be used. We’re here to give you some basic information about what probiotics are and what they do, so that you can determine if they are something you’d be interested in.
What is a Probiotic?
So what even is a probiotic? Well, they are bacteria that live in our bodies. We have both good and bad bacteria that are always in our body, and probiotics are one of the good kinds. They help your body function properly, and even fight off some of the harmful bacteria if there is too much (source). These good bacteria can live in a variety of places in our bodies, but the ones that are most notable for their health benefits are in our gut, mainly our large intestine (source). Gut health is about the balance between that good vs bad bacteria.
Probiotics can be found naturally in some foods, such as yogurts, tempeh, kefir, pickles, miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha. If you, however, feel as though your digestive system is not functioning properly, taking a probiotic supplement may be a good option for you in order to increase the amount of good bacteria in your system. Let’s discuss what probiotics can help with and what they do more specifically.
Probiotics in our gut help to digest food and absorb medications, as well as aid in our immune system and fight off bad bacteria by preventing it from entering our blood stream. Increasing the amount of probiotics you are consuming can also help with some conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), lactose intolerance, constipation, or diarrhea (source).
You do not have to be taking a probiotics supplement to maintain the balance of good bacteria and bad, as our bodies are capable of regulating this on its own. However, if you feel you need assistance with digestive complications/issues, probiotics may be an option to help. They may also be helpful if your body recently had some gut condition like a food-borne illness, or, if you had to be on antibiotics. Remember, the effectiveness may vary from person to person.
Picking a Probiotic
With all the different probiotic supplements on the market, how do you know which one to choose? First off, we want to choose one that has the most bacteria in it, or the most “strains” of bacteria. This means that the probiotic has many different types of bacteria in it, making it more effective. Another thing we highly recommend is to only buy probiotics that have been third party tested. Third party testing is performed by independent organizations that were not involved in the design or manufacturing of the product. If the probiotic is third party certified (or NSF certified), this indicates that it has met the qualifications for safety, quality, and/or performance (source). Lastly, we want to remind you that probiotic supplements can be expensive. They may not be affordable for you, and that’s okay! There are other ways to improve your gut, even just using food alone! However, if you have major concerns, we recommend consulting with your physician.
All in all, if you want to see improvements in gut health, and believe that probiotics are helping you feel better, we support you! Probiotic supplementation is subjective at the moment so if it helps aid your symptoms, we’re here for it.
If you have more questions regarding probiotics or gut health, schedule a call with Alli here.
This article was written by Emma Bulan, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.