According to WebMD, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts or microorganisms that are known as “good bacteria” that may be beneficial especially to the digestive system. It’s important to remember that our bodies are made of both “good” and “bad” bacteria. It’s believed that when our body is deficient of “good” bacteria, this is when probiotics help establish a bacterial equilibrium in our gut. Since probiotics are ingested, they are thought to primarily aid the gut in establishing a better bacterial balance, hence, providing the gut with a better function.
How do probiotics work exactly?
This is currently something that is being examined by researchers. Current research, as per the Journal of Nutrition, seems to support that probiotics may enhance intestinal health, including stimulate immunity, promote nutrient absorption, inhibit mucosal adherence, and inhibit the invasion and production of antimicrobial substances.
So which probiotic is best?
More research is currently needed. There are some strains that have been examined and show promise in aiding certain symptoms, however, it is always best to consult with your physician before starting any probiotic regiment.
According to WebMD, the following strains may be beneficial:
Lactobacillus. This is found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains may help with diarrhea and may help those who have trouble digesting lactose.
Bifidobacterium. This is also found in some dairy products. This strain may help ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast found in probiotics. It may help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems.
What Do Probiotics Do?
According to WebMD, probiotics help the digestive system. Researchers are still trying to figure out which probiotics are best for specific health problems. The most common conditions they may aid in treating are:
Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites) with symptoms consisting of loose, watery stools; abdominal cramps, abdominal pain, fever, blood in the stool, bloating, nausea, and urgent need to have a bowel movement
Antibiotic-related diarrhea with similar symptoms as infectious diarrhea.
WebMD states that there is also some research to show that probiotics may help with problems in other parts of the body. For example, some people say they have helped with:
Preventing allergies and colds
Are probiotics right for me?
According to the Clinical Infectious Disease, research indicates that they may be an improper use of the term “probiotic” and more importance should be placed on the dose specificity and strain specificity with regards to products. Although current research indicates an exciting promise in using probiotics as a therapeutic remedy, there seems to be additional investigations that are needed before there can be a clear indication of the role probiotics play in human health. It is always best to ask your doctor about which probiotic might be best for you. According to WebMD, in general, probiotics are thought to be safe for most people. People with immune system problems or other serious health conditions should take extreme caution and should probably not take them. Be sure to talk to your doctor first to make sure they’re right for you. In some cases, as per WebMD, mild side effects might include upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, and bloating for the first couple of days after you start using them. They may also trigger allergic reactions in some. It’s always best to stop taking them if you notice any side effects and talk to your doctor if you have problems.