From supplements to yogurt and granola bars, probiotics are showing up on labels everywhere claiming to improve digestive health and a number of other ailments. But what are probiotics exactly? We’ve highlighted eight common questions about probiotics and digestive health to help you decide whether or not you should consider taking probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria or natural cultures that are similar to organisms that occur naturally in the digestive tract. These bacteria promote balance, health, and proper functioning of the digestive system.
Will probiotics help my digestive issue?
Probiotics aren’t a cure-all. However, certain strains of probiotics have been linked to many health benefits like helping with irritable bowel syndrome, traveler’s diarrhea, and stress-related digestive conditions.
What are the digestive benefits of probiotics?
Probiotics are believed to provide two major benefits: protecting the immune system and keeping the digestive system balanced. Probiotics help to maintain a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria in our digestive tract. And when the digestive tract is healthy and working properly, it filters out and eliminates things that may damage it like harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and waste products.
Are there risks of taking probiotics?
For the most part, taking probiotics is safe and poses very few risks or side effects. However, probiotics may be dangerous for people with certain serious illnesses or a weakened immune system. Always check with your doctor or gastroenterologist before taking probiotic supplements.
Which probiotics are best for my digestive issue?
Probiotics come in many different varieties. Some contain just one helpful organism, while others provide a mixture. However, only a small number of them have been studied and found effective. Look for these probiotics strains to aid digestive conditions:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus. This probiotic strain helps to maintain the integrity of your intestinal walls so you can enjoy maximum absorption of nutrients.
- Bifidobacteria bifidum. Both your large and small intestine benefit from this probiotic strain that helps with smooth, healthy digestion. This strain is especially helpful for proper digestion of dairy products.
- Bifidobacteria longum. This beneficial strain helps to crowd out bad bacteria that cause discomfort and neutralizes toxins in the gut. It also helps efficiently break down carbohydrates without causing excess gas.
What is the best way to take a probiotic?
Probiotics come in many forms, such as capsules, powders, and liquids. Depending on your condition, one method may be more effective for your digestive system. Talk to your doctor for recommendations on specific probiotic products.
What are some examples of probiotic foods?
Probiotics are found in a number of different foods and drinks including:
- Miso soup
- Soy milk
- Dark chocolate
How long should I use a probiotic?
How long you should take probiotics depends on the reason you are taking them. Talk to your doctor to determine an appropriate amount of time based on your digestive condition.
If you’re experiencing digestive issues, you may consider taking probiotics to maintain a healthy gut. Remember, it’s important to discuss options with your gastroenterologist before you begin taking probiotic supplements, especially if you have a weakened immune system or serious illness.