When you’re struggling with digestive issues, many doctors and homeopaths will recommend taking probiotics. What do probiotics actually do? Are they safe, and when should you take them?
Probiotics are helpful bacteria and yeasts that live in your body—namely, your digestive tract. While there are bad types of bacteria, probiotics are safe and perform important functions. They even help fight off harmful bacteria.
There are four main characteristics of a probiotic. First, they must be able to be isolated from a human. Second, they must survive your digestive tract after you consume them. Next, they must include a benefit to humans, and finally, they must be able to be safely consumed.
Probiotics often live in your gut, but they’re also present in the mouth, urinary tract, skin and lungs.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics support your immune function and ward off inflammation. They help you digest your food, and fight off bad bacteria that can make you sick. They break down and absorb medications, while supporting the cells that line your gut so they can prevent bad bacteria from infiltrating.
This naturally occurs in your body. However, if you’ve been suffering from bad gut health or frequent illness, a probiotic supplement can provide extra help.
Right now, scientists are still researching the exact benefits of probiotics on the body. The effects can vary from person to person, so there’s no across-the-board answer to everyone’s health problems. However, there’s evidence to suggest probiotics can help with preventing diarrhea and constipation. They may reduce the symptoms of IBS and IBD. It’s possible they can also help with eczema, lactose intolerance, UTIs, gum disease and more.
If you suffer from any of these conditions, probiotics might help. They may not be a magic bullet, but increasing helpful gut flora and fauna may help you manage symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether they think probiotics are right for you, and whether they can recommend a specific supplement.
Food sources of probiotics
Keep in mind that you can get your probiotics from food sources, too. Yogurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, kombucha, cottage cheese, kimchi, fermented pickles, sauerkraut and miso soup are all natural sources of probiotics. Naturally, you’ll still need to eat a balanced diet—humans cannot survive on pickles and sourdough alone. However, these foods are a great way to boost your probiotic intake.
As always, you should be aware that dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so there’s currently no way to determine how many probiotics are in any given pill or liquid supplement. Ask your doctor about whether they have any recommended brands.
You should also keep in mind that some probiotic supplements require cold storage (usually in your refrigerator) to keep the helpful bacteria and yeast alive. Check the package carefully to make sure you understand the requirements.
If you’re in need of helpful probiotic supplement benefits—or the health foods which contain them—stop by Bee Hive Natural Foods today.