5 Things You Should Know About Probiotics

It seems as if more and more people are suffering from food intolerances and as a result, we are all more aware of what we put in our stomachs. Now that we understand more about the digestive process and we have become painfully aware of any sensitivities we may have. Some experts are claiming that probiotics may be a simple fix that can improve gut health for many who have food sensitivities.

Here is what probiotics can do for our stomachs, regardless of whether we are sensitive to particular foods or not:

5. Probiotics Put 'Good' Bacteria In The Gut

The trillions of microorganisms in our gut make up what is known as the 'gut flora'. The healthy bacteria in our gut makes up approximately 70% of the immune system, so it is vitally important to keep the bacteria up and running to the extent that we can. The gut microbiota is very important not only for digestion, but also in building immune health1.

4. Probiotics Can Be The Solution For Common Problems

When you look at the research2, you begin to see that the health benefits of probiotics are quite varied. Perhaps at the top of the list, however, is the benefit of reducing diarrhea, especially if you have just taken a course of antibiotics.

Probiotics can also help if you suffer from a number of specific health problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections. According to some research3, probiotics may even be beneficial for those who suffer from eczema (atopic dermatitis).

3. You Can Use Prebiotics With Probiotics

Probiotics can provide good bacteria to the gut, but prebiotics can help feed the gut bacteria that already exists. There are certain foods that have prebiotics, including whole grains, onions, bananas, beans and garlic. Prebiotics are non-digestible ingredients in food products, such as dietary fiber4. These are substances that our human cells cannot digest, but the good bacteria in our gut can. You might also look at it this way, prebiotics can help to provide food or energy to keep the bacteria alive and doing well.

2. Many Foods Contain Probiotics

When you eat foods that contain probiotics, the bacteria helps to bring about a healthier balance in the gut5. Any type of external source of probiotics helps to build up the good bacteria that is in the body. The more you have, the more you benefit.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, tempeh and kefir. Probiotics are found in fermented foods because probiotics are the actual bacteria that "digest" (otherwise known as ferment in bacteria-world) these types of foods. Without the bacteria, they would not be fermented food, because the bacteria does the fermenting (or digesting of ingredients in these foods).

1. Probiotics Can Be Taken As Supplements

Food should always make up the bulk of your nutrition. According to Lauren Kelly, MS, RD, CDN: “I recommend probiotic supplements to people who do not have a varied diet, or anyone whose diet is made up primarily of processed foods”. As long as you eat a balanced diet including lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and some fermented foods, you probably don't need to supplement your probiotic intake.

"If you have irritable bowel syndrome, a persistent urinary tract infection, or eczema, I would likely recommend it as long as the supplement does not interfere with any medications you are taking. This is one reason why it is always important to check with your doctor before starting any supplements,” says Lauren Kelly, MS, RD, CDN.

References: 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4528021/, Role of the normal gut microbiota, August 7, 2015 2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics, Health benefits of taking probiotics, August 22, 2018 3. https://nationaleczema.org/search-bacterial-balance/, Probiotics: The Search for Bacterial Balance 4. https://isappscience.org/prebiotics/ Prebiotics, June 16, 2017 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622781/, Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health, September 15, 2017