Every day, there’s a new commercial involving probiotic products. What are probiotics? What are the benefits of probiotics? If you use probiotic products are there side effects? The body has millions of microbes, many of which are in the gut. These microbes can be beneficial or harmful. The beneficial gut microbiome helps with digestion and performs many other tasks to help the human body. When the balance of beneficial microbes is too low, it allows the harmful ones to take over, causing illness and the healthy functions left undone. Probiotics help replenish some of the beneficial microbes in the gut.
Increasing the population of beneficial bacteria can improve your health.
A lot of things can cause an imbalance or depletion of the microbiome in your gut. The food you eat, antibiotics, and lack of exercise are three. Each microbe helps in different ways. Some produce waste which is a chemical necessary to send messages to the brain that aid bodily functions. Some help digest food so the body can receive its nutrients. These microbes live symbiotically with the body, getting nutrition from what we eat and in return providing a benefit to the body. They help control metabolism, mental health, immunity, digestion, and most of the body’s functioning, including blood pressure.
Probiotics replenish the microbes in the gut.
Probiotics are one way to repopulate the gut. Probiotics can come in a pill form, an additive, or be a natural part of the food. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, tempeh, and other fermented foods are all probiotics since they contain live beneficial bacteria. Antibiotics, pesticides, a diet high in sugar, artificial sweeteners, or alcohol, or a diet that doesn’t contain prebiotic foods, such as fiber, which feeds the beneficial bacteria, can cause an imbalance. Lack of exercise and stress can also lead to an imbalance.
While there are many benefits, some people shouldn’t take probiotics.
Probiotics aren’t beneficial to everyone. People with a compromised immune system shouldn’t take them. That includes people going through immune suppression therapy. Those with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth—SBO—should also avoid probiotics. People with a histamine intolerance should be careful about the type of probiotics they use. Some strains of bacteria produce histamine, while others block it.
- A healthy balance of bacteria may help weight loss efforts, particularly on the belly. Some microbes block fat absorption in the intestines, eliminating it as waste. Others make you feel fuller faster, or help build muscle mass.
- Probiotics can help prevent UTIs, thrush, and other illnesses. People traveling should start a program of probiotics two weeks before they leave to boost their immunity, and keep them healthier while traveling.
- If you use supplements or pills to increase your beneficial bacteria, use ones that contain at least 10 billion bacteria in a broad spectrum. Eat food with soluble fiber to feed the new bacteria to be most successful.
- Studies show probiotics affect mood. It’s been used to treat anxiety, OCD, depression, brain fog, and autism. Nutritional deficiencies may come from an imbalance, so they may be beneficial for B12, K, B7, D, or magnesium deficiencies.
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