Our digestive health pretty much takes the forefront in how good we feel on a day-to-day basis. Let’s face it, if your stomach is not happy, you are not happy. There’s nothing worse than an upset stomach, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain. The bacteria in our gut dictates our microbiome health. The way to a healthy and happy digestive system is by getting enough probiotics and prebiotics.
A healthy gut means so much more than keeping your stomach happy. Getting enough probiotics is necessary to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. They pull the minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and fats your body needs. They provide a protective barrier in your intestines to fight off diseases and infections.
Prebiotics are a fiber that cannot be digested by your stomach. They are extremely important as they are the food for probiotics. Prebiotics are the fuel source for probiotics that allow the good bacteria to flourish, they support gut function and aid in the digestive process.
Scientists know there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut. The all-important microflora in your gut has a huge impact on your brain’s behavior. By getting a good source of probiotics, you can aid the gut in sending signals to the brain that may help with anxiety, stress, depression, and possibly improve learning, focus, and memory.
When You Might Need Probiotics
Maybe you feel you need probiotics and have jumped on the yogurt bandwagon. Eat one yogurt and day and your belly pains will go away. Possibly, but not likely. Our bodies are made up of 100 trillion bacteria. Yogurt contains about 100 million bacteria. While that may seem like a lot, your gut needs around 10 billion before you will start noticing a difference.
If you would like a more detailed explanation about this topic, Dr. Olivia from “Naturals”, is a well-rounded health expert who has studied Clinical Nutrition, Human Biology, is a chiropractor, and certified in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. As a Functional Medicine practitioner, she gives the pros and cons to taking probiotic supplements in her YouTube video.
There are specific situations that may indicate you should consider taking a probiotic supplement. The Chalkboard, A Guide to Living Well, lists 9 reasons you might need to take probiotics.
1. You have taken antibiotics. Probiotics actually mean pro-life. Antibiotics mean just the opposite, anti-life. While antibiotics may be necessary to fight off a particularly nasty infection, the problem is that they don’t decide between the good and the bad bacteria. They kill them all. Start taking probiotics when you are finished taking antibiotics and help repopulate the good guys.
2. You got food poisoning. This type of stomach upset is caused by food that is poisoned with bad bacteria. Taking a course of powerful probiotics can get your digestive tract and bowel movements back on course. Just a tip. If you are traveling to a foreign country, you might consider taking prebiotics before you go and during the trip. Having a good supply of healthy bacteria may help protect you if you are exposed to foods that might not agree with you.
3. You have a digestive disturbance. Maybe you have been off lately when it comes to your digestive process. There is nothing seriously wrong with you but you know you are not feeling right. Often, taking a course of probiotics will help the good bacteria restore normal balance in your gut. In addition, research indicates that a good probiotic can relieve the symptoms of diarrhea, Crohn’s Disease, gas, and bowel inflammation.
4. Suffering from a skin condition? If you have problems with acne, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, or hives, it could be due to an imbalance of gut bacteria and poor digestion. If probiotics do not help clear up your symptoms, you might try taking HCL and enzymes as digestive aids. They have been known to heal the lining of the intestines.
5. You have a mood disorder. If stress, anxiety, depression, or irritability is prohibiting you from functioning well, it might be attributed to your gut flora not being balanced. You can take probiotic supplements to restore the good bacteria which will help restore the function of your neurotransmitters. This may help relieve your symptoms. Also, consider taking B vitamins as they are often missing from those suffering from mood disorders.
6. Do you get sick way too often? A weak immune system means you catch the flu every year and you probably catch every bug that comes down the pike. Probiotics have been proven to strengthen the immune system and help the body’s own defense system fight off illnesses. The healthy bacteria in your gut alert your immune system to bad bacteria and are the first line of offense in a great defense system.
7. Asthma and allergies are putting a damper on your life. If you are tired of taking medications for your respiratory conditions, try probiotics. These have had significant impacts on reducing the severity of symptoms and allowing asthma sufferers to reduce their need for medication. The root of many food allergies is a condition called “leaky gut” which is caused by bad gut bacteria taking over. Many studies have shown that children with healthy gut are significantly less likely to develop asthma and allergies.
8. Maybe you or your child has autism. There is compelling new research that suggests probiotics may be therapeutic for those with autism. Some of the bad gut bacteria may be contributing to autistic symptoms. By introducing the healthy bacteria through probiotics, problems with communication, anxiety, stereotypic and sensorimotor behaviors, have shown improvement.
9. You suffer from yeast infections. Candida and yeast infections are common and if you suffer from them, that is an indication you have an overgrowth of the bad bacteria in your gut. The best way to restore the balance quickly is with the use of probiotics.
Using Prebiotics and Probiotics to Improve Your Gut Health
Eat Right by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that the best way to increase the good bacteria in your microbiota or gut flora is to eat foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics. The good bacteria in the prebiotics work synergistically with the probiotic bacteria. In other words, the prebiotics is needed to feed the probiotics so they can do their job of keeping bad bacteria at bay.
Prebiotic foods include fresh leafy greens and vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and onion and leeks, to name a few. Probiotics are prevalent in kefir, yogurt, aged cheeses and fermented foods that have beneficial cultures. These include miso, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, and cultured yogurts.
Getting your prebiotics and probiotics by including them in your diet is a safe and effective way to generate healthy and beneficial bacteria that will keep your digestive system working optimally, your brain working better, and your immune system fighting off diseases and infections.
Side Effects of Probiotic and Prebiotic Supplements
Introducing billions of live bacteria has been proven to powerpack your system with good bacteria to relieve many health issues. However, there have been known to be some side effects associated with taking probiotic supplements such as gas and bloating.
Medical News Today reports that in some cases of people with Crohn’s disease, they experience adverse effects when taking specific probiotics. It is always best to talk to a health professional if you have a serious health issue and get recommendations on the safest probiotic supplements to take.
People who have a weakened immune system may be vulnerable to more side effects associated with taking probiotics. Probiotics may not be safe for anyone with serious underlying medical illnesses.
Studies on probiotics may not include adverse effects of the product. There has not been much research on the risks and long-term use of probiotics.
Prebiotics are known to occur naturally in so many foods that there is no need to take a prebiotic supplement. There is no evidence that states taking probiotics and prebiotics together is harmful. It is suggested that people with serious illnesses should avoid these supplements unless directed by their doctors.
Little research has been conducted on the effects of taking a prebiotic supplement. This area needs more investigation and research.
Harvard Medical School has concerns that probiotics and prebiotics are considered to be dietary supplements and as a result, the FDA does not monitor the manufacturing of these products. The quality of products purchased at health food stores and pharmacies may be in question. Some of the products may not contain the ingredients or probiotic strains that are on the label.
Which Probiotic Supplement is Right for You
Many people take probiotic supplements for specific digestive issues and other health and mental conditions. Others prefer to take probiotic supplements in addition to eating a healthy diet. Whatever your reason Web MD points out that it is important to find a brand that you trust. Unfortunately, five out of nineteen probiotics have lower bacteria counts than are listed on their labels. Others have bacteria that are not listed on the labels.
You can easily do your own research and read the reviews and find brands that get the best grades. It is always helpful if the product is clearly backed by studies rather than by the claims of the company.
Cleveland Clinic recommends choosing a probiotic supplement that has a minimum of 1 billion colony forming units (CFU). Look for a well-researched genus such as Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Bifidobacterium. Since there are so many strains of bacteria, make sure you are researching the name in its entirety. Only getting part of the name may lead to an entirely different strain.
While yogurt has Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus “starter” cultures, they often get destroyed by stomach acid. It is helpful if a probiotic supplement has sufficient extra bacteria to ensure enough live culture to make it past your stomach. Read how the probiotic supplement you are considering has enough bacteria to be effective or has a protected or delayed-release so the cultures reach your intestines.
Try to avoid cheaper store brands as they may not have quality ingredients, the right number of strains, contain fillers, allergens, GMO’s, and have no research to back up the product. If you are taking the probiotic supplement for a specific condition, your choice will be different than if you are looking for a product that will maintain healthy gut flora. Different probiotic strains are used for different purposes.
You may need some trial and error to find the probiotic supplement that works best for your needs. Some supplements are well-researched, have great studies and reviews, but are quite pricey. It is best if you are picking a higher-end supplement that you contact customer service and ask questions and make sure they give good product support. It never hurts if the product has a money-back guarantee. Many do so be sure to consider that with your list of criteria.
If the supplement you have chosen does not show benefits after you have been taking it for a couple of weeks, try a different product. You may need to try a different strain of bacteria to obtain the results you are looking for, and remember, the more strains included the better chance you have for finding the ones you need.
Let’s Wrap Things Up
Your body contains trillions of live bacteria and microorganisms. These comprise both good and bacteria. Good bacteria help fight infections, regulate your digestion, and even affect your brain function.
Probiotics are the bacteria that perform those specific functions. Prebiotics are a fiber not digested by your intestines that feed the probiotics or “good bacteria”. When harmful bacteria outnumber the good bacteria, that is when your body begins to break down and digestive issues, diseases, and mental illnesses may result.
Eating a diet rich in diverse food that has high levels of pre and probiotics is the best way to keep your gut healthy. If you have a specific illness or need to repopulate your gut bacteria due to illness or antibiotics, you may be considering a probiotic supplement.
When choosing a supplement, do your homework. Go with a company that researches their products and has good reviews. Pick a supplement that has at least 1 billion CFU and at least 10 strains of bacteria. Get advice on which strains will be best for your specific needs. Pick a product that ensures delivery of the live bacteria to your colon or you may be wasting your money. Give the product a couple of weeks to see if it is working, and if not, you may need to try different strains.