What exactly do probiotics do? They are believed to protect us in two ways. The first is the role that they play in our digestive tract. We know that our digestive tract needs a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria, so what gets in the way of this? It looks like our lifestyle is both the problem and the solution. Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.
After further analyzing the data, the researchers found that they could predict whether the probiotics would take hold in people's guts by examining their microbiome and gene expression in the gut taken at the start of the study. However, this prediction method needs to be confirmed in future studies. The researchers called for further research to better understand why some people resist colonization by probiotics, as that future research may enable researchers to counteract the resistance.
Bottom Line: Eating foods rich in probiotics can boost the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract, which can help you fend off indigestion and improve immunity. For individuals who either don't like probiotic-rich foods or don't get enough probiotics from foods, taking daily probiotic supplements may be beneficial. However, an overall healthy diet is still the key to maintaining optimal gut health.
Chronic inflammation contributes to nearly every disease imaginable, and it doesn’t do your gut any favors. Studies connect inflammation with everything from leaky gut to weight gain. Those are among the many reasons to add cold-water fish and other omega-3-rich foods to your diet. The two primary omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are important anti-inflammatory promoters in the body often deficient in the American diet. Along with these foods, take one to four 1,000-milligram softgels daily with meals to enhance their absorption.
Many wondered whether probiotics could be therapeutic in other gastrointestinal disorders. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Probiotics didn’t show a significant benefit for chronic diarrhea. Three reviews looked at how probiotics might improve Crohn’s disease, and none could find sufficient evidence to recommend their use. Four more reviews looked at ulcerative colitis, and similarly declared that we don’t have the data to show that they work. The same was true for the treatment of liver disease.
The GI tract plays an important role as an interface between the host and the environment. It is colonized by about 10 trillion microbes of many different species, amounting to 1–2 kg in weight [O’Hara and Shanahan, 2006]. Only a minority (300–500) of these species can be cultured in vitro and studied [O’Hara and Shanahan, 2006]. Intestinal epithelial cells have the capacity to distinguish pathogenic from nonpathogenic bacteria on the basis of their invasiveness and the presence of flagella, although the exact mechanisms that allow them to do this have not been elucidated fully [Borchers et al. 2009].
There is one Voluntary Certification Program by which a supplement manufacturer can choose to be evaluated. ConsumerLab.com (CL) is the leading provider of independent test results and information to help consumers and health-care professionals identify the best quality health and nutrition products. Products that have passed their testing for identity, strength, purity, and disintegration can print the CL Seal of Approval on their product. This is one step toward being confident that one is getting the amount and type of probiotic promised by the manufacturer.
“There are numbers of papers that do show that certain strains of probiotics, particularly the L. Rhamnosus strain contained in Pro-B, can help in prevention and treatment of vaginal bacterial and yeast infections,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT. “And of course, many women have to take antibiotics intermittently, which can incidentally disturb their normal vaginal flora. This probiotic can be helpful for women to maintain healthy vaginal flora.” Here are 6 times to say no to antibiotics (and when to say yes).
I have been taking Probiotics for IBS diagnosed about 3 years ago, and along with some diet changes, it has been nothing short of miraculous. I did have to do some trial and error to find the right bacterial strains. I recommend starting with one of the recommended products with some research for IBS; use a product with the most different strains possible. Stay on it for at least a month; if you don't see a positive result or only a partial result, try different strains. Keep a log. I unwittingly swithced products from one containing 12 strains to one containing 11 and went from awesome to awful cramps, bloating diarrhea etc, but at least now I know which strains work for me.
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.
“It is quite difficult to choose a solid top pick for probiotics because different strains have been shown to help different clinical issues,” says Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, a dietitian in New York City. “However, this supplement is a great option, with 50 billion strains.” It’s one of the best probiotics for women and supports vaginal, digestive, and immune system health. “It is best to choose a product that is well within its expiration date to ensure a higher number of viable cells,” advises Fine.
Made by fermenting the juice of young coconuts with kefir grains, this dairy-free option for kefir has some of the same probiotics as traditional dairy kefir but is typically not as high in probiotics. Still, it has several strains that are great for your health. Coconut kefir has a great flavor, and you can add a bit of stevia, water and lime juice to it to make a great-tasting drink.
Supplements play an important role when the diet is not adequate to supply our needs. In the case of probiotics, one's diet is the ideal source for probiotics. These are live bacteria and need to be carefully monitored, stored, and combined for the health benefits that one would be taking them for. At this time, supplements are not monitored in the U.S. the way that food or medication is. They fall under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). This requires that the dietary supplement or dietary ingredient manufacturer be responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement or ingredient is safe before it is marketed. The only time that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may get involved is if action is needed to be taken against a manufacturer after the supplement is marketed and then found to be unsafe. This means that as much as we may know about probiotics, we can't be certain of the safety or content of the supplements available to us.
Gas (intestinal gas) means different things to different people. Everyone has gas and eliminates it by belching, burping, or farting (flatulence). Bloating or abdominal distension is a subjective feeling that the stomach is larger or fuller than normal. Belching or burping occurs when gas is expelled from the stomach out through the mouth. Flatulence or farting occurs when intestinal gas is passed from the anus.
If you have an immune system problem or another serious health condition, you may have a greater chance of issues. Some reports have linked probiotics to serious infections and other side effects. The people most likely to have trouble are those with immune system problems, people who've had surgery, and others who are critically ill. Don't take probiotics if you have any of those issues.
There’s good and bad bacteria in there (fascinating fact: an estimated 100 trillion bacteria live inside your digestive tract): When the good outweighs the bad, your immune health soars; when the bad overpowers good, you get sick. You have diarrhea. Your immune system tanks. Your IBS, lactose intolerance, and other gut problems are exacerbated. It throws your entire system out of whack.
All probiotic strains are manufactured through fermentation, and are then freeze-dried before blending with fructooligosaccharides (FOS). The result is a shelf-stable (two years at room temperature), nitrogen-filled probiotic of human origin: a probiotic that easily adapts to your body, and is both acid- and bile-resistant to survive the acidic environment of the human stomach. In other words, a probiotic that fulfills its promises.
While it produces no sensations for you to detect, an entire natural ecosystem is living in your digestive tract. In the average person, 100 trillion microorganisms reside in the healthy bowel with more than 500 different species accounted for in their vast numbers. Some of these bacteria are harmful and can produce symptoms of illness. However, there are healthy good bacteria present to keep them in check. Among these bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium or bifidus. In some people, levels of the healthy bacteria are below the norm. Low levels can be caused by taking antibiotics, which kill good bacteria. This allows harmful bacteria to reproduce rapidly and cause various symptoms. Probiotic rich foods and dietary supplements may help to re-balance the gut. They add live cultured good bacteria to the stomach. In addition, the healthy bacteria may assist with digestion, strengthen the immune system and help nutrients become absorbed more efficiently.
Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) may be prevented by coadministration of probiotics, as suggested by several randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Several comprehensive meta-analyses, recently published, all show that probiotics significantly decreased incidence of AAD (RR 0.39–0.43) [McFarland, 2006; Szajewska and Mrukowicz, 2005; Cremonini et al. 2002; D’Souza et al. 2002]. The effects were similar across all categories and formulations of probiotics and treatment durations. The most commonly used probiotics were S. boulardii, LABs, and several combinations of LABs, given in doses from 107 to 1011, for durations of 5–49 days, generally paralleling the duration of antibiotic therapy. One of the meta-analyses found that S. boulardii, L. rhamnosus, and multiple mixtures of two different probiotics were the most protective against AAD [McFarland, 2006]. Other specific preparations have been studied to a lesser extent and that may be why their efficacy has been found to be less significant. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in individuals over the age of 50 using combination L. casei, L. bulgaricus, and S. thermophilus twice daily during a course of antibiotics and for 1 week after the completion of antibiotic therapy showed reduction in the incidence of AAD [Hickson et al. 2007].
In addition to the prophylactic effect of stocking your gut with good bacteria, there are some probiotic strains that have also shown promise in treating symptoms of autoimmune disorders, including L. Paracasei and L. Acidophilus. Others, like B. Lactis, could help prevent respiratory infections. Renew Life Flora Extra Care has all three targeted bacteria strains at 30 billion CFUs per serving.
Similar to yogurt, this fermented dairy product is a unique combination of milk and fermented kefir grains. Kefir has been consumed for well over 3,000 years, and the term kefir was started in Russia and Turkey and means “feeling good.” It is created by the fermentation of milk by the bacteria, and yeasts in kefir starter break down lactose in the milk — that’s why kefir may be suitable for those who are otherwise lactose-intolerant.
What about prebiotics vs probiotics? Prebiotics are the food fibers that go through the gut unchanged and are then used by good colon bacteria as a food source for their own growth. Everyone already has most of these good bacteria present, but often in small quantities. Prebiotics are used to stimulate their growth. Simply stated, you already grow your own probiotics within your colon. You do not rely on them to make the passage through the stomach acid — acid that can destroy many probiotic bacteria. That’s why taking a probiotic supplement or adding probiotic foods to your diet does not always help your digestive system. You can eat as many probiotic bacteria as you want, but if they don’t survive the trip to the colon, your effort will be fruitless.
To avoid those and other problems, I strongly recommend buying a professional brand from a reputable health care professional or other vendor who stands by their products and undergoes third-party testing. Some of these professional brands have created advanced technology that preserves a probiotic supplement’s survival on the shelf and in your gut.
Both probiotics and prebiotics are a continuing topic of research regarding immunity. When used in conjunction, scientists refer to them collectively as synbiotics. One 2015 review on the subject stated, “We suggest that LAB and Bifidobacteria and novel strains [of probiotics] might be an additional or supplementary therapy and may have potential for preventing wide scope of immunity-related diseases due anti-inflammatory effect.”
It’s great to get some healthy sour foods. I often add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a drink, twice a day. Before breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner, add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in your meal, and then start consuming more fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi, or drinking kvass. Is apple cider vinegar a probiotic itself? No, but apple cider vinegar probiotic content makes it an excellent source of probiotics benefits.
Previous studies have investigated the use of probiotics — those healthy gut bacteria — by testing their impact in guts already affected by disease, the researchers wrote in the study. For the new investigation, they wanted to see how a probiotic would impact SCFA production in a healthy gut. They chose to work with baby poop because infants' gut microbiomes are typically free from age-related diseases "such as diabetes and cancer," and because of the sheer abundance of infant feces at their disposal. ("Their poop is readily available," Yadav said.)
In the United States, most probiotics are sold as dietary supplements, which do not undergo the testing and approval process that drugs do. Manufacturers are responsible for making sure they're safe before they're marketed and that any claims made on the label are true. But there's no guarantee that the types of bacteria listed on a label are effective for the condition you're taking them for. Health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains are necessarily useful, so you may want to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options. As always, let your primary care provider know what you're doing.
Future studies should address many of the remaining questions related to the basic knowledge of probiotics, such as the composition of human intestinal flora, viability and fecal recovery rates, physiological and immunological effects. Furthermore, most optimal doses, duration of treatment, comparison of different strains and different probiotics, single versus combination probiotics, combination of probiotics with prebiotics, efficacy of various probiotics in different disease states, and safety of probiotics in debilitated patients or in patients with compromised gut epithelial integrity need to be evaluated.
Probiotics are a big and rapidly growing business and are now among the most popular dietary supplements. The term probiotic refers to dietary supplements (tablets, capsules, powders, lozenges and gums) and foods (such as yogurt and other fermented products) that contain “beneficial” or “friendly” bacteria. The organisms themselves are also called probiotics.
Kefir: This could be the most ideal probiotic dairy product because it contains both bacteria and yeast working together to provide the numerous health benefits. In a recent eight-week study, people with diabetes were given kefir milk containing Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and bifidobacteria vs. conventional fermented milk. The hemoglobin A1C levels were significantly lower in the group consuming the kefir.
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Probiotics seem to be all the rage these days. With many purported benefits and a relatively low risk of side effects, manufacturers are taking advantage of booming business opportunities. Rather than leave your health in the hands of big business, it is important that you be as educated as possible about the best types of probiotics so you can choose what is right for you and your family.