How Do I Know If I Need Probiotics?
Has your gut been acting up? Maybe you've had signs of an irritable bowel like constipation or diarrhea. You may need a probiotic to help with your gut's microbiome. Due to the food you eat, stresses on the body, and other factors, the good bacteria in your gut may be disturbed over time. Probiotics are good bacteria or yeasts with health benefits. Replenishing the good bacteria, and helping them stay balanced by feeding them prebiotic foods, could help you feel more comfortable in your body.
Should You Consider Probiotics for Your Health?
Probiotics may be able to help people with conditions such as:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Neurological and mental health conditions
- Yeast infections
- Lactose intolerance
- Upper respiratory infections
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Urinary tract infections
- Gum disease
- Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infection
If you're living with uncomfortable conditions like these, you may want to try taking a probiotic to see if you notice an improvement.
Interestingly, there has been probiotic research done to determine if hypercholesterolemia, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, atopic dermatitis, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea may be helped by probiotics.
A healthy gut microbiome can support a healthy GI tract, immune system, mind and mood. The balance of microbes in the gut microbiome impacts many other body systems, making probiotics potentially beneficial for more than just a better experience in the restroom.
What's the Difference Between Prebiotics & Probiotics?
Since you may want to shop for probiotics, another thing to watch out for is anything labeled as a "prebiotic." Prebiotics are normally taken to help boost the healthy bacteria in the gut that are already present. Prebiotics can be compared to fertilizers because they provide your microbes and bacteria with the foods they want to eat, which helps them multiply.
Probiotics are used to replace and boost the number of those microbes once they start dwindling. Taking the two supplements together can be a great way to make sure your good bacteria have an opportunity to thrive.
What Kinds of Probiotics Are There?
A better question may be, "What kinds of bacteria will you find in probiotics?" To ensure you see the effects of your probiotics as soon as possible, take a supplement with proven science behind them. Check the label to learn more about the yeasts and bacteria in the probiotic before investing.
There are many types of beneficial bacteria and yeast that may be introduced through a supplement. Some include:
- Saccharomyces boulardii
You're most likely to find these seven core genera of organisms in the probiotics available to you commercially. They all have slightly different effects on the body through nonspecific, strain-specific, and species-specific mechanisms. For example, some species-specific mechanisms may help with gut barrier reinforcement, while strain-specific mechanisms might have an effect on the nervous system or immunomodulation.
Before taking a probiotic, it can be helpful to do a little research on the specific strains and species contained within a commercial product. Look up the condition you're trying to treat and see if there is research to support a specific probiotic's use. If so, you can look for a probiotic supplement to help with that condition. Remember, much of the research on probiotics is still in its earliest stages, so there may be no large studies or confirmed results. Still, probiotics are showing promise and are worth a try if you're trying to manage a health condition.
What Happens to Your Body When You Start Taking Probiotics?
Your gut's microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes. Microbes don't just live in the gut, though. They can be found in your mouth, on the skin, within the lungs, and in other places around the body. Some of these helpful microbes include yeasts, bacteria, and fungi.
When they get out of balance, it's possible that you might feel unwell or unlike yourself. That's when you may want to take a probiotic. Probiotics, which consist of helpful bacteria, introduce the microbes that help balance your body. Working together with other microbes, the newly introduced bacteria may help control inflammation and even help improve immune functions.
According to Cleveland Clinic, introducing good bacteria to the body can:
- Help your body create vitamins
- Help prevent bad bacteria from growing out of control
- Prevent diarrhea after a course of antibiotics
- Assist your body in digesting food properly
- Help fortify the intestinal cell lining
- Prevent bad bacteria from entering the bloodstream from the GI tract
You can get your body’s bacteria back into balance by taking a supplement or ingesting foods containing naturally occurring probiotics.
How Long Does It Take for a Probiotic to Work?
The length of time it takes for a probiotic to work will depend on the specific type of probiotic used, the form it comes in, and what you're trying to accomplish. For some people, the benefits of probiotics are seen after just a few weeks, while others may not see results that quickly. In rarer cases, the difference might be noticeable within days.
To keep track of your health, consider using a journal or taking weekly notes. Before taking probiotics, note your initial symptoms, and identify what changes over time.
To make sure you give your probiotics a fighting chance, try seeing them as a longer-term experiment. You need to give your probiotics at least three to four weeks to start working, whether prescribed or commercial. As your microbiome begins to rebalance, you could experience some temporary side effects such as gas, bloating, or headaches. Starting with a lower dosage will generally help minimize these symptoms.
After three to four weeks, consider how you feel compared to when you started the probiotics. Remember, you are looking for improvement at this stage, not necessarily a complete resolution of any negative health effects or conditions you noticed before taking them.
You can also coordinate with your primary care or functional medicine provider if you'd like to have additional support while trying different probiotics to see how your health changes.
Remember that you might need to maintain your new gut microbial balance by taking a maintenance dose of the probiotic or by starting a prebiotic to keep your gut balanced. This process can involve some trial and error, so try to only make changes every three to four weeks and track how you feel over time.
Where Can You Get Probiotics Naturally in Your Diet?
You might be aware that you can get probiotics to replenish helpful gut bacteria from foods such as yogurt, but did you know that many foods contain the probiotics your body needs to stay in sync? Whether you're struggling with diarrhea and constipation or live with irritable bowel syndrome, there are several good probiotic foods to try.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi all offer a boost of the healthy bacteria needed to help soothe an irritable stomach. These three options, as well as other fermented foods, are probiotic-rich and may help you improve your microbiome for healthier skin, reduce problems with your digestive tract, and have other beneficial effects.
Here is a list of additional fermented food options you may want to try:
- Traditional buttermilk
- Miso soup
Try these and other fermented products to see if you notice a difference after your meals.
Certain types of cheeses may contain live cultures thanks to fermentation or being supplemented with live probiotic cultures. Not all types of cheese contain live cultures, so check the packaging before you buy.
Cheeses that are aged but have not been heated in the manufacturing process may have some level of helpful bacteria. Some of the better options to try include cheddar, gouda, mozzarella and certain kinds of cottage cheese.
Supplemented Probiotic Foods
Another way to work healthy probiotic supplements into your diet is by looking for foods that add beneficial bacteria that otherwise wouldn't be present. Look for milk products and juices that add probiotic supplementation in the dairy case.
You can also opt for probiotic supplements that you can find in your pharmacy's supplement aisle. Dietary supplements, in many cases, contain a mixture of different strains that may be able to soothe the problems that are bothering you. When you look at the supplement, check the total number of colony-forming units (CFU), as this tells you how many probiotic cells are inside.
It's typical to see probiotics range anywhere from one to 10 billion CFU per serving, but keep in mind that the total CFU count by itself doesn't necessarily equate to faster or better results.
Probiotics for Neurological Health
A probiotic could make a big difference in how you feel, whether you're struggling with gut issues, mental health, skin health or immunity.
If you're looking to support mental health, Neuralli is the first-ever gut-brain probiotic designed for neurological conditions, including autism spectrum disorder. The L. plantarum PS128 strain is a novel psychobiotic that preclinical studies suggest may help modulate levels of certain neurotransmitters*. Learn more about the science of Neuralli.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.