You’ve likely heard the talk around probiotics for gut health—from health blogs, your doctor, or even your local health food store associate. Maybe you even take one now and then. But what are they, and do they actually work?
A Look at the Gut
Gut health is extremely important—not only so that you don’t have to deal with uncomfortable stomachaches, but also so you can actually make your body stronger from the inside. In fact, there’s a direct link between poor gut health and issues like HPA axis suppression and even autoimmunity.
In fact, Leslie Ann Berg, MSPH, says that scientists have discovered “that gut bacteria communicate with immune cells and cells lining the intestinal wall to regulate the immune system’s response to infection.”
What happens in the gut can affect the blood-brain barrier. When harmful bacteria or infections get from your gut to your bloodstream, this can travel up to your brain. A good rule of thumb is: protect your gut, protect your whole body.
What Are Probiotics—And What Do They Do?
One way to take care of your gut—and your overall health—is to add probiotics to your daily regimen. Probiotics are those helpful bacteria that live inside your digestive tract (in fact, your gut plays host to 100 trillion microorganisms), aiding in your body’s ability to stave off illness or infection as well as absorb the nutrients that your body needs.
According to a review published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, probiotics can help restore the gut by balancing out the kinds of bacteria that live within you. They can even help aid in healing acid reflux and facilitating healthy and sustainable weight loss, when combined with a healthy diet.
A study published in 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that participants lost more weight when using probiotics along with a healthy diet than the group who did not use probiotics.
Additionally, probiotics are also prescribed alongside antibiotics, which are medicines used to fight off harmful microorganisms within the body. The reason why is that antibiotics are indiscriminate and can also kill off the good bacteria your body needs. When this happens, your body can become extra vulnerable, sometimes leading to other issues, like yeast infections or urinary tract infections. Probiotics can help replace the good bacteria that was killed off by the antibiotics. If you do develop a yeast infection, ThreeLac is a probiotic that can be used to counter those effects.
One of the go-to reasons people turn to probiotics is their ability to promote bathroom regularity. If you’re going to the bathroom too often or not often enough, a study found that probiotics helped people pass stool more easily and also increased bowel movement frequency. Regularity is important—going to the bathroom too often can dehydrate you, while not going enough can keep toxic waste within your body.
Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN, of Real Nutrition NYC explains, “When you have a balanced gut—and therefore a balanced amount and type of bacteria in our system—things run more smoothly. Constipation is a side effect of our system being off-balance, so probiotics help to counteract that.”
Shapiro also specifically recommends a probiotic containing Bifidobacteria to promote regularity, which is the bacteria strain that aids with constipation.
Are There Any Side Effects to Probiotics?
According to Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, most probiotic side effects are rare, but if you’re concerned, speak to your doctor.
While probiotics are considered the “good guys” of the gut, taking probiotic supplements or eating probiotic-rich foods may, in some instances, cause bloating (especially if you’re guzzling the bubbly kombucha). In this case, talk to your doctor about the proper dosage or which type of probiotic might be right for you.
Some probiotics contain amines (substances that form when certain protein-rich foods are fermented), which could cause headaches, while some probiotic strains trigger histamine release, causing allergy-like symptoms (think a runny nose or watery eyes).
In some rare instances, probiotics have increased the risk of infection, although this risk is very low (about one in one million people who take Lactobacilli and one in 5.6 million people taking yeast-based probiotics).
Also, some probiotics contain soy or other allergens, which could trigger allergic reactions. Generally, however, probiotics are very safe to use.
Where Can You Get Probiotics?
Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria, so your gut will always play host to some of them. However, you want to make sure you have enough of them, especially to balance out any harmful bacteria. That’s where probiotic foods and supplementation comes in.
Probiotics can be found in certain fermented foods and beverages—like kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt. Take a peek at your yogurt label and you may see a live culture called Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG—that’s a probiotic!
You can also supplement with a daily probiotic, like Ortho Biotic, which is a natural probiotic that protects intestinal health, promotes a healthy gut, and boosts immunity. BodyLogic MD offers the highest standard probiotics for all of your needs. The supplements include only the purest ingredients and are made from physician-preferred formulations.
When looking for a probiotic, you’ll want to ensure you’re getting at least 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units). Adults can typically take 1-10 billion CFUs per day, but speak with your doctor about what’s right for your needs.
If you are pregnant or nursing, check with your doctor before taking probiotics. However, there is no documented risk associated between probiotics and pregnancy or lactation. According to a study published in the journal Canadian Family Physician, “When ingested orally or used vaginally, probiotics are generally considered safe and are well tolerated.”
Take care of your health by taking care of your gut. Professional-grade probiotics, like the ones offered from BodyLogicMD, are one of the best tools in your wellness arsenal.
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