You must have heard or read the word ‘probiotics’ on some occasions. They are primarily a benefit of yogurt consumption. But probably you’re wondering: what are probiotics? And most importantly, what do probiotics do?
There are so many probiotics that you can find either in food or in dietary supplements. They help you with many health issues, from digestion to even bad breath. But which one is the one that fits you better? You can several kinds of Probiotic supplements.
With different supplements on the market, it is not easy to find the right one. Therefore, we did the research on everything you need to know about probiotics. And we’ll also explain how they work in your body.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living organisms supposed to bring a benefit to your body when consumed. However, medical science has argued about the benefits of taking probiotics for years.
The community of microorganisms in your gut ends up in the gut flora. Furthermore, that bacteria is also referred to as gut microbiota or microbiome.
The gut microbiota includes bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and helminths. The human body is a complex ecosystem that hosts near to 500 different types of microorganisms, and the vast majority of them are bacteria.
An important fact is that the gut flora acts the same way that an organ does. This flora also performs many vital functions, such as manufacturing vitamins. It also helps turn fibers into short-chain fats, which feed the gut walls and help perform metabolic functions.
These helpful bacteria are mostly known for being good for your health, but probiotics are not only bacteria. Some other microorganisms can work as probiotics when consumed. They studied some types of yeast, viruses, and fungi to see how much they help digest food and other health benefits.
Since probiotics are microorganisms such as bacteria, many people question their consumption. Your body has both good and bad bacteria; probiotics are known for being non-prejudicial for you and to benefit instead.
Probiotic is known as “good bacteria” because they help keep your gut healthy and functioning. Also, doctors recommend you consume probiotics if needed, mainly in case of recent diarrhea episodes or when having bad digestion.
The gut flora is also known to be very sensitive to dietary routines. An unbalanced diet can result in an unbalanced intestinal flora, which results in numerous diseases. These diseases can be obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, different types of cancer, and even depression.
How Do Probiotics Work?
The main idea of consuming probiotics is because of the effect they have on the gut, and this effect is to fight other bacteria. Probiotics will fight harmful bacteria when you have too much of them, helping you boost your immune system. There are also probiotics for women.
When ingested, the good bacteria will try to compete with the potentially pathogenic microbes in your gut and try to gain some space to live. The way that good microorganisms do this is by overcrowding your gut, so bad bacteria won’t have room to reproduce.
Effects Of Probiotics
- Probiotics will act on your digestive health by wiping off colonies of prejudicial microorganisms. Also, these good bacteria are known for helping you combat some of the most common digestive issues. A few of these issues are antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, bloating, and even gas. Some studies even point out that having a constant consumption of probiotics can work over ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s disease.
- They can boost your immune system. In recent years, the scientific community has proved the importance of the GI tract over the immune system. About 70% of your immune activity occurs in the digestive system, and it also produces more antibodies than the rest of your body. Probiotics have proved that they stimulate your body to keep producing antibodies constantly in small groups.
- Probiotics can also benefit your skin health. Recent studies have demonstrated that probiotics can improve the mitigation of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne. Some studies also point out that probiotics increase the skin’s natural defense systems.
- The gut will easily absorb food minerals like magnesium and zinc. Probiotic microorganisms help release some enzymes that make it easier for your body to absorb different minerals and other nutrients.
- Also, there’s evidence that probiotics help reduce blood cholesterol. The effect of probiotics over cholesterol takes place because some bacteria don’t allow your body to absorb the fat of some foods. There is another effect and you can also get probiotics for weight loss.
- Recent research supports the theory that certain gut bacteria called ‘psychobiotics’ may help to treat different mental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson and depression.
- More research proves the link between psychobiotics and the treatment of autism.
What Are The Different Types Of Probiotics?
Because of the increase in probiotic popularity, you may find many supplements on the market, from probiotics for women to probiotics for men. But the question you must be asking is: which supplement fits me best?
To answer this question, you must consider the effect of each probiotic associated with your general health. For example, the most popular probiotics for men are those that promote prostate health and raise testosterone levels. And the most popular probiotics for women are those that help the vaginal microbiome to protect against urinary tract infections. There are also probiotics for UTI if you would like to know more.
Probiotics can contain a great variety of microorganisms. The most common are bacteria that belong to two groups known as bifidobacterial and lactobacillus. There are other bacteria used as a probiotic, such as saccharomyces boulardii.
Besides the genera division, probiotics are classified into subtypes known are species. Each of these probiotic species has different effects on your body. The names of these microorganisms have the genera starting letter and the name of the subtype.
Most consumed probiotics are species that belong to two different genera. Also, medical science focuses mainly on these two because of their benefits to the human body. So before taking any probiotic supplement, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor first.
Main Types of Probiotic Supplements:
This is a species of bacteria commonly used in foods and supplements. They are good for supporting the immune system and limiting the growth of prejudicial microorganisms in the gut. They also help break down lactose nutrients so the body can feed on them.
In the Bifidobacterium group, we can find:
- B. Animalis: It’s great for aiding the digestive process and fighting food-borne bacteria. There’s the theory that B. Animalis can boost your immune function.
- B. Breve: This species is known for living both in the digestive tract and the vagina. Breve helps your body by fighting infection-causing bacteria. It also helps your body consume food nutrients by fermenting sugars and also can break down plant fiber to make it easier to digest.
- B. Lactis: This microorganism primarily exists in raw milk, and some brands use it for infant probiotic formula. It also is used in the making of cottage cheese and buttermilk.
- B. Longum: This works perfectly as an antioxidant and helps break down carbohydrates to make them easier to digest. B. Longum lives in the gastrointestinal tract.
- B. Infantis: This is the single largest beneficial probiotic population in babies. A healthy diet supplemented with B. Infantis can decrease the difficulty of bowel movements and bloating. This probiotic is best for overall digestion and promotes regularity.
This may be the most common of all probiotics. This bacterium is well known for its ability to break down lactose. This probiotic is also responsible for lactic acid, which helps to control the bacteria population in the GI tract. Lactobacillus exists mostly in the mouth and the small intestine.
Lactic acid can create an acidic environment in your digestive system, which can prevent the growth of different pathogens associated with food and digestion. It also will help you to absorb minerals like iron and zinc.
Some lactobacilli are:
- L. Acidophilus: You can find this microorganism in probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and fermented soy products such as miso and tofu. The L. Acidophilus lives in the small intestine and vagina, and it can help digestion and get rid of harmful vaginal bacteria.
- L. Reuteri: These species live in your mouth and intestine. L. Reuteri helps get rid of the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay.
- L. Fermentum: These probiotics exist in kimchi and sourdough. It also contains antioxidants that help neutralize toxic products formed in the intestinal tract during the digesting process. The L. Fermentum helps overall digestion, detoxification, boosting immunity, and reducing bloating.
Streptococcus has more strains than those that contain the disease-causing bacteria. Streptococcus has bacteria that help produce lactic acid and also help prevent disease.
Many Streptococcus strains can be found in your mucus and even in your skin. Some of the Streptococcus species work as pesticides and growth additives for plants.
Some of the streptococcus subspecies are:
- S. Thermopilus: It’s found mostly in the colon, where it boosts immune and digestive benefits. This streptococcus produces lactase which helps people digest lactose easier. It’s also helpful in the production of chemicals that help prevent infections such as pneumonia.
- S. Salivarius M18: Found mainly in the oral mucosa. Produces bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances, known as BLIS. Also, it can produce an anti-inflammatory response in gums and teeth.
- S. Salivarius K12: Found in oral mucus membranes. It has similar effects as M18 because it produces BLIS too. Also, it helps children get better ear health and reduces sulfur compounds in the mouth, helping prevent bad breath.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: This is more like a yeast than a bacterium but is also a very common probiotic. S. Boulardii is mainly used to fight diarrhea, acne ulcers, and other digestive conditions.
Differences between prebiotics and probiotic supplements
It’s important not to confuse prebiotics and probiotics, even though both can be found as supplements and even in the food itself.
Prebiotics are plant-based organisms, and you can see them as a fertilizer that helps grow healthy bacteria in the gut. Most fruits and vegetables contain prebiotics, especially those that contain complex carbohydrates. Since these types of carbs are not digestible by your body, they pass through directly to your intestine and become food for bacteria.
Probiotics, on the other hand, contain live organisms. They usually contain different strains of microorganisms that are added directly to the population in your gut. Probiotic supplements also contain living organisms. A single dose may include a single strain or a blend of different microbes.
You should also keep in mind that there exist many types and brands of supplements, and they carry many types of microorganisms. For example, the most commonly used bacterium is lactobacillus, but there are around 120 species of it. At the same time, about 12 species of microorganisms are used as probiotics.
Before taking any supplement, whether prebiotic or probiotic, you should always talk to your doctor first.
What Exactly Do Probiotics Do?
Not all probiotics are the same, and of course, they do not all do the same functions in your organism. Some probiotics even help you get rid of oral microorganisms that can cause cavities.
There are a few others that will help you have better digestion and others with different benefits.
Some digestive specialists recommend the use of probiotics to fight off disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. Since the 90’s, different clinical studies have proven that the use of probiotics can help treat gastrointestinal ills. They can also prevent vaginal and urinal infections in women and even delay the development of allergies in children.
Health Benefits Of probiotics
Some of the conditions that probiotics can treat are:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Some of the studies’ results are inconclusive, but there is a lot of research that boosts the idea that probiotics can help relieve the effects of irritable bowel syndrome.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Probiotics may help maintain remission of some digestive problems. Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis are some of them.
Lactobacillus GG is a bacterium that helps greatly in reducing the course of infectious diarrhea in children, but this case is not the same in adults, where it can have few to no effects.
Skin conditions like eczema
Probiotics can also help strengthen the skin, allowing it to resist better any case of infection and allergies.
Urinary and vaginal health
Just like the intestinal tract, the vagina is also a very delicate and balanced ecosystem. Lactobacillus strains that are dominant in the vagina make it too acidic for almost any other bacteria to survive. But some factors can throw the vagina system out of balance. These include birth control pills, antibiotics, and spermicides. However, probiotic treatments prove beneficial to the restoration of the vagina’s microflora.
Helicobacter Pylori is the major cause of gastritis and peptic ulcer. Not only that but also this microorganism is mostly antibiotic-resistant. Because of that, many professionals tend to recommend the use of some probiotic supplements before trying any modern medicine to treat these diseases.
Recurrence of Bladder Cancer
There is limited evidence on how probiotics can help reduce the recurrence of bladder cancer. However, research supports the fact that they help to fight urinal tract infections and some other bladder infections, such as bladder inflammation. But certain probiotics appear to improve the body’s response to bladder tumors.
Some probiotics help fight oral pathogens, such as those responsible for cavities and teeth loss.
In 2019, a study on probiotics set out to establish the connection between the effect that gut flora has on the immune system and how it helped prevent Covid-19 symptoms.
Some Covid-19 patients reported having different gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and appetite loss. Also, imbalances of the gut flora are commonly related to lung disease and respiratory tract infections.
Research theorizes that keeping the intestinal flora balanced can improve lung health. These results lead to think that it might help guard the respiratory system against pathogens like SARS-CoV-2.
Probiotics can also help some mental health conditions
Some recent studies link gut health to good mood and mental health. Also, these studies show a link between probiotic supplements and the improvement of some mental health disorders.
Some researchers have demonstrated the link between taking probiotic supplements with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and the improvement of anxiety, depression, and others.
Some certain probiotics help your heart stay healthy
Certain bacteria may help reduce cholesterol by breaking down bile in the gut. This function, at the same time, helps reduce bad cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.
Bile is made almost entirely of cholesterol, and bacteria prevent it from getting back into the blood strain by breaking it down. Also, some studies show that regularly eating probiotic yogurt helps reduce up to 5% cholesterol in the blood.
Probiotics act on your body weight and help reduce your belly fat
This fact can be one of the most exciting features for most people. Many mechanisms help probiotics bring about weight loss. For example, some probiotics prevent your gut from absorbing dietary fat.
Since probiotics help increase the number of some hormones, such as GLP-1, they can make you feel full for longer. Also, this hormone causes the organism to burn more calories and store less fat than usual.
But it is always important to keep in mind that not every probiotic helps with fat loss. On the other hand, probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus can even lead you to gain more weight.
How to Use Probiotics Safely
There might be many reasons why you’re considering using probiotics in your daily diet. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and the abuse of antibiotics can cause you to lose your natural bacteria. At the same time, the loss of intestinal bacteria can lead to infection and inflammation.
Of course, adding probiotic supplements or consuming probiotic foods regularly can prevent inflammation and other digestion-related issues.
There are many ways to add probiotics to your daily basis. The best way for you to get the benefits of probiotics can depend much on your criteria.
There are tons of supplements and thousands of customer reviews on the internet. You can get probiotics from tablets, capsules, and even powders that contain bacteria in the dried form.
You can also get probiotics from a wide variety of foods. In many fermented products, you can find live probiotics. Foods like pickles, miso, kefir, kimchi, and soy products are rich in lactic acid bacteria.
Medical research has proven probiotics to be beneficial for most common gastrointestinal issues, like irritable bowel disease. Furthermore, probiotic bacteria also help manage other aspects of human health. The benefits of probiotics have been known for years, but it’s also important to keep in mind that there could be health risks due to their consumption. Being aware of this will ensure that you’re safe when it comes to taking a supplement.
Possible Side-Effects of Probiotics
We made a list of possible side-effects of probiotics for you:
- Possible Digestive Troubles: It is very common that when people start using probiotics, they can face symptoms like bloating, gas and diarrhea. These symptoms take place because the gut community is changing in response to the new bacteria presence. These symptoms last only over a few weeks, but if they persist, do not hesitate to look for a doctor.
- Adverse skin Reactions: Though it is very rare, probiotics can cause rash and itchiness in some people. Depending on the severity of the symptom, you should stop the supplement. It is crucial that you watch the label to make sure there are no allergens contained in the formula before taking any supplement.
- Allergic reactions: It is not uncommon to have allergic reactions, not to the probiotic itself but the other components in the supplement’s formula. People with allergies to certain foods such as eggs, gluten, soy, and lactose must be extra careful. Always make sure to read all of the components of the supplement before trying it.
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: Or SIBO, can happen after taking probiotics. Both intestines, large and small, have different strains of bacteria, and this can happen when bacteria from the large intestine grow into the small intestine.
- Risk of Getting an Infection: This happens mostly in children and elders. People with compromised immune systems, like premature infants, are at risk of infection. The additional presence of new bacteria can affect their immune systems and cause an infection.
- Antibiotic Resistance: Some probiotics contain antibiotic-resistant genes, and these genes can pass to other bacteria in your organism. High-quality supplements avoid all these types of risks by clinically testing all of their products; make sure to get yours from a trusted manufacturer.
How To Get Probiotics
The local drug department regulates most probiotics, and they hit the market as food ingredients. In most countries, the law regulates dietary fiber supplements. But in some cases, supplements do not require approval before their marketing.
Dietary supplement regulations vary from one country to another, so maybe buying online is a choice you should think twice about. Always look for companies that follow practices such as third-party testing. And don’t forget to read the customer review section if buying online.
Maybe the safest choice for consuming probiotics is to acquire them directly from your healthcare provider or at least have suggestions.
Having a healthy gut and a good digestion process will always be a benefit for your general health. But in the search for good health, you may also get exposed to issues mentioned earlier. That’s why it is so important to be aware of the possible side effects.
Probiotics: What you need to know
A probiotic organism is a living organism that can help you maintain healthy health when ingested and applied to the body. These can appear in fermented dairy products like yogurt, and other fermented foods, nutritional supplements and beauty items. Nonetheless, some people view bacteria as being harmful, although many actually help. Various bacteria can help in digesting nutrient-rich substances or in the production of vitamins. Most bacteria and viruses found in probiotics are the same or similar to bacteria that exist naturally inside your body.
Conclusion: What Does Probiotics Do?
Having good health, a healthy intestine, and good digestion is a little bit more than just adding probiotics to your diet. Daily exercise and a good diet are just as important as adding supplements to your daily basis.
But on the other hand, probiotics supplements offer you a wide range of health benefits at the same time that side effects are minimal or rare to occur. You can get answers to several questions like, how to improve gut health?
You must remember that there are many types of good bacteria, and many of them are available on the market. So, keep in mind that you must have an expert opinion before taking any new dietary supplement.
And as a final note, always read the label before acquiring any supplement or medicine. Make sure that you’re not allergic to any component in the formula and that there are medical studies to back it up. The benefits of probiotics usually outweigh any possible side effects, but prevention is the key to safety.