The short answer is yes! In many ways. But we’re guessing you probably already know that and you’re here for the long answer. You want the nitty gritty on exactly how probiotics can be good for you. We’ve rounded up a heap of exciting (research backed) information on it below so read on.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are the good guys in your gut, the bacteria that fights off the bad guys (bad bacteria), viruses, infections, aid in digestion and so much more.
You’ve got more than 400 species of probiotics hanging out in your small and large intestines and about 40 trillion good and bad bacteria if you’re healthy.
We know, you don’t want to think about bad bacteria in your body right? But the good news is, as long as there’s a balance between the good and bad bacteria or your good bacteria are dominating, then you’ve got no need to worry.
Groups of strains of good bacteria, live microorganisms and yeast are referred to as your ‘gut flora’. Probiotics assist the body with producing a heap of essential vitamins like A, K and B1. According to studies they’re also responsible for about 70% of the body’s immune response and regulating women’s hormones.
You can find probiotics in food naturally like kimchi, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir and pickles. Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, also contains them. Most likely you won’t have many of these foods in your kitchen at home. However you will definitely have prebiotics.
Prebiotics are indigestible fibres in foods that probiotics use as their food to get energy. Just like us, if they don’t have energy they’re not going to be functioning as well as they could. So couple your probiotic supplement of choice with prebiotics like bananas, garlic, onions, wholegrain oatmeal and asparagus for the best results.
Can probiotics really help my health?
There is an overwhelming amount of research that suggests they can. Here’s just a few of the main ways:
Absorption of nutrients
If you’re one of those people who has a full time job, kids, commitments, hobbies and general life things going on, sometimes you just don’t have the time to make sure you’re consuming a well-balanced diet consistently. So to extract the most nutrients out of the food you do eat, studies suggest that you need more probiotics in your diet.
And if you’re actually on top of your diet and exercise, probiotics have been shown to give you an extra booster to help with your weight loss (especially in women).
As suggested by Harvard Medical School, probiotics will ensure you’re getting all the nutrients possible from your healthy foods and just generally help you feel more robust and in control mentally.
It has been suggested that the use of probiotics earlier on in life can work to develop an immune system in babies who may be lacking this defence. It also can protect them against developing allergies later in life as this medical article suggests.
As stated in the article, probiotics encourage the body to suppress the inflammatory response to allergies, there needs to be more study into it but this can help with asthma and eczema flare ups in adults and infants as well.
There’s even evidence to show that certain strains of probiotics can decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease by reducing cholesterol absorption of the gut.
This means that not only are probiotics a great thing for you to be consuming early on in life, you can also utilize them when you’re suffering from an infection or inflammatory response and as a long-term supplement to keep your body thriving.
Probiotics can assist with reducing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and ulcerative colitis.
Research shows that probiotics can also help you to lose weight as absorption of fats from your diet are reduced and your appetite can be suppressed. Although, this will only work in conjunction with regular exercise and a healthy diet, it’s less of a miracle cure and more of a booster. In this study, women who took a probiotic as part of their diet and exercise regime, lost a whopping 50% more than the women who didn’t.
According to Harvard Medical School there is actually a significant link between gut health and mental health called the “gut-brain axis”. Using immune molecules, nerve signals and gut cells, the gut and brain become the most connected organs in our body. Effectively communicating and responding to each other with necessary bodily functions.
So if your gut is healthy, the immune response to inflammation, infection and general issues in the body and brain is going to be quick, alleviating any pressure on the mind and keeping things clear and healthy up top. More research needs to be done on this, but probiotic users are constantly reporting less brain fog and elevated mood (source).
If you’re not sure about probiotics and if they can help you, get to your doctor for a quick chat. They’ll be able to give you a heap of information on probiotics, the best brands on the market and what they recommend professionally for you considering your medical history.
Are there any side-effects to taking probiotics?
The awesome thing about taking a probiotic is that there’s almost no risk of you overdoing it. This is because when the probiotic makes its way to your gut, it doesn’t stay there long. They basically all get flushed out with your normal bodily functions and take the bad bacteria with them.
If you’re starting out though you may experience a few side effects:
Mild digestion issues
Gas and bloating can be common when first introducing a probiotic into your diet. This is because your body is adjusting to the new bacteria, it can last up to about two weeks. To avoid this, start with a supplement that has a lower amount of colony forming units (CFU’s), 10 billion would be a good place to start, and gradually increase after that.
This is a rare one, but if you have allergies of any kind it’s always good to read the label of your supplement and check for your triggers. Some products may contain, soy, egg or dairy. You could also be intolerant to prebiotics – the indigestible fibres that probiotics use for fuel. If you notice a negative effect, switch to a probiotic without them.
Risk of infection
For those people who have a suppressed immune system, have undergone recent surgeries or been in a hospital for an extended stay, there is a small risk of infection. This affects about one in every million people who take a probiotic with the Lactobacilli bacteria. These infections can usually be treated with antibiotics.
So apart from a few uncomfortable reactions to probiotics, like gas, bloating and constipation, they are generally safe for the majority of the population whether you’re getting them from food, drink or a supplement. If you feel as though you’re having an adverse reaction to your probiotic, make sure to see a doctor and get them to take a look at what’s going on.
Tips and tricks for purchasing probiotics
Thinking about purchasing a probiotic? Here’s what you need to know so that you can get the best possible product for your money.
- Check the culture count – That’s colony forming units (CFU’s). Start out slow around 10 billion CFU’s per serve, but gradually increase the amount of CFU’s you consume to get an even more noticeable health boost.
- Check the strains – Go for at least 10 different strains to get a good variety. Or, get targeted strains of bacteria if you’re wanting to focus on a particular health issue. Do your research on what strains are best or ask your doctor for advice.
- Capsules – Make sure you’ve got a product that has an acid-resistant coating if you’re getting capsules, this will protect them on their way through your tummy and into your intestines.
- Shelf life/refrigeration – Probiotics can go off, just like most products. So if it needs to be refrigerated, make sure you keep them cold and that the store you purchased them from did as well. And always get a probiotic that was furthest away from it’s expiry.
- Always read the label – Get strains within the Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, E. Coli and Bifidobacterium species to ensure you’re only getting native bacteria that your body can use. Avoid fillers and extra ingredients. Grab a product with extra vitamins and minerals.
- Prebiotics – This is basically the fuel for your probiotics. Without it they won’t be working to their optimal function. So get a synbiotic product – one that contains both.
- Daily dose – Get a product that’s a once daily dose. This will keep you on track and make it easier to be consistent with dosage.
So, are probiotics good for you? We think so. Probiotics are the key to great gut health, immune function and mental health. They will overall give your body the best chance at working as optimally as possible. Pop down to your local pharmacy and grab a great probiotic supplement. The sooner you start, the better. You can even purchase some of our top recommendations here:
- Probiotics for IBS
- Probiotics for Men
- Probiotics for Women
- Probiotics for Weight Loss
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