Top 7 Questions about Probiotics
Your body is filled with billions of bacteria, many of which are actually helpful and necessary to good health. These are known as probiotics, and here are some common questions about them.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms that normally inhabit your gut (allowing for healthy digestive health) and vaginal tract (allowing for good vaginal and urinary health). Probiotics are also found on your skin. In each organ we can see what happens when probiotics die off and bad bacteria are allowed to grow without competition. Taking a dose of antibiotics can wipe out gut bacteria, causing diarrhea in a condition called antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The healthy vagina is also teeming with specific probiotics called Lactobacillus that normally keep urinary tract infection-causing E coli away of the urinary tract and bacterial vaginosis causing Gardnerella vaginalis away. On the skin pimples are caused by an overgrowth of P acnes bacteria.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are nutrients that can help to feed probiotic bacteria in your body, allowing for greater growth. Prebiotics are present in a variety of whole grain and fibrous foods, including onions, garlic, asparagus, and bananas.
Should You Take Probiotics?
Probiotics should be a part of everyone’s everyday diet. Probiotic levels can be depleted or unbalanced by a variety of factors, including hormonal imbalances. Antibiotics are effective for fighting bacterial infections, but they can also wipe out your probiotics. Replenishing your probiotics with foods or dietary supplements can help to maintain good immune and digestive health.
What are the Different Types of Probiotics?
A variety of bacteria are classified as probiotics, but most come from two groups: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The two most common probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus (often used for treating acute diarrhea and reducing symptoms of lactose intolerance) and Saccharomyces boulardii (improves certain gastrointestinal disorders).
What Foods Contain Probiotics?
Many foods that have been fermented or cultured with live bacteria naturally contain probiotics. This includes:
Do Probiotics Have Any Side Effects or Risks?
Probiotics have been found to come with mild side effects, like gas and bloating. However, these side effects often subside within the first couple weeks of starting probiotics and can be reduced or avoided by drinking more water or taking probiotics on an empty stomach.
How Should You Take Probiotics?
Along with eating probiotic-rich foods, you should take a probiotic supplement, which makes it easy to measure just how many probiotics you get each day.