Probiotics are a group of living microorganisms that provides nourishments to the body when taken. But there are many deliberations among scientists as to what exact benefits we can derive from these probiotics when we ingest them. Like many people, you’re probably wondering how to improve your gut health, and probiotics can play an important role in maintaining a healthy gut.
When you eat foods made up of fermented ingredients, especially bacteria, and certain supplements, these meals contain probiotics that help nourish your body. The major probiotic bacterias are the Lactobacillus group of bacterias. Some yeasts can also do the same job as probiotics. Scientists are still studying the various microorganisms available to see if they can also function as probiotics similar to bacteria.
Some of the foods that contain probiotics around you are kimchi and yogurt. Others are kefir and tempeh. However, you mustn’t confuse probiotic foods with prebiotics, primarily fibers that feed the normal flora bacteria in your gut, and your body cannot digest prebiotics like probiotics (5).
Types Of Probiotics
Scientists have identified many classes of bacteria as probiotics, but out of all of them, two you should familiarize yourself with are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. You should consult your doctor to explain the best and recommend the most suitable for you.
Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic; you can find them in your yogurt drink. Studies have revealed that we have above fifty species of Lactobacillus. If you are lactose intolerant which means you have difficulty digesting milk, your doctor may want to prescribe lactobacillus.
This group will also be of benefit to you if you have diarrhea. Your doctor can also prescribe this group of probiotics if you have a yeast infection to help you treat the yeast infection and prevent subsequent yeast infections.
The Lactobacillus group will also benefit you if you have a skin infection like eczema and acne (4).
Over thirty kinds of the bifidobacterium group constitute the normal floral in your intestine. In other words, this group will help you if you have intestinal diseases.
Just as lactobacillus will help you with lactose intolerance, the bifidobacteria will help you with glucose intolerance (4). You can find this group in dairy products, and they will be of best to you if you have bowel disease features like bloating, abdominal pain, and others (3).
Saccharomyces boulardii is the only recognized yeast probiotics recorded from studies. It will help you with the treatment of diarrhea. Your doctor may also prescribe this if you have acne to help you reduce the side effects of H.pylori infection (4).
Before these microorganisms can be tagged probiotics, they must exhibit the following features:
- Must be safe enough for consumption
- They must be of benefit to your body system
- They must be gotten from humans
- They must be able to remain in your intestine after ingesting them (1).
How Do They Help Maintain A Healthy Gut?
So how do probiotics work, and what is their role in gut health? Studies have been going on to discover precisely how they work and how they keep your body healthy.
- When you fall ill or have any condition that will cause your body’s standard bacterial floras to be affected or to depreciate, they will help you to act in their place for the time being
- They will also produce equilibrium among the bacteria in your body and ensure they work well in the way they should (3).
- They naturally will aid in the digestion of food in your body.
- When you consume probiotics, they will boost your immunity and act as soldiers against infectious agents that may want to attack your body (1).
What Are The Health Benefits?
Below are some of the health benefits of probiotics to your body:
Treatment of Diarrhea
As discussed earlier, most of the bacteria groups of probiotics help you treat diarrhea and gastroenteritis. However, the effectiveness of the probiotics will depend on the type and dosage of probiotics your doctor prescribes for you (2).
Treatment of Obesity
The lactobacillus group of probiotics has been important in weight loss in obese patients. If you are obese, your doctor may prescribe a lactobacillus probiotic. In a study conducted among 210 people, after 12 weeks, 8.5percent of their belly fat got reduced.
The effectiveness of your probiotic in aiding weight loss will depend on the following:
- The dose your doctor prescribed to you
- The specific brand of probiotics recommended by your doctor
- The duration of your treatment
- Other environmental factors around you (5).
Treatment of hypertension
Your doctor may prescribe probiotics for you as one of your adjunct treatments for hypertension. In addition, studies have shown that fermented milk from lactobacillus has helped patients to lower their blood pressure.
Some also contain vitamin D, which is also known to help lower blood pressure. But there has not been sufficient evidence to prove that probiotics are effective in treating heart failure (2).
Prevention and treatment of infections
Probiotics will be important in your treatment if your doctor ascertains you have a Listeria infection. Also, the lactobacillus group has proven to benefit the treatment and prevention of gut infection, especially from listeria, a notorious bacteria infection (2).
Effect On Immunity
The effect that probiotics have on your immunity is another way that they are beneficial. Some people think that this position is the most crucial. Your immune system will protect you against diseases.
You tend to suffer from diseases due to immunosuppression when your immunity weakens. When you take probiotics, they help to maintain your body’s homeostasis and protect you from these ailments. Probiotics also help to bring balance to the immune system (4).
Mental health diseases
Studies have revealed a connection between the brain and the gut, popularly known as the Brain-gut axis. This way, certain microorganisms in the stomach, like bacteria, could have effects on the brain.
Some schools of thought also have it that by so doing, probiotics could help manage mental health diseases such as depression, and your doctor can prescribe them for you. Others are anxiety, stroke, and other conditions affecting the central nervous system (2).
How Safe And Effective Are Probiotics?
Studies are currently going on regarding how effective they are in maintaining a healthy gut. Although many results indicate a positive effect of probiotics on gut health, much more is still needed to support these findings.
It is also important to remember that probiotics supplements you will get are not necessarily approved by the FDA, unlike other medications. And this also means that the manufacturer of the supplements can convince you to buy them based on the safety and actions seen in other patients using the drugs.
Never use any supplement without the approval of your doctor. In addition, regardless of the needs, you must ascertain that the supplements you will be using will not interfere with other medications you are on (1).
Concerning how effective these drugs are, they are relatably effective considering that some of these microorganisms are present in our body as normal flora, so they are generally regarded as safe and effective.
Like other medications, there are cautions to the use of probiotics. Your health care provider will also consider this before agreeing to use probiotics. These are:
- It is not advisable if you have a chronic illness
- If you are already immunosuppressed, don’t use probiotics
- Post-surgical patients should not opt for probiotics immediately
- Don’t give probiotics to your infants without a prescription (1).
What Are The Side Effects?
When using a probiotic pill for the first time, you can suffer digestive side effects like gas and minor abdominal pain. However, once you’ve adjusted, your body system should start getting used to it.
Probiotics can result in dangerous infections in those immunosuppressed, such as those with transplants, steroidal drugs, sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS, and various other illnesses. Therefore, before using a probiotic supplement, talk to your doctor (5).
Can Children Benefit?
Probiotics play an important role in gut health for the young and the old. When taking an antibiotic, a probiotic may help lessen the length of disease manifestations. It is also helpful in relieving symptoms like bloating, passing of flatus, and constipation. Others are in the treatment of eczema, skin diseases, and the passage of watery stool.
The best way to introduce probiotics to your children is to gradually put them in their foods. For example, you can start by using food like yogurt, which ordinarily is a good diet with fewer side effects.
Make sure you don’t give your children the same probiotics you would take! Children need probiotics specifically tailored to them. Ensure you get appropriate for your age and always have a habit of speaking to your children’s physician before introducing new supplements to them (1).
Can men take probiotics for gut health?
Men and women can improve their gut health and experience benefits from taking probiotics. Look at our article Are These The Best Probiotics For Men In 2022? where we explore the specifics of probiotics for men!