Let’s be honest… the digestive system can be a finicky thing. Simple things can throw your gut health out of whack, and poor gut health can do a lot more damage than just give you a stomach ache.
This is where probiotic supplements come in. They’re an easy way to balance out the good gut bacteria in your system and bring your digestive health back to a state of harmony.
Let’s have a look at probiotic supplements, their benefits, potential downsides, and how you can use them to improve your health and wellness.
What Are Probiotics?
The fancy definition of a probiotic is “a microorganism introduced into the body for its health benefits.”
In layman’s terms, probiotics are healthy bacteria that keep your gut in prime condition by maintaining the ideal balance of bacteria in the digestive system.
When bad bacteria enter, these good bacteria go to war. When you have too few good bacteria, you’ll find that digestive problems become common. Increase that good bacteria count with probiotics, and your body is ready to fight off the dangerous invaders.
You can find both probiotics and prebiotics (the healthy bacteria and the stuff they eat) in certain foods and supplements.
In many cases, we don’t get quite enough from our food sources, which is why probiotic supplements are such a handy dietary addition!
1. Probiotic Foods
Natural, healthy probiotics can be found in fermented foods. Yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, and cheese are a few examples of foods that are rich in natural, healthy bacteria.
A large amount of probiotic-rich foods isn’t for everyone though, which brings us to…
2. Dietary Supplements
Not everyone wants to chow down a bowl of yogurt or a serving of kombucha every day! This is why probiotic supplements exist.
These handy supplements provide you with healthy bacteria—often a combination of different types of bacteria—in pill form. No fermented taste, no extra calories, just an easy-to-handle tablet adding probiotic bacteria to your gut so it can stay healthy.
Don’t like taking pills? No worries! You can even get your bacteria in chocolate form. Finally, a great excuse to have chocolate every day!
What Are Probiotics Good For?
The benefits of probiotics have been proven in clinical trials, and you may be surprised to learn that their benefits extend to more than just the gut!
The effectiveness of probiotics has been proven for:
Does your gut health seem all good but you just can’t shake those extra pounds? Studies show that probiotics can help you shed weight (1) by balancing out your gut microbiome and helping the digestive process.
However, in order for probiotics to help with weight loss, you should be following a healthy diet!
Treatment of Diarrhea
Some probiotic strains are helpful for easing the symptoms of diarrhea (2). Saccharomyces boulardii in particular is great for this, so find a probiotic containing it!
Application of probiotics can help to strengthen the gut, reduce dehydration, speed up treatment, and reduce the length of hospital stays due to serious diarrhea (3).
Immune System Health
They say good health begins in the gut. That’s quite accurate! Probiotics not only regulate the bacteria in the gut, but they also play a large role in the immune system response (4).
As well as gut-regulating properties, they also have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal characteristics. This makes them a valuable addition to your body’s defense system!
Probiotics can improve mental health too! Studies suggest that using probiotics can have positive effects on individuals with major depressive disorder.
Some research shows that probiotics alone can improve symptoms. Others recommend using them together with antidepressants (5). However, it’s something you should check with your doctor and psychiatrist if you’re being treated for depression.
Who knew you could boost mental health by improving gut health? It says a lot about how the brain and body are connected!
Yes, good gut bacteria can strengthen your heart too. Research shows that using probiotics can reduce cholesterol levels, improving heart health (6). Add in some light exercise for better results!
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Are There Any Negative Effects of Probiotics?
While probiotics can have a lot of excellent benefits, like anything, there’s a chance of a negative side effect or two if you’re taking them for the first time.
Generally, first-time probiotic users may experience an increase in gassiness, an upset stomach, or bloating in the first few days as your gut gets used to the new bacteria.
If you’re otherwise healthy, the only potential thing to look out for is an allergic reaction. If you have any strange adverse reaction in the first few days, visit your doctor before taking more!
Who Shouldn’t Take Probiotics?
While probiotics are generally healthy for everyone, you should consult your doctor before taking them if you:
- Have an immune system disorder
- Suffer from a serious health condition
- Have recently undergone surgery
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
So, what are probiotics good for? A whole lot of things! When it comes to health and disease, probiotics are the warriors of the body, waging war on unhealthy bacteria and introducing good bacteria to bring your gut health (and the rest of the body) back into balance.
Should you take them? Unless you fit the description of one of the few who should consult a doctor first, we highly recommend a good probiotic supplement. After all, who doesn’t want better digestion, a stronger immune system, easier weight loss, and a mental boost? There’s nothing to lose!