You know the feeling after you've been taking antibiotics for a few days? You start feeling all funky and sick to your stomach. That's because while antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they also kill good bacteria, which are probiotics!
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in our digestive system! Probiotics are essential in fighting off the bad, harmful bacteria in our bodies. Health experts believe that probiotics help your body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms, produce substances that have desirable effects, and positively influence your body's immune response!
Other benefits that probiotics have been linked to include:
Reduced risk of disease
Research has shown potential benefits of probiotics in the treatment or prevention of diarrhea, vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, and more!
Bill Dayton, a Personal Trainer at Craig Ranch Fitness + Spa who specializes in nutrition, described the benefits of probiotics:
Defends the lining of the stomach
Improves gut issues
Promotes restful sleep
Promotes brain health
Increases immune system function
Assists with weight loss
In general, just think of probiotics as "good" and "helpful" bacteria. They are your friends, and they boost your health and well-being!
What's the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
"Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve the 'good' bacteria (normal microflora) in the body," Bill Dayton said.
"Prebiotics, on the other hand, are foods (typically high-fiber foods) that act as food for human microflora," Bill continued. "Prebiotics are used with the intention of improving the balance of these microorganisms."
"Probiotics are in foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and sauerkraut," Bill said. "Prebiotics are in foods such as whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, and artichokes."
To further understand the difference between probiotics and probiotics, I turned to Dr. Nicole Shusterman, a Naturopathic Doctor at Craig Ranch Fitness + Spa. She told me, "Have a rotating group of probiotic foods and supplements, and add in prebiotics to act as 'food' for the beneficial bacteria."
Types of Probiotics
There are a wide variety of probiotic bacteria, but the most common include Lactobacillus (helps with diarrhea and may help people who can't digest lactose) and Bifidobacteria (eases symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other conditions).
However, scientists still debate over which probiotics produce which effects. It's best to include a wide range of probiotics in your diet!
Can probiotics have negative effects?
There are even some scientists who are concerned that probiotics may have negative effects.
"Research is ongoing," Bill said. "The health benefits of currently available probiotics and prebiotics have not been conclusively proved."
"There are certain types of probiotics I would recommend avoiding," Bill said. "For example, limited unique strains, probiotic supplements that require refrigeration, and any that have an absence of clinical studies."
In general though, most scientists agree that probiotics found in food are beneficial. Try adding them into your diet for a few weeks, and see if they make you feel any better!
How should I consume probiotics?
Bill said, "Food is always your best bet. Eat your probiotics!" He warned that probiotic supplements are not FDA approved, which means we really don't know what's in them or if they're safe.
And you've probably seen the probiotic drinks, but as Bill said, stick to incorporating probiotics into your diet. Probiotic drinks won't be as beneficial as foods, but you can still add them in if you want to.
Some cheeses (Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese)
Although probiotics are always important to consume, they are the most important when you're on antibiotics that are killing off your good digestive bacteria. When you take your antibiotics, break the pill open and dump the powder into your yogurt. That will offset the negative effects of your antibiotics.
A Final Word on Probiotics
Dr. Nicole Shusterman said, "As our gut microbiome is responsible for so many functions of our health such as immune regulation, neurotransmitter production, as well as, hormone and vitamin metabolism, being mindful of the balance of microbiome is incredibly important!"
She continued, "Probiotics can be a powerful tool for rebalancing and maintaining a diverse and healthy microbiome."
And working probiotic foods in your diet can be subtle. Start with eating one type of probiotic-rich food each week! Sit back and enjoy the benefits of creating a happy gut environment!
If you find that you are feeling even better thanks to probiotics, consider working with a practitioner who can help you unveil what probiotics would be best for you, and how to use them to their fullest potential!