Probiotics are good bacteria and yeast that help our digestive system. There are pills that have been made to contain probiotics similar to those that live in some areas of our gut.
It has gained a lot of popularity within the last couple of years which is why we decided to write an article that focuses on what probiotics are and when it’s best to take them.
Some bacteria and yeast are disease-causing organisms responsible for many human diseases and illnesses. However, there are “good” bacteria and yeast which are not harmful to us but are very beneficial.
Some of these good bacteria live in our bodies while others live on our body. They are tasked with several duties, of which the most important is protection. For example, some skin bacteria help protect us from the invasion of disease-causing bacteria by feeding on them.
How Do They Work?
Probiotics work in different ways to carry out the functions which have led millions to include them in diets. These mechanisms are still being researched on, but have so far been grouped together. Broadly speaking, it works by
- Supplying our body with “good” bacteria when there’s a shortage, for example after a course of antibiotics.
- Reducing the number of disease-causing bacteria in the body.
- Balancing the level of good and bad bacteria in your body to reach a perfect balance necessary for good health.
- Stimulating the body to prepare an effective defense against invading bad bacteria.
When Is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?
Probiotics are sensitive and are best taken at particular periods in the day. Peak times may differ from person to person, as well as the particular reason for usage.
For example, people requiring probiotics as an aid for digestion need to take it at every meal time. Many products have confusing and varying labels but generally, probiotics are best taken:
- 30 minutes after a meal. The intestinal environment may be too harsh for probiotics when taken at periods when there is no food intake. Also, probiotics work best if there are available sources of sugars called prebiotics which act as fuel for them.
- Do not take probiotics early in the morning. At this time, the stomach is empty and very acidic, these live organisms will most certainly die out.
- After a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics often deplete the probiotic population when used and this causes an imbalance in the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the body.
Which Conditions Are Probiotics Useful For?
Probiotics have been especially helpful in some specific disease conditions affecting the digestive system, as well as the whole body. The conditions in which probiotics have been found to be particularly useful include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Antibiotics-related diarrhea
- Viral diseases affecting the gut
- Skin diseases, like eczema
- Allergies and cold prevention.
- Maintaining decent urinary and vaginal health.
- Oral health, particularly the prevention of gum disease and bad breath.
They are also useful in:
- Blood pressure management
- Maintaining a healthy weight
What Are The Types Of Probiotics Commonly Used?
Many different types of probiotics are often packaged and touted to offer several benefits, containing different bacteria types which may be between 1 billion to as high as 200 billion organisms.
However, they are mainly of three types that are commonly found in the body, and you should ask your doctor for the type which may be most beneficial to you. The commonest are:
- Lactobacillus: Perhaps the most common bacteria in probiotics in use today. They are found naturally in the human body, predominantly in the small bowel. These are commonly seen in yogurt and other food items which undergo fermentation before human consumption. They contain different strains of bacteria which may be beneficial to people who have diarrhea and those unable to digest milk and other lactose-containing products.
- Bifidobacteria: They are commonly found in dairy products and particularly useful for irritable bowel syndrome patients as it eases symptoms. They are naturally found in the large intestine.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: This is a yeast commonly seen in probiotics and is capable of fighting diarrhea and other digestive tract illnesses.
In choosing a probiotic supplement, get clearance from your doctor. Not all probiotics are the same.
Where Are Probiotics Found?
Probiotics are found in specialized supplements packaged for sale. However, some food items, like yogurt have these good bacteria in them.
They are good for the digestive system, the skin, heart, and bones, and may be useful in depression. Food items that contain probiotics include:
- Yogurt: This is milk that has undergone fermentation by bacteria, usually Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. It may be especially helpful for lactose intolerant individuals, hypertensives, and patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Because the bacterial content may be killed during the processing of yogurt, it is much better to procure those labeled and indicated as containing active probiotics.
- Kefir: Made from cow or goat milk that has been fermented with the addition of kefir grains. They are thought to be helpful in improving bone health, as well as helping the digestive and immune systems.
- Cheese: Although cheese is produced through the process of fermentation, not all cheese contains probiotics. When making a purchasing decision, you should examine the label to see if it’s mentioned. They are very helpful in improving our overall wellbeing, the digestive system, and may protect against osteoporosis in the long term.
- Pickles: These are cucumbers that were left to soak in a salt water solution to allow for fermentation using their natural bacteria. They are an important source of Vitamin K which is useful for blood clotting and also, probiotics. They, however, have high levels of sodium and must be eaten in moderation.
- Miso: This Japanese seasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus. It is a good source of protein, minerals, and fiber as well as being a good source of probiotics.
What Are The Side Effects Of Probiotics Use?
Overall, you should ask your doctor if taking probiotics is a good idea for you, even though these supplements are generally safe for most people. Individuals with a weakened immune system, pregnant women or individuals with a serious health concern should not take probiotics.
Even though side effects are said to be minimal with probiotics usage, they may occur in some people because they are generally not scrutinized in the same manner as other drugs.
Some of the side effects that may result from probiotics use include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach upset
- Bacteraemia (bacteria in the blood)
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