It is a general notion that bacteria cause diseases, but it is not totally true. There are bacteria which actually contribute in maintaining immunity & health. Human body is home to both 'good' and 'bad' bacteria and probiotics are generally grouped under 'good' as they help keep the human gut healthy (on which the overall health of a being depends).
Human digestive system has more than 100 trillion gut bacteria which help in digestion and make sure that food is properly absorbed by the body. If they don't work properly or their quantity goes down, the whole human body suffers. However, its curing capacity is not limited to issues related to the digestive system.
How do Probiotics work?
Though the scientific community is still finding an exact answer to this question, they have enough research data to properly state 'how probiotics help us stay healthy'"
- As per research, when you take antibiotics, the human body loses all types of bacteria, including the good ones. Intake of probiotics can help fill the gaps.
- A regular intake of probiotics also helps in keeping the number of 'good' and 'bad' bacteria balanced.
- Probiotics help with a lot of health conditions, including the ones related to the digestive system. Probiotics make sure that the food moves down the gut smoothly; they help in positively affecting the nerves responsible for the gut movement.
- Mood and mental health
Researchers are still figuring out what ailments they cure or help in reducing the symptoms, here is a small list of health conditions they are used for, by the doctors:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) & Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Diarrhea: It can be caused by a lot of reasons like infection (due to viruses, bacteria, or parasites) or by the use of antibiotics
- As per research data, they are sometimes also used for Skin conditions, like eczema. Probiotics are also said to help with Urinary, oral & vaginal health,
What bacteria does the Probiotics have?
There are a variety of good bacteria which are classified as probiotics. However, they usually brand out from two main groups:
- Lactobacillus: Found in fermented foods like yogurt, Lactobacillus is one of the most commonly found probiotics. It is usually prescribed to the lactose intolerant people (the ones who cannot digest the sugar present in the milk called lactose) and the people who suffer from diarrhea.
- Bifidobacterium: This one is also quite common and is found in many dairy products. It is said to work wonders for people who have IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) and other similar conditions.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: Not just bacteria, there are also yeasts that help people with digestive problems. Saccharomyces boulardii is one such yeast found in a lot of probiotics. It is really helpful to people suffering from diarrhea and other digestive problems.
How often should you take probiotics?
Always take probiotics after consulting your doctor (especially if you have some serious health issue) despite the fact that in the majority of cases probiotics are classified as 'safe for all people'.
Though rare, it should be noted that some people may experience mild side effects for a couple of days after you start the intake of probiotics. Upset stomach, gas, or diarrhea are some of the side effects you may observe. In such cases, stop taking the probiotics & consult your doctor.
When it comes to how to take the probiotics or how much to take at a time, make sure you follow all the directions given on the packaging or the label description. It is clearly mentioned on the label whether the probiotics should be chewed, swallowed, taken with liquid or with food. If you are still unsure, have a word with your doctor or pharmacist.
Some probiotics have Bifidobacterium which don't work in the presence of Antibiotics. So if you are on antibiotics, make sure you consume probiotics 2-3 hours after or before taking antibiotics. Follow the directions given with the product you are using.
People who take probiotics, especially for diarrhea, should stop taking the dose if they have fever unless the doctor says it is safe to resume the dose.
Should children eat probiotics supplements?
Probiotics or prebiotics work well with children and infants who are not chronically or seriously ill, and have good immune systems.
Probiotics are found in a lot of foods like bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, berries, garlic, soybeans, unrefined wheat, unrefined barley and leeks. Since it can be difficult to make children eat things that they don’t like, by giving them probiotics powder with their regular diet can help fulfill the amount of pre-biotic that a child may need.
Should you add prebiotics to the infant formula?
In breast milk, prebiotics like oligosaccharide molecules are present which can’t be digested by the body; they promote the growth of good bacteria in the baby’s gut.
Though infant formulas usually have prebiotics, it is better to have a word with a physician before going ahead.