We have all heard of probiotics, BUT do you really understand what they are, why you should (or shouldn’t) take them, or how they work?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that are beneficial to your health and are often times the same kind of bacteria that is already living in your large intestine. Some of the popular probiotics you might recognize are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Benefits of taking a probiotic include:
regular bowel movements
production of antimicrobials that can ward off pathogens
help the body absorb minerals and nutrients
support healthy levels of stomach acid
encourages the production of digestive enzymes
How do you know if taking a probiotic is right for you? Here are a few points to help determine if you could benefit from taking a probiotic supplement:
Have you taken antibiotics in recent years?
While antibiotics do kill off sickness causing bad bacteria in your system, they also kill all of the good bacteria. Without the good bacteria in your gut your immune system is weakened and you are more susceptible to getting sick again. It’s important to rebuild and take of your gut during and after a bout of sickness to help prevent it in the future.
Do you regularly eat processed foods?
Processed food is filled with artificial ingredients, chemicals, and preservatives which disrupt the natural balance of good bacteria in your gut. These foreign substances can also cause inflammation the gut and rest of the body which puts further stress on your digestive system.
Do you live in an urban area?
Regularly spending time in nature and eating fresh food can provide those needed immune boosting bacteria. Most people living in cities spend the majority of their time indoors, surrounded by polluted air, and may not have access to the freshest of food.
There are so many great benefits to taking a probiotic but there are some people who should not take them. People with SIBO many not benefit from a probiotic. SIBO is an overgrowth of lactic acid bacteria in the small intestine. When you add more bacteria to the mix (even good bacteria) it can be more harmful than helpful. It’s best to remove the overgrowth of lactic acid bacteria before adding the probiotics. The immunocompromised should also steer clear of probiotics. Even good bacteria can be too much and overload the body.
When you begin taking a probiotic you may notice some changes and could experience gas or bloating. This is simply a sign that the probiotic is working and the good bacteria are getting rid of the bad bacteria. If these symptoms become too uncomfortable, try lowering the dosage. You may also have more regular and well formed stools. Constipation or loose stool is another detox symptom but shouldn’t last more than a week.
What are CFU’s?
The CFU is listed on the package and can range from the millions to the billions. CFU stands for colony forming unit and is the number of bacteria present that are capable of dividing and forming colonies. A higher CFU doesn’t always mean better! It’s best to look for quality over quantity. The number of CFUs taken also depends on the bacteria and individual. For daily maintenance it’s best to take between 5-10 billions CFUs. If you have a specific ailment you should increase to the 15-45 billion CFU range, but it’s always best to discuss with your doctor when dealing with major issues.
You aren’t limited to taking a supplement to get your probiotics. There are so many foods that are great sources, as well!