Way back when in high school science class, you probably learned about how the human body has a symbiotic relationship with hundreds of billions of other organisms living on, and in, the body itself.
No matter how icky that might sound (the very notion made Howard Hues go nuts), most of the bacteria living within the body is useful. Inside the digestive tract, helpful bacteria known as probiotics assists in the breaking down of food.
But with the body already packed full of this “good” bacteria, why consider consuming more?
We’ve got all the answers to questions you might have regarding probiotics, the health benefits and why you should consider adding a probiotic supplement to your daily regimen right here.
Hold On, So You Want Bacteria In Your Body?
If you’ve taken a single step into a grocery store in the last few decades, you’ve probably seen more than your share of cleaning items marked “anti-bacterial.”
So, the very notion of eating bacteria is a bit alarming at first.
When you want to kill all of the bacteria, why would you turn around and eat it?
That’s because, much like cholesterol, there is a good kind and a bad kind.
Probiotics just happen to be a good bacteria.
Probiotics already exist inside of your body. While found in varying organisms, the vast majority is located with your digestive system. In fact, the probiotic bacterial makeup within your body is different from anyone else. Every healthy human has around 1,000 different kinds of bacteria in their digestive system, while up to 500 of these bacterial strains are unique to you. This is because the bacteria is made up of your specific DNA. (The Active Times, 2016).
Good bacteria assist in the breakdown and digestion of food. It also helps your body absorb nutrients following the breakdown. Without a healthy number of active probiotics in your body, which can range anywhere from around 5 billion and 30 billion, your body will struggle to break down food and absorbing nutrients.
This means you’re missing out on vital vitamins and minerals, not to mention proteins for repairing muscles and delivering energy to the rest of your body (The Active Times, 2016).
What Causes a Drop in Probiotics in the Body?
Your body naturally creates probiotics.
However, there are times where desirable levels drop off and your body no longer breaks down ingested material or absorbs nutrients as it should.
This is a sign you need to begin taking probiotics. But what causes this drop off in bacteria within the digestive system?
There are a handful of potential reasons.
First, you might have just had a bad stomach flu or cold. If you suffered through diarrhea, there’s a good chance you pushed out more bacteria than you could reproduce. In the event of a cold or flu, your natural levels of bacteria will likely return to normal in a short period of time, although you can always help increase these levels with an added supplement (more on this later).
Antibiotics are another common cause of low probiotic levels. The medication may be designed to target certain
The medication may be designed to target certain bacteria and germs in the body. As it passes through your stomach, the medication can attack the good bacteria, leaving you with a reduced level. Much like dealing with the flu, if you’re on the antibiotics for a short period of time your levels will even out.
However, if the antibiotics are prescribed for an extended period of time, you run the risk of having a large percentage of your bacteria killed off, which leaves you exposed to additional problems. In this case, your doctor may instruct you to add a probiotic. If not, make sure to ask about the inclusion of such in your diet to make sure it doesn’t affect how the medication works.
Lastly, your body as it ages begins to slow down production of necessary cells. While the bacterial is not an actual part of your body, the living organisms do rely on your body to live.
So as your body begins to slow down cell production, there may not be enough needed nutrients for the probiotics to survive, which can reduce the number within your body.
What Happens When You Suffer From a Drop in Probiotics
Generally, there are warnings signs you may be suffering from a drop in a healthy probiotics level.
These issues may come out of nowhere or gradually develop. Realistically it just depends on what is causing the drop off in your probiotics. The signs you are suffering from a low probiotic rate are also the same as if you’re suffering from medical conditions and you need to increase your probiotic levels.
You may begin experiencing problems using the restroom. You may not go as often and you may feel discomfort in your stomach throughout the day and might need to look into how to get rid of bloating. This can be in a form of gas or you may feel uncomfortable while food is digested. Additionally, as your body is no longer absorbing all the ingested nutrients from your food, it may lead to dry, dull skin and hair.
These changes will more likely than not correspond with a change in your way of life.
You may now take a new form of medication or receive a regular medical treatment. An increased level of stress may also cause a drop off in your probiotics level.
It is why you need to not only be mindful of your conditions but what changes have occurred regarding the way you live as well (WebMD, 2017).
Benefits of Probiotics
Maintaining a healthy level of good bacteria in your digestive system can help with a wide range of medical conditions.
While there are a handful of digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease and infectious diarrhea, it can also help with chronic stomach inflammation and most digestive ulcers. If you suffer from heart burn or are overly gassy when you wake up, there is a possibility your body is not digesting food as it should, which causes this increase in inflammation within the body.
An increase of probiotics may help with this.
After all, the last thing you want is to have someone over at night while you suffer from the nocturnal flatulent problems (thankfully you can always call them out on passing gas while asleep as well to help even the odds as they can’t deny it).
Outside of stomach and digestive issues though, an increase in probiotics levels can help with vaginal infections, skin infections, and even tooth decay.
By helping with the breakdown of food and the absorption of nutrients, it ensures your skin receives the necessary vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. It also prevents gas and other bacteria from pushing back up through the mouth (back to the gas and cramping issues), which can lead to the bacteria eating away at your teeth.
Essentially, the bacteria in your stomach does more to keep you healthy than you likely ever guessed (Medicine Net, 2017).
Two Common Forms of Probiotics
As we went over earlier, there are literally thousands of different kinds of probiotics found in your body.
Most of these though fall under one of two categories.
The first is referred to as lactobacillus. This is the kind of bacteria you’ll find in fermented foods or even yogurt (you’ve probably seen advertisements from celebrities regarding staying regular by eating a certain brand of yogurt. It is because it contains both fiber and probiotics). This kind of probiotic strain is used with people who are unable to properly digest lactose.
The other common form of probiotics is Bifidobacterium. Another form of dairy, it usually helps those who suffer from IBS and other stomach and bowel conditions.
If you’re considering adding a probiotic to your daily diet, knowing which category it falls under should help you identify the right product to choose (WebMD, 2017).
Are There Any Side Effects From Probiotics?
While a bit different from the girl in you heard about who swallowed a tape worm to help increase weight loss (don’t follow in her footsteps), adding living organisms into your body does have some side effects, although these side effects are especially mild.
Realistically, as long as you don’t go overboard with your probiotics intake, you won’t experience any kind of side effects.
If you do, it may be a slight feeling of bloating or even gas. Typically this is just your body adjusting to the new level of probiotics and it will level off eventually. Outside of this, there are no other realistic side effects.
If you have a major medical condition the addition of bacteria in your body can infringe on the treatment, which is why you need to check with your doctor if you do have any kind of current medical condition (Medicine Net, 2017).
Alright, But Where Can You Get These Probiotics?
So you’ve gone through all the information and have decided you should increase your level of probiotics in your daily diet.
Whether you suffer from a painful stomach condition or you just want to see if it can improve your nutrition absorption, there are all sorts of products to choose from regarding probiotics.
As already mentioned, you can find it in certain yogurts. It is important though to not just pick up any kind of yogurt though. Sure, that stuff with fruit in the bottom can be pretty good (crumble up some graham crackers and you have a strawberry shortcake), but it doesn’t mean it has the level of probiotics not to mention you might go through a sugar withdrawal!
One of the downsides of buying dairy products in the United States is just about everything is pasteurized.
Basically, all bacteria has been sandblasted away. This removes nearly all good bacteria you might want (if you’re living in Europe though just about every piece of cheese or dairy product that isn’t pasteurized will come packed with probiotics). Instead, look for yogurt specially marked to include “probiotics.” Some other foods include miso soup, sauerkraut or just about anything else that pickled.
If you want the easy way out, you can always go to the supplement section of the store. Here you’ll find different kinds of probiotic pills, gummies, and powders. L-glutamine is also an extremely effective option. You just need to decide which works best for you. A pill is pretty easy to pop and you can travel with it easier (checking a bag of probiotic yogurt through security is probably a quick way to be flagged by the FAA).
You can even find a protein powder that comes with probiotics in it now. Just keep in mind these particular products usually do not have as much protein as your standard muscle-building product, and you’ll need some extra time to shake up the mixture as these protein powders tend to take on a curdled texture when just using a glass and spoon method.
But from dairy to supplements and protein powder, there are plenty of ways to add probiotics to the diet (Mind Body Green, 2013).
When Should I Take the Probiotics?
You could take your probiotics at any time of the day.
Never a bad time to put good bacteria into your stomach. If you can select a time though, it is best to do it an hour or so before a meal. This way, you give the good bacteria a head start to make its way into your stomach.
By the time the food you consume arrives in the stomach you’ll already have your full armament of bacteria, ready and waiting to digest and extract nutrients.
Probiotic bacteria is an important element in your digestive system.
If you suffer from stomach pain, have the occasional problem passing waste or you simply want to fire up your digestive enzymes to help prevent food from sitting in your stomach for too long, adding probiotics to your diet is extremely easy.
Just make sure you follow the instructions on any supplement you are taking and, as always, if you have any kind of current medication condition, make sure to talk with your doctor about whether adding probiotics to your diet is the right way to go.