Probiotics are actually live bacteria or yeast in form of a capsule. Even though the word bacteria usually means something bad, it is not the case here. There are good bacteria in our body, and the best example are the ones living in the colon. They help with digestion, produce vitamin K, and prevent bad bacteria from infecting the colon. The idea of probiotics was found in the early 20th century, by Elie Metchnikoff, who became known as the father of probiotics. He theorized that consuming good bacteria could improve health.
This type of medication spurred interest in 1990s. Doctors started wondering about probiotics, and they became popular really quick. Today you can find them in all kinds of foods like yogurts, or in supplement form. They are mostly taken to ease some gut disorders.
Be sure to know the difference between probiotics and prebiotics. While probiotics contain bacteria, prebiotics do not. Prebiotics are substances that favor the growth of good bacteria over the bad ones.
How can bacteria help us?
The way probiotics work is really simple. Certain diseases, disorders and medication can damage your own good bacteria in the colon. This leads to problems with digestion. When probiotics are taken, new bacteria replaces the damaged one and bring things back to normal.
Probiotics maintain the desired amount of good bacteria.
By colonizing the bowel, they prevent bad bacteria from spreading.
If your good bacteria become overrun by bad bacteria which causes inflammation, probiotics can help balance things out.
With some disorders, bacteria in probiotics produce enzymes and other compounds, which can help with inflammation.
They can stimulate the immune response.
It is important that a probiotic can survive stomach acid, and bile in order to reach small intestine and do it’s thing.
What kind’s probiotics are out there?
As we mentioned before, probiotics can be bacteria or yeast.
This type of probiotics contains bacteria – Lactobacillus spp. It is considered to be the most common one in use. Interestingly, it was used way before people ever knew about probiotics. How come? Well, Lactobacillus spp. Is bacteria commonly found in yogurt. So ever since people started taking yogurt, they started using probiotics without even knowing it.
Another type of bacterial probiotic.
This one is actually yeast based. It is widely available. As Saccharomyces boulardii is not dangerous for human health, this probiotic can be used safely. The yeast doesn’t permanently stay in the colon, but is cleared naturally soon after the medication is discontinued.
Since yogurt itself contains significant amount of viable bacteria – Lactobacillus spp. it can be classified as a probiotic.
When to use probiotics?
Due to popularity of probiotics, many studies have been done regarding their use. Their effect has been studied for all kinds of disorders – from allergic reactions to autism.
A) Let’s start with the obvious one – bowel disorders. Probiotics play an important role in maintaining the balance between bacteria and immune system in digestive tract. One study has shown their effectiveness against: diarrhea (infectious, antibiotic associated, or the one associated with Clostridium difficile), irritable bowl syndrome, ulcerative colitis, necrotizing enterocolitis etc. The problem is that the type and amount of probiotics used hasn’t been precisely determined yet.
B) Antibiotic associated diarrhea occurs when the antibiotics have been used for a very long time, or in high amounts. While destroying bad bacteria, they also damage the good one as well. This leads to bowel disorders such as diarrhea. It is recommended to take probiotic supplement while on an antibiotic therapy.
C) An extensive research was done on effectiveness of probiotics against traveler’s diarrhea. This disorder is common among tourists. When people travel to other countries and eat local food, they expose themselves to bacteria, viruses and amoebas that are unknown to their organism. This causes the death of good gut bacteria, with the following symptoms: diarrhea, nausea, bloody stool and stomach pain. All kinds of probiotics can be use to treat the disorder.
D) When it comes to allergic dermatitis and rhinitis probiotics have shown promising effects.
E) Oral health issues such as tooth decay can also be treated with probiotics.
F) Therapy of Helicobacter pylori in children can be supplemented with Lactobacillus probiotics.
G) When it comes to patients on hemodialysis, probiotics have shown a great effect in preventing and treating chronic renal failure.
H) Probably the most interesting effect has been shown on children with autism. The first part of this study has proven that there is a significant change in gut bacteria in these children. After 3 months of using probiotic supplement, there was a beneficial effect on both behavioral and gut bacteria disorder.
Are probiotics safe?
The safety of probiotic supplements depends on your own health.
When it comes to generally healthy people, probiotics are completely safe to use. There are only rare mild side effects, such as gas.
Ill patients are a whole different story. There have been reports of dangerous infections in critically ill patients, people who have had surgery, people with weakened immune response, and sick infants.
There is no information on long term effects of probiotics.
To sum things up
Probiotics are very popular and widely tested supplement. They can help with many disorders, such as:
– Infectious diarrhea
– Clostridium dificile associated diarrhea
– Antibiotics associated diarrhea
– Travelers diarrhea
– Irritable bowl syndrome
– Ulcerative colitis
– Allergic dermatitis
– Allergic rhinitis
– Tooth decay
– Chronic renal failure with patients on hemodialysis
– Children with autism
They rarely cause side effects in healthy adults.
Keep in mind that probiotics are treated as dietary supplements, not as medication, which is why their quality is not controlled by the FDA. No probiotic supplements have been approved by the FDA for preventing or treating health issues.
Top three Probiotic Supplements
( available on Amazon, Click on the image to see more details )
1) Nutrition Essentials #1 Rated Probiotic – Most CFU’s per Bottle
2) Hyperbiotics PRO-15 Probiotics
3) Probiotic 40 Billion CFU. Guaranteed Potency until Expiration
Consider before use
- Never use probiotics instead of the therapy your doctor prescribed to you.
- Don’t use probiotics without consulting your doctor.
- Don’t take probiotics while nursing without consulting your doctor.
- Don’t give probiotics to children without consulting their doctor.
The probiotic therapy is becoming more popular. As we find out more about this supplement, it becomes clear that probiotics can benefit our health in the long run.