Look down at your arm. They are on you right now. Actually, they are everywhere: on your teeth, in your mouth, on your skin. Relax, I am talking about bacteria.
Now you start thinking that bacteria must be bad, but this is not always true. Our body has good bacteria that you can’t live without.
In fact, we have good bacteria more than bad bacteria! Your body is home to over 100 trillion good bacteria.
The type of good bacteria we will talk about today lives within your gut. Yes, you guessed it right: probiotics.
Probiotics are bacteria in your gut that offer many benefits, including healthy digestion and killing the bad bacteria.
The probiotic supplement industry is a million-dollar industry. Therefore, this article will dissect probiotics and answer this question: Do we really need to supplement with probiotics?
Before we dig into the great details, we would like to answer a very important question: What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are the live bacteria inside your gut that are good for your health. They help us digest our food and aid the absorption of nutrients. Their dysregulation is believed to correlate with some diseases like allergies.
On the other hand, prebiotics is a source of food for these healthy gut bacteria. Basically, they are carbohydrates that your body can’t digest. Therefore, your gut bacteria end up consuming them.
As we said, probiotics are located in your bacteria. But there are 2 ways you can take them: food and supplements. It is easy to find these supplements online.
The two most common specific bacteria found in stores are lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. If you are not interested in supplementation, you still can enjoy foods rich in probiotics.
Now comes the critical question: should I take probiotics?
The answer is simple, if you don’t have any of the conditions mentioned below where probiotics are actually proven to be beneficial, don’t waste your money.
They won’t lead to magical changes in your body unless you REALLY need them. Therefore, be careful when considering them.
There is a wide range of conditions where probiotics are proven to help, so without further ado, let’s have a look at some of them!
Inflammatory bowel disease & Irritable bowel syndrome
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition where patients suffer from repeated gut lining inflammation. With time, that can damage their gut and increase their risk of cancer.
Scientists found that probiotics could be used as an alternative therapy for patients with IBD (1). Therefore, you might benefit from supplementing with probiotics if you have IBD.
However, It would be better to discuss this with your doctor before starting on them.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another gut condition characterized by alternating diarrhea and constipation associated with abdominal pain and bloating that can be lead to functional impairment.
Like IBD, many studies suggest that probiotics can help patients with IBS.
As the name implies, this type of diarrhea is caused by antibiotics. When we consume antibiotics for whatever reason for extended periods, this can kill the healthy bacteria in our gut.
This will result in the nasty bacteria proliferating and leading to colitis and colon inflammation.
Research suggests that if you are diagnosed with antibiotic-associated diarrhea, you will very likely benefit from supplementation with probiotics (2).
Did you know that probiotics could have beneficial effects even beyond your gut?
Seasonal allergies are sometimes called hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. This is when you develop that watery, itchy red eye with a runny nose and nasal congestion.
Many clinical trials added to the evidence that probiotics can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies (3). However, the exact mechanism of how probiotics lead to this effect is not completely understood.
Probiotics may work for other conditions
If you google “What are the benefits of probiotics,” you will find pages of these benefits. But we want you to be aware of something.
Not because a research paper detected the benefit of probiotics in an aspect, then this means that it is actually beneficial. One or even two research papers is never enough to give medical advice.
The conditions mentioned above are supported by many studies. This is why they were added. The below conditions are supported by studies, but only a few.
Therefore, you need to be careful when considering probiotics for these conditions.
· Gum disease
· Celiac disease
· Lactose intolerance
· Yeast infections
· Urinary tract infections
· Vaginal health
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria of your gut. It is okay if you use them as a supplement if you have diseases like IBD, IBS, diarrhea, and allergies.
Although there is some evidence that probiotics can be beneficial in other aspects like celiac disease and vaginal health, there is no compelling evidence on these topics that can make you supplement with probiotics if you have these conditions.
Still, it is okay to use them and see if any results happen.
Have you ever used probiotics as a supplement? Let us know in the comments and share your experience and if they actually helped you.