Recent studies have been exploring the use of probiotics to reduce symptoms of numerous gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Results have been mixed, making it difficult for scientists to come to solid conclusions.
Here is everything you need to know about the potential risks and rewards that probiotics carry with them.
Basically, your gut has a mix of both good and bad bacteria. Every person has a different balance of good and bad bacteria in their stomach. Usually, a good balance consists of 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. When your gut is out of balance, this can result in GI symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, indigestion, and more.
Probiotics are meant to increase the good bacteria in your stomach. However, we still don't know a lot about the specifics of probiotics.
Everybody's microbiome is different. Because of this, the way a person responds to probiotics depends on their individual balance of gut bacteria they have.
Anyone person only shares about 10% of the same microbial strains with anyone else.
On top of that, the effectiveness of a probiotic depends on the type of bacteria you need, how much you need, and how often you'd need to take them. In other words, since everyone's microbiome is different, it's hard to prescribe a "one size fits all" probiotic prescription.
Scientists are investigating if probiotics help reduce inflammation in the gut.
So far, research does suggest that probiotics can help people with ulcerative colitis.
In studies using mice, probiotics have also been shown to improve the immune system and gut permeability.
As with anything, there are always pros AND cons to be aware of.
Some studies found that probiotics decreased the repopulation of healthy gut bacteria among people who recently took antibiotics.
Another concern is that taking probiotics will overcrowd your gut with few strains that are all from the same family, making your microbiome less diverse.
For some, probiotics can worsen symptoms of diarrhea, bloating, or abdominal pain.
However, most evidence suggests that probiotics are more likely to be either helpful or harmless. Nonetheless, it is crucial to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have before using probiotics for self-treatment.
Eating fermented food with probiotics may be a safer option than taking probiotic supplements.
Some examples of probiotic foods include:
Apple cider vinegar
Doctors have also found that high fiber diets can help promote healthy gut function, and can improve symptoms among IBD patients.
To learn more about your microbiome, check out some past blog posts.
Here are some takeaways on this from a public health point of view.
It's important that your body is getting the right nutrients. Keeping a balanced and healthy diet is key!