Health & Wellness

Guide to Probiotics and Their Pros and Cons

What Are Probiotics and Their Pros and Cons Posted On
Posted By Emma Aaron

Getting healthy—and staying that way—is a laudable goal for everyone. All too often, we find ourselves at a quandary between proactively remaining healthy and merely letting things go without even realizing it. A healthier lifestyle leads to a better quality of life, living longer, being happier, and just plain feeling good. But sometimes, we tend to overlook the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the convenience of fast food and a sedentary existence. That’s not a good thing. Maybe it’s a lack of awareness. Perhaps you simply don’t have the time. Whatever the case, taking care of yourself is vital to a long and happy life.

Whenever you seek out advice on staying healthy, it’s usually some combination of the same basic ideas. Drink plenty of water. Exercise 30 minutes per day. Don’t drink much alcohol (and only do so in moderation if you choose to imbibe). Don’t smoke. Get a whole life insurance policy. Get plenty of fresh air. Take your vitamins.

Eat your greens. Don’t forget your beans and celery. Lay off the sweets. Brush those teeth because those are the only ones you’re going to get. Stay out of the sun for prolonged periods of time—but be sure to get plenty of vitamin D. This is all sound advice. Having friends and staying curious/keeping your mind active are also great ways to stay healthy. But diet plays a major role in this entire endeavor. One way to leverage your diet advantageously in this regard is to try out probiotics.

Ok, we hear you asking, “what are probiotics?” and “what do they do?” Well, we’ll try to answer those questions and more in our guide below. Check it out and happy reading. 

What Probiotics Are

Probiotics. It might sound like a buzzword or something you’ve heard in a yogurt commercial featuring Jamie Lee Curtis. Probiotics are so much more than a mere marketing fixture. They’re essential bacteria that live in your gut. That’s right; probiotics are a helpful bacterium that dwells within your body. Don’t be afraid of the fact that probiotics are a combination of live bacteria and yeasts that live inside of your body. The dichotomy of bacteria is very real; there are both good and bad types. 

Probiotics, thankfully, are the good guys. They’re like the superheroes of your gut, patrolling the streets of your intestinal tract and ridding your gut of the villainous bad bacteria that can wreak havoc on your health. The most common probiotics you’ll hear about are the two that make up probiotic supplements: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

What They Do and How They Work

As we mentioned before, probiotics help clean up and get rid of bad bacteria in your gut. It’s quite the process. The body consists of a microbiome or a large community of unique organisms that work together to keep you healthy. Fungi, protozoa, yeasts, viruses, and bacteria all exist here—and everyone has a completely unique microbiome.

Probiotics help you digest food, keep bad bacteria at bay, generate vitamins, and help with breaking down the medication in your system when you take it. When your body is infiltrated by the bad bacteria, the probiotics can kick into gear and take them down head-on. When they’re not battling bad bacteria, they support cell growth that helps your body absorb vitamins.

How To Use Them

Taking probiotics can be as simple as taking supplements, eating more yogurt, dining on foods rich in the substances, or taking them as capsules. It’s important to follow the instructions on the packaging and only take the recommended amount. They end up being the most effective when you take them on an empty stomach, usually in the morning or prior to the first meal of the day.

When taking probiotics, consistency is key, so be sure that you’re taking them at the same time each day that you decide to do so. Taking probiotics can be a great way to give yourself a healthy boost throughout the day, but it’s vital to use them properly to attain their full positive effects.

Reasons to Use Probiotics

There are plenty of reasons to use probiotics. If you’re suffering from digestive problems or diarrhea, for example, comprehensive probiotic supplements can help treat or even prevent these conditions. Here are just a few of the conditions that probiotics help keep at bay:

  • Diarrhea
  • Immune support
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Vaginal infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Recurrence of bladder cancer
  • Digestive tract infection
  • pouchitis 
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • H. pylori 
  • Constipation

Clinical studies show that probiotics have a beneficial effect overall, so using them for digestive/gut health is useful depending on your personal healthcare and dietary needs.

Reasons Not To Use Probiotics

As with most things in life, there are ups and downs to everything—including probiotics. There are times when using them might not be as advantageous. To begin with, they should not be taken after using antibiotics as some research suggests they might delay a return to the natural gut microbiome. These studies are still in their nascent stages, however, and more research is needed to determine if this is actually the case or purely anecdotal to that particular study. In some cases, taking probiotics might cause some initial digestive issues like gas or bloating when first used, and others may be allergic to them. Ultimately, it’s best to consult the doctor to determine whether probiotics are right for you.

Physician Consultation

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Probiotics can be great, but they’re not for everybody. With so many options available on the market and the way they affect different systems, it’s a good idea to go ahead and consult with the physician before deciding to take them. Understanding the benefits and what they do is only part of a larger puzzle.

Talk about whether using it is right for you, discuss any possible side effects (although most probiotics don’t really have any), and make a plan for your own diet. By taking a little bit of agency in this regard, you’re effectively leveraging the benefits of using probiotics while also looking out for your own personal health.

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