The Pros and Cons of Using Probiotics Supplements You Should Know
7 minute read
Probiotics are more popular than ever and a fast-growing business to be in. Natural dietary supplements have been around for a while, but none have taken off and dominated the market as digestive health probiotics have.
One would think that following a probiotic supplement therapy is all good because of the hype, but there are both pros and cons. As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that probiotics are bad, just that they aren’t magic.
On the other hand, neither are the many benefits that can be had from taking them.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are essentially bacteria. More specifically, they are beneficial bacteria that support gut health and overall well-being. Probiotics can be found naturally in certain foods as well as in supplements.
When it comes to supplements you get to choose between capsules, lozenges, tablets, powders for drinks, and gummies. There really is a probiotic for everyone.
While a high potency probiotic supplement can contain many strains, there are two bacterial families that seem to be the most beneficial to our health.
Lactobacillus: This is the most common strain found in probiotic supplements and has been shown to aid in the prevention of digestive trouble like diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Bifidobacterium: This is part of the lactic acid group of gut bacteria that also helps to calm digestive troubles like constipation and diarrhea. These bacteria are particularly useful when your natural good strains have been killed off such as after a course of antibiotics.
Probiotics Promote Your Health
Primarily, multi strain probiotics are designed to promote optimal digestion by maintaining a healthy balance of the gut in your bacteria. Because you have both harmful and beneficial bacteria living in your gut, it is important to keep balance in favor of the good guys.
Outside of gut health, probiotics have also been found to influence weight loss, promote oral health, and boost your immune system.
Probiotics literally mean “for life,” as opposed to what antibiotics mean. This makes antibiotics sound bad when in fact they do help to eliminate harmful bacterial infections.
The problem with antibiotics is that they indiscriminately kill bacteria and many friendly ones get eliminated too. Pre and probiotic supplements can help ensure that any good ones that are lost are replaced, and your gut can continue to function efficiently.
Overuse of antibiotics is just one factor that can deplete your natural gut bacteria community. In addition to this poor diet and stress also allow for harmful strains to flourish and take over.
When the gut balance shifts to favor bad bacteria, the inflammatory response of your immune system goes into overdrive. The result is possible to damage to your gut, poor nutrient absorption, and toxins escaping through the weakened gut.
Poor gut health can cause systemic inflammation as toxins break free and enter your bloodstream. In combination with poor nutrient absorption, your overall health will start to diminish.
High potency probiotics help to restore the balance and allow beneficial strains to colonize in the gut once again. Once inflammation is reduced and digestive processes are restored, your body can heal.
Your gut health is linked to more than just your immune system. There is also a direct line of communication between your gut and your brain. The gut-brain axis relays signals, and when your gut is unhappy, you can experience depressive symptoms. In the same way, anxious thoughts can cause an upset stomach.
Probiotic supplements that bring balance to your gut will also promote optimal health and cognitive function.
Things to Know Before You Buy
As wonderful as probiotics are, there are important things to note before starting a supplemental therapy. Just as you require food to function, so do bacteria.
Probiotics require prebiotics in order to function well, and without them, your supplement could be a waste. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that serve to fuel your gut bacteria. These prebiotic fiber strains cannot be digested by your stomach and end up in the intestines as the ideal food for bacteria.
| Related: How Probiotics and Prebiotics Differ |
Prebiotic foods will nourish the probiotics you are taking and allow them to flourish and colonize in the gut. The more prebiotics they have, the stronger your beneficial gut community is.
The best prebiotic foods to keep in your diet include bananas, oats, onions, asparagus, cabbage, legumes, cocoa, and seaweed. Prebiotic foods are better when raw, as cooking can alter the fiber content before it reaches your gut.
Probiotics might come in every possible shape and form, but they are not ideal for everyone. Studies have found that individuals with compromised immune systems can be negatively impacted by probiotic supplements. A weakened system is more at risk of infection in the presence of excess bacteria, good or bad so always check with a doctor before taking a supplement.
Probiotics have also been found to overstimulate the immune system in some people and adversely affect metabolism causing excessive gas and bloating. Other studies have only just begun investigating the idea of a potential “brain fog” caused by probiotics.
It can take time for pre and probiotic supplements to work. Because of the hype and popularity, people may mistakenly expect results right away, and this will not happen.
Depending on your body, overall health, metabolism, and severity of symptoms, probiotics can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks to kick in. Every strain of bacteria is also different, so it is best to be patient and not get discouraged right away.
Probiotics are living organisms and so will have an expiration date. To get the most out of your probiotics, the right storage is essential.
Some strains require a cool and dark environment, while others prefer room temperature. Always read labels carefully and make sure that the lid is on tight to keep excess oxygen out.
The Bottom Line
There is no end to research that supports the benefits of probiotics and how they can promote a healthy digestive system and boost your health. But, it is important to take note of the potential drawbacks before adding supplements to your diet.
Probiotics are popular for a reason and they do great things, just be sure to do your research and choose a high-quality supplement to make sure you get the best results.