Many people swear by the efficacy of probiotics, which have been lauded as natural treatments for stomach problems.
Here’s what you should know about these potentially beneficial microorganisms, along with some tips for choosing the best probiotic for your needs.
Probiotics are microorganisms that provide health benefits to their hosts. Many people are surprised to learn that their bodies rely on a diversity of microorganisms to stay healthy and function normally. Probiotics play a big part in this symbiotic relationship.
Found naturally in cultured milk, fermented foods, and manufactured supplements, probiotics can aid digestion and enhance nutrient absorption. They can also take up space and prevent potentially harmful bacteria from getting a foothold inside our bodies.
Probiotics are believed to help with all sorts of digestive issues, including:
Experts agree we need more research to determine just how effective probiotics are at promoting good health. Most studies on probiotics have been relatively small and haven’t uncovered exactly how probiotics might aid digestion. They also haven’t been able to determine how to consistently administer or dose probiotics as a supplement.
That said, we do know that the gastrointestinal tract is colonized by about 10 trillion microbes of varying species. For this reason, supporting a healthy balance of gut flora could help reduce a person’s risk of stomach problems.
Since probiotics are understood to be safe for the vast majority of people, there is most likely no harm in trying them. Everyone is different, but you may find that they’re a potential remedy for nausea, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, and other troublesome digestive issues. If you have any questions or concerns, consult with your doctor.
You can increase your daily consumption of probiotics through food sources or supplements. Many traditional foods naturally contain probiotics. These include:
You can also take probiotic supplements, but it’s best to get them from natural food sources. If you do choose a supplement, be sure to research which type is mostly likely to help with your specific digestive issue.
Not all probiotics are equal, and scientists need to conduct further research to understand each type's potential advantages. Most studies have focused on the Bifidobacterium and the Lactobacillus strains, which include:
Bear in mind that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate probiotic supplements, so there’s no guarantee you will always get live cultures. Be sure to: