In this new article of our Supplements Guide, we will deal with a very current topic: the use of probiotics. These supplements can be found in supermarkets, pharmacies, and herbalists and are often recommended for people suffering from intestinal disorders, such as abdominal swelling or flatulence. Do you know how they work?
Probiotics promise to restore the balance of the microbial “flora” of people under stress who follow inadequate diets or abuse antibiotics. However, these supplements are incredibly delicate and require some knowledge to be used successfully.
The most important
Probiotics are supplements that contain live microorganisms capable of benefiting our bodies.
There are different species and bacterial strains, some more effective than others when treating various symptoms and pathologies.
Consuming probiotics is considered safe for most people. However, they can trigger infections in immunosuppressed people.
The Best Probiotics Selection Guide for 2022: our recommendations
Did you know that many “probiotics” have little or no use? Choosing safe and effective bacterial strains is essential if you want to benefit from using these items. Use our “Ranking” of probiotics to buy a quality product, with results proven by hundreds of demanding consumers.
Acidophilus is friendly bacteria for the digestive system.
(2) Nature’s Bounty Probiotic Acidophilus contains over 100 million active Lactobacillus Acidophilus (including naturally occurring metabolic products produced by Lactobacilli) at the time of manufacture
Replenishes digestive enzymes that may decline with age. Advanced enzyme + prebiotic, probiotic non-GMO formula tackles hard-to-digest foods. For regularity, digestive + immune health. Health Concern: Sensitive Stomach
What you should know about probiotics
The terms “bacteria” and “microorganisms” immediately lead us to think of “disease.” However, microbes are beneficial to our health and are part of the typical “flora” of healthy human beings. If our normal microbiota (“flora”) dies, we can restore it through probiotic supplements.
What is a probiotic?
A probiotic is a type of supplement that contains live microorganisms (bacteria or yeast) with the ability to generate beneficial effects. The bacteria most popularly used as probiotic supplements belong to the genera (bacterial classes) Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. What Are Probiotics?
A common mistake is to confuse these items with so-called prebiotic supplements. These substances are non-living compounds that help or collaborate in forming a suitable environment for the growth of a healthy microbiota. They are composed of carbohydrates that provide energy to the typical “flora.”
What criteria must a supplement meet to be considered a probiotic?
It is impossible to use any bacteria present in the body to create a probiotic supplement. The indiscriminate use of specific microbial species does not provide any benefit and, “in the worst-case,” can pose a threat to health. A probiotic must meet the following criteria before it can be marketed :
- Scientific evidence: The effectiveness of the probiotic must be validated by good quality scientific studies.
- Safety: The microorganisms in the probiotic cannot, under any circumstances, become aggressive and cause infections in a healthy person.
- Vitality: After encapsulating the product, the probiotic bacteria or yeast must remain alive.
- Survival: It will be necessary for at least half of the probiotic microorganisms to survive the ingestion, digestion, or application of the product, arriving alive at their destination.
- Stability: The microscopic organisms within the probiotic must continue to live once packaged and remain active until the product’s expiration date is exceeded.
- Suitable Strain: Each bacterial species is further divided into different “strains” or subtypes (think other members of the same family). It will be essential to choose an active strain with favorable actions—for example, strain 431 of the species L. casei (L. casei 431 ®).
- Labeling: The probiotic information must appear on a visible label, with accurate information that is easy to read and understand.
Probiotics have become popular, with several pharmaceutical laboratories developing novel strains that promise beautiful effects. Unfortunately, these bacteria do not always meet the conditions that a quality probiotic must meet. Research carefully before deciding on a particular product.
What benefits do probiotics bring me?
Probiotics offer a wide range of benefits, depending on the strain type used in each supplement. Once the microorganisms colonize the “target” area (it can be the mouth, stomach, intestine, and even the female genital tract), they will begin to provide us with the following advantages :
- Light and faster digestions
- Decreased flatulence
- Improvement of intestinal transit
- Reduction of the abdominal perimeter
- Normalization of weight and blood cholesterol levels
- Lower incidence of infections
- Lower incidence of allergic processes
- General improvement of anxious symptoms
- Increased levels of folic acid, cyanocobalamin, and vitamin K
- High fertility (in women)
- Decreased pain associated with menstruation (in women)
Using a probiotic supplement with numerous bacterial species will improve our quality of life in general. If we want to solve specific problems, we should choose a probiotic with particular strains. For example, there are articles geared toward weight loss or increasing defenses against infection.
How should I take my probiotic supplement?
Probiotics contain live microorganisms. Therefore, we must follow a series of specific guidelines to ensure the vitality of these cells. Otherwise, we will ingest hundreds of dead or weakened bacteria, unable to help us. Follow our tips if you want to get the most out of your probiotic:
- When? It can be taken at any time. If you use a probiotic to improve digestion, it is recommended that you take it approximately half an hour before meals.
- How? You can take the supplement with just water or with food. However, do not take it with acidic foods or scalding liquids. Heat and acid can destroy probiotic microorganisms.
- How many? Each probiotic has a specific dose, which will be explained on its label. For people using probiotics for the first time, a maximum daily amount of 15 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU) is advised.
Medication can be an extra challenge when it comes to probiotic supplementation. If you take antibiotics, keep in mind that the bactericidal substance harms probiotic microorganisms. We advise you to allow a minimum of two hours between taking your drugs and taking your probiotic.
How should I store my probiotic supplement?
How do we extend the life of these highly appreciated microorganisms? Experts advise storing your probiotics at low temperatures. The cold of the fridge (never the freezer!) will slow down the metabolism of bacteria and extend their shelf life. Heat and exposure to sunlight will have just the opposite effect.
On the other hand, do not lose sight of the expiration date of this supplement. Although you can afford to be more “permissive” with the expiration date of inert elements (such as minerals or vitamins), probiotics will only be effective as long as they maintain their vitality, which will disappear shortly after the expiration date.
What side effects do probiotics have?
The most common side effects associated with using probiotics derive from the rapid growth of the microbiota. In people who use this supplement for the first time, abdominal swelling, flatulence, and a feeling of stomach heaviness may appear. These symptoms will progressively disappear with continued use. Probiotics: What is it, Benefits, Side Effects, Food & Types
In rarer cases, probiotics are capable of causing severe infections. This complication appears unusually in people affected by some type of immune deficiency or with an underdeveloped immune system. If you are a generally healthy person, probiotics are not likely to cause any complications.
What contraindications do probiotics have?
Several studies have evaluated the safety of probiotics over the years. Although the results indicate that these supplements are safe for human consumption, even at high doses, particular caution and prior medical control are recommended for people who belong to any of these groups :
- Immunocompromised individuals: In cases of immunosuppression secondary to HIV infection, transplants, or genetic alterations, the use of probiotics is not recommended. In this case, the microorganisms could trigger sepsis (a severe disease spread throughout the body).
- Babies: There are probiotics specially designed to relieve infant diarrhea. However, isolated cases of sepsis have been described among critically ill neonates. Therefore, it is advised that a pediatrician closely monitor the use of probiotics in children.
- Pregnant and lactating women: Although there are articles for use by pregnant women, it is generally advisable to consult a doctor or midwife before adding any supplement to the diet of pregnant or lactating women.
- People with heart valve implants: Some studies showcase endocarditis (a severe infection that affects the heart) secondary to the colonization of artificial valves by probiotic microorganisms. Caution is advised in using these products among persons undergoing cardiac surgery.
Infections secondary to the use of probiotics are rare. However, its repercussions (sepsis, endocarditis, and fungal invasion) are potentially severe. To avoid complications from probiotics, see your doctor regularly and choose strains whose effectiveness has been ratified by experts. Contraindications of probiotics
How much do probiotic supplements cost?
Probiotics are moderately priced. Most items cost between 15 and 20 euros. The main difference will be in the number of capsules, pearls, or tablets per container. Some laboratories are more generous and offer up to 180 pills per product, allowing supplementation for several months.
It will be necessary to consider other factors that raise the price of probiotics. For example, the quality of the packaging and the use of vegetarian capsules will increase the cost of the item. Similarly, manufacturers that use proprietary strains developed in their labs sell their probiotics at a higher price.
What is the microbiota?
The microbiota comprises the bacteria and yeasts that inhabit healthy humans’ skin, intestine, and even the genital tract. Its presence prevents colonization by pathogenic germs and provides benefits, such as easier digestion or the synthesis of some vitamins.
During childbirth, the child comes into contact with the maternal “flora” and microorganisms present in the external environment. These bacteria and yeasts will colonize the newborn and give rise to a unique and personal microbiota.
The microbiota will settle on those surfaces and mucous membranes that are in contact with the external environment. This way, we talk about skin, intestinal, vaginal, oral, and even ocular microbiota. The intestinal “flora” affects the well-being of the whole organism, being especially interesting from the point of view of supplementation.
What microorganisms are part of the normal intestinal microbiota?
The gut microbiota is made up of trillions of different bacteria. Individual genetics, diet, and environmental factors condition the number and variability of microbial species that inhabit each person’s intestinal tract. It is possible to distinguish between three main bacterial divisions (“phyla”):
- Firmicutes: Up to 70% of the microorganisms of the normal microbiota belong to this division. We find the Lactobacillus bacteria, the best known being Lactobacillus casei (L-case immunitas).
- Bacteroidetes: They make up 20% of the normal microbiota. The best-known bacteria of this division are those belonging to the genus Bacteroides (Bacteroides fragilis, Bacteroides ovatus, and Bacteroides dorei).
- Actinobacteria: Although this species is found in a smaller proportion (5%) compared to the rest, it contains the indispensable Bifidobacteria (“active Bifidus”).
Obese people, for example, have been shown to have a higher than average proportion of Firmicutes. This has led experts to conclude that the ratio of these bacterial divisions, and not just the number of total microbes, endows our intestinal “flora” with a particular ability to regulate metabolism.
What functions does the intestinal microbiota have?
The functions of the intestinal microbiota are not limited to the stomach and intestine. The most recent studies have found that the effects of these beneficial bacteria extend to the entire body. So far, five different processes that depend on the gut microbiota are known :
- Defense against harmful bacteria (pathogens): The presence of the intestinal microbiota prevents or hinders the colonization of the gastrointestinal system by pathogenic bacteria capable of causing infections.
- Regulation of immunity and inflammation: It has been seen that some bacterial species of the microbiota are capable of modulating the body’s immune response, attenuating the inflammatory response, and preventing the appearance of allergies and intolerances.
- Metabolism and digestion: Humans can digest certain compounds present in food, such as starches, thanks to the bacteria of the intestinal “flora.” Likewise, the microbiota is involved in the synthesis of essential compounds for humans: biotin, folic acid, and vitamin K.
- Interaction with drugs and toxic substances: The microbiota can also interact with medicines and poisonous substances, altering their function and even completely inactivating them.
- Neuromodulation (“microbiota-gut-brain axis”): The intestine has a complex neural network in direct contact with the brain. The microbiota intervenes in this relationship, regulating the production of chemical substances vital for the normal functioning of the nervous system.
A diverse microbiota will be needed for all these processes to occur. Each bacterial species will have one or more different functions that will act in balance with the rest of the microbiota. Role of the normal gut microbiota
What factors affect the composition of the intestinal microbiota?
Many factors affect the composition and variability of the microbiota of each individual, endowing each person with an individualized intestinal “flora.” The following list summarizes the main characteristics capable of altering the number and proportion of intestinal bacteria:
- Anatomy: The state of the digestive tract (for example, alterations in the production of gastric acids or bile) will determine the type of bacteria that will become part of the normal microbiota.
- Genetics: A similar microbiota has been found among people from the same family, especially among twin brothers.
- Age: Children have a less diverse microbiota. Throughout life, new species appear that will become part of the intestinal “flora.”
- Diet: Extreme diets (such as purely “carnivorous” or strict vegetarian) will cause the disappearance of some species commonly found in the microbiota of people following varied diets. The use of sweeteners will also negatively affect the state of intestinal bacteria.
- Medication: The indiscriminate use of antibiotics will destroy a large part of the microbiota.
- Toxic: Tobacco can induce changes in the variability of the normal microbiota.
- Stress, anxiety, and depression: Emotional stress and other mental disorders are accompanied by changes in the microbiota. It is discussed whether the microbiota alteration is secondary to emotional suffering or vice versa.
The further the composition of a person’s microbiota deviates from “ideal” percentages, the greater the likelihood of long-term metabolic imbalances. For example, an exaggerated increase in Bacteroides fragilis will cause this initially harmless microorganism to become pathogenic.
Once again, we must not forget the importance of diet for our health. If an inadequate diet with abundant fats, sugars, and sweeteners is followed, the different microbiota populations will be altered in number and proportion. This will favor the appearance of other diseases.
What consequences can an imbalance in the intestinal microbiota have?
When the intestinal microbiota composition moves away from what is considered a healthy bacterial balance in healthy people, we start talking about intestinal dysbiosis. This alteration will cause a deterioration of long-term health. The main manifestations of this imbalance will be the following :
- Alterations in digestion: The digestion process of some compounds, such as fiber, will be complicated. This will favor the appearance of abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence.
- Overweight and obesity: It has been observed that diets rich in sugar and fat cause an increase in the levels of bacteria of the Bacteroidetes phylum. These bacteria increase the absorption of fats, contributing to the appearance of overweight, obesity, hypertension, and elevation of blood cholesterol levels.
- Digestive tract infections: Intestinal dysbiosis will favor the growth of pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria (normally harmless microorganisms that take advantage of weak defenses to become aggressive) that will cause gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and even colitis.
- Inflammation: It has been proven that the imbalance of the microbiota causes a state of constant inflammation. This can have unpleasant consequences, such as flatulence and abdominal swelling, but it is also associated with more severe repercussions, such as an increased incidence of colon cancer.
- Alterations of the nervous system: Dysbiosis will alter the microbiota-intestine-brain axis, causing and favoring all diseases of the nervous system: anxiety, depression, and insomnia, among others.
For years, the importance of intestinal bacteria in human health has been underestimated, and specific antibiotic treatments have been used unwisely. This has favored the appearance of dysbiosis and, with it, the presentation of “current” diseases: obesity, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension. Why the Gut Microbiome Is Crucial for Your Health
How can I promote the development of my intestinal microbiota?
The intestinal microbiota coexists in our body in a delicate balance. According to experts, these bacteria move “between resilience and fragility.” If we want to promote the proper development of our “flora” and prevent the proliferation of pathogens, we must pay attention to the following factors:
- Balanced diet: According to experts, a diet low in fat and sugar will favor the development of a balanced microbiota. It is also advisable to follow an omnivorous diet. Vegans, vegetarians, and strict meat-eaters need more care than usual to keep their intestinal “flora” in good condition.
- Avoid sweeteners and polyols: Many people add sweeteners to their diet (such as stevia or sucrose) to lower their intake of free sugars. However, these products have been associated with the appearance of intestinal dysbiosis. It is much healthier to get used to a diet without sugar or sweeteners.
- Increase the consumption of fiber and fermented foods: Fiber favors the development of many species belonging to the microbiota. In addition, fermented products (yogurt, kefir, miso, and kimchi) contain beneficial microorganisms that will go on to reinforce the intestinal “flora” once ingested.
- Give up alcohol, tobacco, and other toxins: It has been proven that these toxic substances alter and destroy the microbiota. Abandoning its consumption will bring you enormous benefits that go beyond intestinal well-being.
- Adopt a routine of eating, resting, and sports: Eating simultaneously also favors the balance of the microbiota. Regular sleep and sport tend to maintain a healthy lifestyle, creating a favorable environment for the growth of the intestinal “flora.”
- Use drugs only under medical prescription: Antibiotics, and to a lesser extent other drugs such as anticonvulsants and antipsychotics, cause alterations in the microbiota balance. Always consult a health professional before taking any medication.
Suppose the above measures fail, or you know that your intestinal “flora” will be irremediably destroyed (due to the need, for example, to take a potent antibiotic treatment). In that case, we advise you to consider the introduction of a probiotic. Keep reading to learn about these supplements capable of “resurrecting” your microbiota.
Is it OK to take a probiotic every day?
A common question about probiotics is whether it is ok to take probiotic supplements daily. While there may be a few exceptions to this rule, the general answer is yes; it’s safe and usually recommended to take them daily. It’s important to understand that probiotics are natural supplements, not medicine. Is it ok to take probiotics every day?
What are the benefits of taking probiotics?
The Benefits of Probiotics
- Probiotics can help prevent or treat diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotics.
- Probiotics can improve systems of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Probiotics can boost the immune system.
- Probiotics can reduce inflammation and allergies.
Is it worth taking probiotic supplements?
There’s some evidence that probiotics may be helpful in some cases, such as helping prevent diarrhea when taking antibiotics and helping to ease some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But there’s little evidence to support many health claims made about them.
What is the downside of taking probiotics?
The Bottom Line
The most common side effects are a temporary increase in gas, bloating, constipation and thirst. Some people can also react poorly to probiotic supplements’ ingredients or naturally occurring amines in probiotic foods. If this happens, stop using probiotics. 5 Possible Side Effects of Probiotics
Who should not take probiotics?
Some reports have linked probiotics to severe infections and other side effects. The people most likely to have trouble are those with immune system problems, people who’ve had surgery, and others who are critically ill. Don’t take probiotics if you have any of those issues. When should I NOT take probiotics?
What happens to your body when you start taking probiotics?
When first using probiotics, some people experience gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Changes in the gut microbiota can result in bacteria producing more gas than usual, which can lead to bloating. However, these side effects usually clear up within a few days or weeks of the probiotics.
What foods have a lot of probiotics?
The most familiar fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics or add probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread, and some cheeses.
How fast do probiotics work?
The short answer: It takes most people 2 to 3 weeks to feel significant benefits when they start taking probiotics. That’s because probiotics need time to accomplish their three key goals: increase your good bacteria count, decrease your wrong bacteria count, and reduce inflammation.
How many probiotics should I take a day?
The first thing to know about probiotics is that they come in far larger doses than most other supplements or nutrients. While dosage can vary, American Family Physician recommends children take 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) of probiotics per day and suggests adults consume 10 to 20 billion.
Do probiotics make you poop?
Probiotics are “good” bacteria you can buy as supplements, but they also occur naturally in many fermented foods. They have several health benefits and may even help you poop more. Research shows that probiotics could be especially useful in managing symptoms of IBS, including constipation.
Can probiotics be harmful?
Possible harmful effects of probiotics include infections, production of toxic substances by the probiotic microorganisms, and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from probiotic microorganisms to other organisms in the digestive tract.
Can probiotics make you gain weight?
You Are Taking Probiotic Strains That Promote Obesity
Yes, that’s right. You may be actively consuming a probiotic strain that promotes weight gain while expecting it to help you lose weight. Some strains of probiotics encourage obesity.
Should probiotics be taken in the morning or night?
The ideal time to take probiotics is right before bed because “the gut is pretty inactive at night. If you think about it, you don’t usually wake up in the middle of the night to poop,” says Dr. Patricia Raymond, a doctor in both gastroenterology and internal medicine.
Can probiotics cause anxiety?
Then she found an article in Mental Health Daily about the side effects and adverse reactions to probiotics that people have reported. And there, she found her answer. If you take more than 20 billion CFUs (she was taking 400 billion CFUs) daily, you can get side effects. And anxiety is listed as one of them.
Do probiotics make you sleepy?
However, some patients take probiotics and feel even worse. Symptoms can include cramping, gassiness, diarrhea, fatigue, and even brain fog or memory problems. Often these symptoms intensify just after a meal.
What fruit has the most probiotics?
The Best Probiotics. An apple contains about 100 million bacteria—a more diverse range than any dietary supplement. In April, researchers at Tufts University posed a nutrition riddle. They compared people who took vitamin pills with people who got the same nutrients the old-fashioned way, by eating food.
Can probiotics help with acid reflux?
In conclusion, probiotic use can benefit GERD symptoms, such as regurgitation and heartburn. However, proper placebo-controlled, randomized, and double-blinded clinical trials with sufficient participants are warranted to confirm its efficacy in alleviating these symptoms.
Choosing the right probiotic can be tricky. Don’t worry: The information in the first part of our guide will help you decide which probiotic strain is best for you. Next, our purchase criteria will allow you to choose the best available item taking into account the following characteristics:
Vegan or vegetarian nutrition
Many probiotics contain a substrate (culture material) of animal origin. Milk or its derivatives are frequently used to favor the development of these microbes. So remember to look for the vegan seal on your supplement to ensure it’s made entirely from plant sources.
Another characteristic to take into account is the composition of the capsule. Tablets with a shell made of gelatin are unsuitable for vegetarians or vegans, as this material is synthesized from animal collagen. Fortunately, there are vegan capsules made from cellulose.
Intolerances and allergies
Your probiotic may have been manufactured in an industry that uses gluten, tree nuts, fish, or lactose. If you are intolerant to any of these products, look for an item that specifies the absence of these allergens on its label. See your doctor if any unexpected symptoms appear after taking your supplement.
Number of microbial species
Your probiotic supplement may contain a single bacterial species (for example, Bifidobacterium animalis) or multiple genera in a single tablet (for example, Bifidobacterium animalis and different species of Lactobacillus). Paradoxically, some studies consider using a single bacterium the most effective strategy.
Probiotics containing different bacterial species are better at preventing infections, but if a particular effect is desired, it is advisable to look for more specific strains. For example, using Bifidobacterium animalis to treat obesity will be more effective than taking a multi-species probiotic.
Did you know that bacteria compete with each other for the same substrate (oxygen and food)? If a probiotic is used with several microorganisms, it is crucial that they are able to cooperate with each other. Otherwise, the supplement will lose effectiveness.
Probiotics are very picky supplements. Therefore, it is crucial that you carefully examine the packaging of your item before purchase. Discard any damaged container; if air or light enters the container’s interior, the microorganisms may die or weaken.
Number of CFU
Your item must contain a sufficient number of probiotic bacteria (measured in Colony Forming Units, CFU). Considering that part of the microorganisms dies during packaging and ingestion, it will be necessary to use a high amount of CFU (about 10-15 billion) to ensure its effectiveness.
Value for money
Typically these items contain containers with thirty or more capsules. Let’s consider that the beneficial effects appear after approximately one month of use. You should purchase a “savings” format item that allows you to supplement with probiotics for two or more months.
Introducing a probiotic to your diet will help improve your quality of life. These microorganisms will strengthen your defenses and relieve your gastrointestinal discomfort. If you take care of the outside of your body through exercise and cosmetics, why not add a probiotic to your routine and support your health from the inside?
These items require much more complex storage guidelines than other supplements, such as vitamins or minerals. However, its benefits are among the highest of any supplement. Do not hesitate and take advantage of the advantages that probiotics offer.