Medically Reviewed

Should You Take A Probiotic?

Probiotics are generally safe and can support digestion and immune health, reduce digestive symptoms, and replenish bacteria wiped out from antibiotics.

What are Probiotics?

If you want to support a balance of healthy bacteria, it can be useful to enlist the help of some reinforcements. That’s where probiotics come in handy.

Probiotics are live microorganisms, such as bacteria and yeasts, that are beneficial to your health, especially to your digestive system.

These good bacteria can be found in fermented foods and some dietary supplements. These sources of beneficial microbes are called probiotics.

When you consume probiotics, they help balance the population of bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthier microbiome. This can lead to improved digestion, absorption of nutrients, and immune system function.

In the gut, these bacteria help break down fibers and other food components through a process called fermentation. Fibers are otherwise indigestible by your own digestive functions, but gut bacteria can break these down into certain nutrients to help fuel the cells of your gut lining.

Bacteria in your gut also work synergistically with your digestive system to maintain a healthy protective layer along the gut lining to keep harmful substances from getting into the bloodstream.

Benefits of Probiotics

The impact of the gut microbiome on the other systems of the body is vast. Research continues to uncover more on this far-reaching impact.

Probiotics naturally support digestive health and have been linked to the reduction of some gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation and bloating. Probiotics can promote enzyme function which can impact nutrient absorption.

These gut bugs can also enhance immune activity. Since approximately 70-80% of immune cells associated with the gut lining, probiotics can actually communicate with and affect the immune system.

The most heavily researched bacteria to promote immune function and digestive health include:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus: GG
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: LA-5
  • Bifidobacterium lactis: BB-12

Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria can reduce leaky gut by protecting the strength of the gut lining, which can be damaged by pathogenic bacteria.

In addition to the gut microbiome, the vaginal microbiome can also benefit from probiotic supplements. Over 50 different types of bacteria live in the vagina. Due to factors like hormonal changes, antibiotics, and hormonal contraceptives, sometimes the vaginal microbiome can become imbalanced.

Research is clear that probiotics can promote healthy vaginal flora, especially the Lactobacillus genus. Particular Lactobacillus species that show strong support include:

Care/of’s Probiotic Blend, which is one of three capsules in the Women’s Essential Pack, contains both Lactobacillus rhamnosus and acidophilus as well as Bifidobacteria, another beneficial category of probiotics.

Potential Risks of Probiotics

Probiotics have minimal risks and are even generally considered safe for pregnant and lactating people.

They may cause some minor side effects in some people, such as bloating or changes in stool consistency. This might be due to a sensitivity to a specific species or strain. If this happens, you can try changing up the probiotic strains or reducing the dose at first.

Always be sure to check for the quality of probiotics supplements before taking them. Make sure they are non-GMO and don’t contain any additives to which you are sensitive. High quality supplements should also be third party tested, which ensures that the finished product actually contains the amount of probiotic bacteria and strains that it claims.

Who Should Try a Probiotic?

Some people who might most benefit from taking a probiotic are those with occasional gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

If you have had persistent gut symptoms that have been difficult to manage from diet and lifestyle changes alone, consider working with a health professional who specializes in gut health. Probiotics can be a very helpful addition to a targeted gut healing plan, but there may be additional steps to take to heal from digestive symptoms.

Probiotics while taking an antibiotic

Antibiotic use is also a good reason to take probiotics. A recent study showed how certain antibiotics impact our gut health. In particular, two major types of antibiotics called macrolides and tetracyclines inhibit nearly all of the good bacteria and even kill off several species.

If you need to take antibiotics, it is very important to focus on rebuilding the gut microbiome. Supplementing with probiotics during and after antibiotic use can replenish and restore the balance of healthy bacteria that can get depleted when taking antibiotics. They can also help reduce antibiotic associated diarrhea. You can and should take the probiotics and antibiotics on the same day, but just be sure to take them at least 2 hours apart.

Can you take probiotics daily?

Probiotic supplements can be taken daily. It is best to stay consistent with your probiotic regimen to see the most benefits.

There’s no current evidence that taking your probiotics at any specific time (either morning, mid-day, or evening) will impact how effective they are.

You can also take probiotics along with other vitamin supplements, as there is no evidence that one may diminish the effects of the other. In fact, probiotics may even enhance absorption of certain nutrients such as calcium and iron, according to research.

Probiotic Food Sources

Probiotic food sources include fermented foods. These include foods that have been safely crafted to ferment using the bacteria naturally in the food or foods that have had probiotic bacteria added to them.

Here are some of the foods highest in probiotics:

  • Fermented dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, and cultured cottage cheese
  • Kombucha, which is fermented tea
  • Fermented vegetables, such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented pickles
  • Fermented soy such as natto and tempeh

Fermented foods can be a great addition since they are generally easy to digest since the probiotics have already done some of that for you through fermentation. These foods also contain healthy organic acids and metabolites that can boost digestion.

The Bottom Line

Overall, taking a probiotic supplement can be a great option for those who want to boost their gut health and immune health. Probiotics can help reduce certain gut symptoms such as bloating and irregular bowel movements. They are especially important to include during and after antibiotic use to replenish good bacteria. Probiotics are generally considered safe.

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