Proven Health benefits of probiotics
Probiotics for Adults: Your Complete Guide to Usage, Benefits, and More
Walk down any dairy aisle in most grocery stores and you’ll likely come across products that include probiotics.
With today’s more sedentary lifestyle, more consideration must be put into our dietary habits. Without the right foods and nutrients, your body’s digestive system can suffer, negatively impacting your physical, mental, and emotional state.
If you’re looking to start adding a probiotic into your diet, read on.
This guide to probiotics takes a 360-degree approach, highlighting everything from the different probiotic strains to the endless options available, allowing you to reap the full benefits of these health-boosting microorganisms.
Good and bad bacteria
When it comes to bacteria, people tend to reflex in disgust. After all, we wash our hands with anti-bacterial soap, use anti-bacterial cleaning products, and even use anti-bacterial garbage bags to dispose of our waste.
And this is for good reason. These bad bacteria are contributing factors to several serious diseases that include food poisoning, pneumonia, meningitis, and a variety of others.
Yet, while these one-celled organisms have gotten a bad rap over the years (and rightly so), not all bacteria are bad.
In fact, your body plays host to trillions of bacteria, many of which reside in your digestive system. Without these “good” bacteria, your body would have serious difficulty digesting food and absorbing nutrients.
And as these helpful bacteria multiply and thrive, they help protect your body from painful gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, hepatic encephalopathy, ulcerative colitis, and others.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics, a name that’s derived from Latin (pro) and Greek (bios) meaning “for life,” are a type of “helpful” bacteria that promote better digestive health.
Despite its emergence as a recent health trend, the idea of eating bacteria for its health benefits has been around since the early 20th century when it was first proposed by the father of immunity, Nobel prize-winning biologist Élie Metchnikoff.
Metchnikoff’s theory that health could be enhanced with host-friendly bacteria paved the way for the probiotic-enhanced products we see in stores today.
The live bacteria and yeasts that are found in probiotic products can help offset the bacterial imbalance in your digestive system by inhibiting the growth of their dangerous relatives in the gut.
Health benefits of probiotics
Because of probiotics’ potential health benefits, the scientific community has gone to great lengths to examine the key elements of its claims. Many publications have been carried out on probiotics and their validity.
Research in over 20,000 studies has found that probiotics confer a number of positive health benefits on its host, which include:
- Aiding lactose digestion
- Alleviating mild occasional constipation
- Treatment of dental disorders (dental caries and periodontal disease)
- Easing skin ailments
- Fending off upper respiratory infections
- Improving mood and certain mental health disorders
- Combating obesity
Studies have also found probiotics to support the treatment of the following gastrointestinal disorders:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea (AAD)
- Infectious Diarrhea
- Clostridium Difficile Associated Diarrhea (CDAD)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
While probiotics are often touted as being effective in treating Crohn’s disease, the data supporting these claims are limited. More research is required to prove that probiotics are clinically effective in treating Crohn’s disease symptoms.
What’s more, people suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses should first consult with their primary doctor or gastroenterologist to identify what probiotic products are most beneficial for their individual disorder.
Foods for good gut health
There are several ways you can introduce probiotics into your diet.
The most popular probiotic foods are dairy products that have been enhanced with probiotics. These include certain yogurts like Greek yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk drink), buttermilk, and cheeses with live active cultures such as cottage cheese and parmesan.
There are several other foods you can introduce to your diet that contain probiotics:
- Miso (a Japanese seasoning)
- Tempeh (made from fermented soybeans)
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles)
- Sourdough bread (contains lactic acid bacteria)
- Strong beers (in moderation of course)
While not exhaustive, this list of foods and beverages are a good starting point in introducing more probiotic-enhanced foods into your diet. When browsing your grocery aisles for probiotic products like dairy products, ensure the label includes the words “live and active cultures.”
What are the best probiotic supplements for adults?
Another way to further promote a healthy gut is through supplements.
When choosing probiotic supplements, the source matters. There are several different strains of probiotics available on the market, though the typical probiotics found commercially can be categorized into three main species:
These y-shaped bacteria exert positive health benefits to your core, namely breaking down non-digestible dietary carbohydrates. Bifidobacteria is effective in treating constipation, IBS, and traveler’s diarrhea.
This group of rod-shaped bacteria helps your body produce lactic acid, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Lactobacillus is effective in treating stomach pain, hay fever, eczema, and ulcerative colitis.
A type of yeast that functions like a probiotic, Saccharomyces boulardii is used to treat numerous types of diarrhea like traveler’s diarrhea, rotaviral diarrhea, and diarrhea caused by antibiotics. It has also been shown to improve the appearance of acne.
All three bacteria species serve different functions in the body. Be sure to know what probiotic strains are available in the probiotic supplements that you choose to buy. Just as well, look for a supplement that has a high potency.
Common dosages for adults range from 10 to 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day.
While probiotic supplements for adults are safe and natural to consume with very few contraindications, there may be circumstances in which you should exercise caution. Before taking any health supplement, consider speaking to your doctor about your choices and whether they’re right for you.
Aside from being a natural remedy to further enhance your digestive system, probiotic supplements that contain Bacillus clausii can act as an anti-diarrhea medicine for adults.
Similar to Lactobacillus, Bacillus clausii is used for the treatment of gut barrier impairment. Clinical trials have shown that Bacillus clausii has been the probiotic of choice in the effective treatment of acute or chronic diarrhea.
Other studies have also shown that Bacillus clausii contributes to the effective treatment of nasal allergies, small-intestine bacterial overgrowth, upper respiratory tract infection, and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants.
Bacillus clausii is advantageous in treating diarrhea because its spore-forming strains make it resistant to heat and the harsh gastrointestinal conditions of the gut digestive system. It can also withstand the killing effects of antibiotics, allowing it to maintain its efficacy.
When should you take probiotics?
While probiotic supplements have little to no contraindications, knowing when to take them improves the efficacy of the product. The best time to take probiotics supplements is dependent on the bacteria strain(s) in your supplements.
Certain strains like Saccharomyces boulardii maintain its efficacy so it has no problem being ingested with food. It is taken before meals. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, on the other hand, is most effective when taken 15-30 minutes before a meal.
Issues to be aware of
The increased demand of probiotic-enhanced products has flooded the market, with a dizzying number of products all touting to promote and support the diversity of the microorganisms living in your intestines.
And while there are powerful benefits associated with probiotics, consumers should be aware that not all probiotic products are created equal. Similarly, certain probiotic products may produce adverse effects in certain conditions.
For example, fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut contain elevated levels of biogenic amines. People who are intolerant to dietary biogenic amines may find that such fermented foods will trigger headaches, migraines, hives, or bowel problems.
Even if you don’t have an adverse reaction to probiotics, consider slowly integrating these foods into your diet. You may experience increased bloating and gas as your body adjusts to the increased levels of probiotics.
Food-sensitive individuals can minimize the effects of reaction by introducing probiotic-enriched food slowly into their diet. Starting with one or two foods, particularly in small amounts, may limit the unpleasant reactions associated with biogenic amines.
As for probiotic supplements, consult with your doctor first.
Every adult has a different microbiome as is the balance required to maintain a healthy digestive system. Your doctor can help you better narrow down the choice of dietary supplement(s) that’s right for your needs and requirements.
Those with an immune deficiency should consult with their doctor before taking any probiotics.
The bottom line
Whether you’re looking to restore your digestive system’s natural balance or support a stronger immune system, consider adding probiotics to your diet.
While probiotics can help improve your body’s physical, mental, and emotional state, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a cure-all drug. It does not provide a quick fix. Probiotics serve to support your general health, but they must be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
A healthy diet and physical exercise are necessary to not only feel your best but also lower your risk for certain diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Walking just 20 minutes a day can help support a better digestive system.
If you need more resources on how to better incorporate probiotics into your lifestyle, consult your primary care doctor.