As popular as they are, probiotics are still surrounded by mystery for most of us. We know that they’re good bacteria and that we naturally host them in our bodies with great benefits, but that’s pretty much all the information that we’re offered. And most times it seems like we don’t even need to know more, since it seems like both the companies that manufacture them and medical professionals agree that they’re good for health and that using them comes with virtually no risks. But they’re still alternative health products, and like any form of treatment that’s not powerful enough to be classified as a drug, their effects vary largely among users.
And most times it seems like we don’t even need to know more, since it seems like both the companies that manufacture them and medical professionals agree that they’re good for health and that using them comes with virtually no risks. But they’re still alternative health products, and like any form of treatment that’s not powerful enough to be classified as a drug, their effects vary largely among users. One type of treatment that some consumers are trying is the new Molecular Hydrogen as an alternative health product. You can read the molecular hydrogen reviews at Supplementyouneed.com for more information. This type of supplement deals with anti-ageing, act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and has anti-allergic properties. Consumers like the fact that it helps with so much but it is good to remember that although these supplements work you need to look at your diet and exercise as well.
Still, very few consumers tend to complain, as it seems like probiotics are one category of health products that we have faith in no matter the actual results that they provide. This is most likely because they’re not only sold as supplements but also added to many different types of foods and drinks, including sweets and soft drinks like they’re a magic ingredient that will instantly turn any product into a cure for many affections. Probiotics are used so aggressively in advertising that we’re not interested in discussing their qualities, but do they really help?
Do Probiotics Really Work?
They do, to a certain extent. Many scientific studies have been performed in the past years, and even if some of them have turned out inconclusive, the majority seem to support the claims made by probiotic products manufacturers.
But this is not the case for all of them, as different strands of bacteria affect the body in different ways and serve specific functions. A very small number have actually been proven as effective, and only the products containing this very specific species deserve to be advertised as probiotics.
Nowadays every harmless species is considered by many as a probiotic, and consumers hurry to purchase any product containing “live cultures”, but the truth is that many of them are useless. The truly beneficial bacterial species are mostly found in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera, and even in these cases, only a small number of strains are effective.
But probiotics don’t only include bacteria, but also a species of yeast. Some believe that many strains of yeast are beneficial for the health, but at the moment we only have proof of the effectiveness of one of them. Often times this strain is included in supplements and foods along bacteria, and next, we’ll have a look at what it can do for us along with the intensively studied strains of bacteria.
What Science Has to Say?
First, it should be kept in mind that probiotics can only help in conditions that are generally considered as mild. Severe conditions always require professional help, but these organisms being useless when ingested in these circumstances should be the least concern.
Because while probiotics are essential for intestinal health and the immune system, they’re still bacteria, and they do have the potential to become highly dangerous. A body that’s severely affected by a disease will often times not be able to keep these organisms in check, and the results could be tragic.
Studies have shown probiotics turning into harmful bacteria and increasing the death rate in certain conditions, and potential users should always be aware of their health condition before starting a treatment.
These organisms will function as expected in a balanced system, but like any other life form, their purpose is survival and reproduction, and given the right circumstances they’ll spread where they don’t belong.
While they are naturally found in our bodies, they don’t exist for helping us, and an extremely weak immune system will not only be unable to fight the bacteria we usually try to keep at bay, but also the bacteria we believe to be harmless.
Probiotics have the capacity to cause potentially fatal infections themselves, so they should be avoided by people in very delicate conditions. At the same time, they’ll only provide benefits for a balanced body, as we’ll see next.
One of the most common health conditions for which people use probiotics is inflammatory bowel disease. And it seems like some of them can really help, although the studies have been small and not always conclusive. Lactobacillus salivarius and S. boulardii (the yeast species that we mentioned earlier) have helped in relieving this condition and reducing the number of relapses in many patients.
Positive results have also been observed by administrating other probiotics, but the best proof we have regards these two species. And because they’re efficient in treating this very upsetting condition, we can safely assume they will also work for other, less serious intestinal issues. And this is exactly what the vast majority of consumers use them for, as most probiotics contribute to a healthy digestion and are able to eliminate small discomforts for otherwise healthy individuals. And while the small discomforts can turn into serious reasons of concern, it seems like probiotics can still help, like they do in the case of diarrhea.
This affection can be caused by various factors, and the vast majority of people are confronted with it when they least expect it. Many will experience it while traveling, and this is caused by being exposed to native bacterial species that the body is not familiar with, along with new foods that the digestive systems might not handle properly. It’s more common when traveling in very warm climates, which allows a faster growth rate and spreading of the harmful bacteria, but it seems like some species of probiotics can offer protection against them.
Studies have shown that the ingestion of Lactobacillus GG by travelers reduced the incidence of diarrhea to half, even if some surveys did offer inconclusive results. But it seems like certain species of probiotics can also help in this condition if it’s caused by viruses, although most studies in this area have been performed on children. L. GG,
L. GG, L. Reuteri, and S. Boulardii have been proven to be efficient in either preventing or treating diarrhea caused by rotavirus and other viruses. In these cases, the duration of the disease was shortened while the symptoms were less severe, and the studies can’t be disproved as they’ve been performed on hundreds of children in the different areas of the world, including countries where the incidence of the disease is very high.
Probiotics will also be effective in the case of diarrhea caused by the use of antibiotics, as in this case the condition is caused by the probiotics being killed off along with the harmful bacteria that the treatment is trying to eliminate.
Antibiotics kill all bacteria, and the reduced number of probiotics will immediately manifest through intestinal conditions. This proves just how important these organisms are for health, and should convince even skeptics that ingesting these types of bacteria along with antibiotics is essential for keeping the natural balance of the intestinal flora.
Another study, also performed on children, shows that Lactobacillus GG is able to prevent dental caries by reducing the numbers of the harmful bacteria naturally found in the mouth.
The same bacteria strain seems able to help in skin affections, as various studies have shown it to be an effective treatment for eczema. It can improve the skin condition of those affected, but also reduce the frequency of the outbursts, and while not yet demonstrated it seems that probiotics can help in many other types of skin affections, from acne to infections caused by burns.
But while these particular qualities of probiotics are helpful for all social groups, these microorganisms come with even more benefits for women. Men host the vast majority of bacteria in their digestive tract that’s why there are probiotics for men, but women also carry a significant amount in their genital systems.
Lactobacillus, in particular, is responsible for keeping the bacterial balance of the vagina, and a decrease in a number of probiotics will leave it vulnerable to yeast and bacterial infections. Most women deal with this kind of issue at least once, especially because probiotics are so easily affected by numerous factors, including some that can’t be controlled. While you can make sure that your diet will help the good bacteria, it’s much more difficult to protect yourself from stress, which alone will damage the immune system.
And these are only some of the specific affections in which probiotics have been proven to be effective, as studies are still being performed and new helpful strains are being discovered every day. But most proponents of probiotics don’t focus on the specific effects of certain species but on their more general qualities, which are quite amazing. They’re essential for healthy digestion but this means much more that it would seem because fixing a slight intestinal imbalance can change the entire way the body functions.
Probiotics General Benefits
First off, healthy digestion means a healthy metabolism. It guarantees that the body receives the right nutrients, and only certain bacterial strains are able to break down some foods. A bacterial imbalance could lead to weight gain, and this is why some probiotic products are designed specifically for weight loss. How effective these products are exactly is still up for debate, but studies are beginning to show that probiotics can help in slimming.
A study involving L. Reuteri has shown that this particular strain of bacteria is able to lower cholesterol in significant percentages, which means that probiotics not only have the ability to break down fat but protect the body from conditions that have the potential to be deadly.
Decreasing the cholesterol level means lowering the blood pressure and reducing the chances of developing a dangerous heart condition. This is a less known benefit of probiotics that could help most of us, but even more important, and most commonly used in advertising, is their ability to improve the immune system.
And there are a number of ways in which they achieve it, starting simply with helping the body receive the essential nutrients. This allows the body to produce the energy needed to fight harmful bacteria and viruses, but this is just the beginning. Because probiotics will directly affect dangerous bacteria, first by not allowing them to receive enough nutrients in the intestinal tract.
Most of the bacteria, both good and bad, can be found in the intestinal tract, where they compete for nutrients. A healthy amount of probiotics will guarantee that the dangerous strains won’t multiply out of control, keeping the entire system healthy. More than that, a high number of probiotics will prevent the body from having unwanted immune responses to harmless bacteria.
This is how they help in preventing allergies, as they’re “teaching” the body to tolerate harmless organisms and substances. But at the same time, probiotics themselves can trigger allergies. This is one of the few side effects of the good bacteria, and it’s caused by the body not being used to the organisms, as harmless as they are.
If this is a sign for the body having a very small amount of probiotics (which is always a problem) is up for discussion, but any allergic reaction should be immediately checked by a doctor. It seems like it doesn’t happen very often but it’s always a possibility, so new probiotic users should pay attention to any changes occurring after starting the treatment.
But probiotics don’t only affect harmful bacteria by influencing different processes, as some strains are able to fight unwanted germs themselves. They produce substances that are toxic to harmful bacteria and make the environment unsuitable for them, effectively reducing their numbers and the chances of the body being damaged.
At the same time, other strains are able to keep the infectious bacteria in the intestine and prevent it from spreading in the body, along with helping to eliminate it. It seems like they can offer significant protection against many “invaders”, but their benefits don’t stop here.
Because while protecting the body and helping it receive healthy nutrients from outside sources, probiotics also produce some essential compounds themselves, starting with vitamin K. In the human body, this substance is only produced by the bacteria in the intestine and it has an important role in blood clotting.
It’s found in vegetables, but in the lack of a healthy diet, probiotic supplements might be able to help in keeping its amount at a healthy level. And they might also help with B vitamins since the good bacteria is able to produce 3 different types. Folate is a B vitamin, and like vitamin K, it’s produced in the intestine.
Folic acid (the artificial form of folate) is now added to many different foods as it’s essential for the proper development of all areas of the body, the same reason why it’s used by most pregnant women. It’s important for preventing birth defects, but it stays essential during the entire lifetime, as it also prevents anemia and other blood disorders. And the same is the case with vitamin B12, which is also produced by bacteria.
Lastly, we have biotin, another B vitamin that is essential for the proper functioning of the body, but unlike the other two, it’s important for absorbing nutrients from the ingested food. Biotin helps in breaking down carbohydrates and fats, and a low level could cause weight loss and other issues associated with malnutrition.
Who Should Use Probiotics?
Given that probiotics are available in foods, drinks and of course supplements, they’re easily accessible for anyone interested. But this is not a good reason for everybody using them, as a healthy diet often times guarantees a high number of good bacteria.
And while the harmful bacteria should be kept in check, this doesn’t mean that they should be eliminated completely. It’s all about balance, and as long as the good bacteria largely outnumbers the germs, the body will stay healthy and well balanced.
This can be managed by diet, as probiotics need specific nutrients to properly develop and reproduce, and they are found mostly in fiber. More precisely fiber that dissolves in water, which can’t be digested in the stomach and will reach the intestine intact, where it will be consumed by probiotics. And while soluble fiber will keep the bacteria healthy, another type of the same compound will guarantee that their numbers won’t decrease as the result of other intestinal disorders.
The insoluble fiber can’t be metabolized either by the body or the bacteria, but it will assure a healthy bowel transit and prevent constipation, contributing to keeping the balance of the digestive process and protecting the probiotics. These two types of fiber are known as prebiotics and are naturally found in fruits and vegetables, but they can also be ingested through supplements.
Often times prebiotics and probiotics are combined in the same product for best results, and these kinds of supplements are recommended for individuals who don’t pay very much attention to their diets.
Many of us fall into this category given the amounts of sugar we consume on a daily basis (often times without even realizing it), along with a lack of healthy carbohydrates in our dishes. A faulty diet will feed mostly the harmful bacteria, and even if the effects are not immediately noticeable, our health does suffer.
Someone that is very careful with their diet will not need extra probiotics, but some specialists recommend it even in these cases. It seems like anyone could benefit from using a probiotic supplement once every few months, especially when the seasons change. The effects of temperature changes on the immune system are well known, so an intake of probiotics will help in keeping it at a healthy level.
But two groups that might benefit by constantly adding probiotics to their diet are children and the elderly. Not only are the individuals in these categories more prone to digestive issues, but their immune systems are more vulnerable than in the case of young adults.
And while a healthy diet should be enough to keep the friendly bacteria at a healthy level in the case of women, so many are affected by vaginal conditions in the reproductive years that probiotics might be a great preventive measure in their case too. Becoming pregnant or simply being sexually active can easily disrupt the balance of the vaginal flora, so a healthy diet might not be enough to guarantee good health.
Finding the Right Probiotics Product
If you believe that you could benefit from increasing the number of probiotics found in your body, first make sure that whatever issue you’re currently confronting with is not a sign of a more serious condition.
Probiotics will help in keeping the balance of many body functions and relieve (or even cure) minor affections, but they’re not the magic cure that they’re made out to be in the advertising of many products. Only a doctor can decide what’s the best treatment for specific conditions, and if they agree that a probiotic is enough to put you back in optimal health, only then you can search for the right supplement.
And as it’s very difficult to determine exactly how many extra probiotics you need, it’s recommended to start at the lowest count of individual organisms per intake. A high intake might work faster, but it should be kept in mind that the bacteria will reproduce, so a healthy population could be established without having to ingest hundreds of billions of organisms.
The CFU (colony forming units) count will be displayed on the product and allow you to choose the exact amount you want to ingest, and you’ll be able to increase it if necessary. And even more important than the CFU count is the ingredient list, which must display all the substances included and the specific strains of probiotics.
The best probiotic supplements will mostly include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, and their numbers don’t have to be very high. As we’ve shown in another section, the most benefits are generated by a small number of species, so any product that tries to impress the buyer with a long list of ingredients should be avoided. Quality probiotics will focus on the strains that are scientifically proven as effective, and for the best results, no one should settle for less.