She Had a Stomach Ailment Almost Nothing Could Cure
A couple of months ago I was talking to a lady about nutrition and at some point the topic of probiotics came up. She told me that she had some type of gastrointestinal condition, she tired every type of probiotic, and it didn't help aside from one individual strain (I forget the name) that was prescribed to her by a doctor.
She proceeded to tell me that probiotics are literally useless to the general public aside from the one strain that helped her.
So that made me wonder, was she telling the truth or was it just anecdotal evidence based on her experience.
In this post, we well investigate rather or not there is any health benefit to taking probiotics for healthy individuals or otherwise.
Probiotics are Big Business
You can walk into any grocery store and you can find a plethora of probiotic products claiming to cure everything from constipation to obesity and even depression.
Not only can you find probiotics in pill and cold press forms, manufacturers are now fortifying foods such as cookies, candy, beef jerky, and pet food!
According to a National Institutes of Health survey, the number of adults in the U.S. taking probiotics or their cousins, prebiotics (typically nondigestible fibers that favor the development of gut bacteria), more than quadrupled between 2007 and 2012, from 865,000 people to nearly four million.
San Francisco–based business consulting firm Grand View Research estimates that the global probiotics market exceeded $35 billion in 2015 and predicts that it will reach $66 billion by 2024.
With staggering numbers like that, it begs the question, do we all really need to be taking probiotics or is it another misleading health food con take our money?
What are Probiotics Anyway?
Probiotics are bacteria that are good for our bodies, especially our digestive systems. Good and bad bacteria are already in our guts, but probiotics help more of the good kind grow and prevent the bad kind from increasing.
They’re found in foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, but companies are now making chips, chocolate, and supplements filled with good-for-your-gut bacteria.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Researchers are still unclear about how probiotics work but they are known for helping
- When you lose "good" bacteria in your body, for example after you take antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them.
- They can help balance your "good" and "bad" bacteria to keep your body working the way it should.
Among other things, probiotics help send food through your gut by affecting nerves that control gut movement. Researchers are still trying to figure out which are best for certain health problems. Some common conditions they treat are:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
- Diarrhea caused by antibiotics
There is also some research that shows they're useful for problems in other parts of your body. For example, some people say they have helped with:
- Skin conditions, like eczema
- Urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing allergies and colds
- Oral health
Common species and strains of probiotics
The most commonly consumed probiotics are strains of two main species. These species are also the most studied of probiotics:
Bifidobacteria: This species of bacteria is commonly used in foods and supplements. They’re thought to:
- support the immune system
- limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine
- help in breaking down lactose into nutrients the body can use
Lactobacillus: This species of bacteria produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugar. These bacteria also produce lactic acid. Lactic acid helps control the population of bad bacteria. It also serves as muscle fuel and increases the body’s absorption of minerals. Lactobacillus bacteria are found naturally in the:
- small intestine
Probiotic strains are genetic subtypes of species. Each probiotic strain has a different effect in the body. You will see the probiotic strain names on food or supplement labels, combined with the species name. For example, the Bifidobacteria or Lactobacillus species are often abbreviated as B. or L. and combined with the individual strain name, such as acidophilus. This gives you the probiotic L. acidophilus. This is how the name will appear on food or supplement labels.
Here are six common strains of probiotics that you’ll find on food and supplement labels.
- B. animalis: This strain is an ingredient in Dannon yogurt’s Activia product. It’s helpful in aiding digestion and fighting food-borne bacteria. It’s also thought to boost your immune system.
- B. breve: This strain lives in your digestive tract and in the vagina. In both places, it fights off infection-causing bacteria, or yeast. It helps your body absorb nutrients by fermenting sugars. It also breaks down plant fiber to make it digestible.
- B. lactis: This is derived from raw milk. It’s an ingredient in Nestle’s probiotic infant formula, called Good Start Natural Cultures. It also serves as a starter for buttermilk, cottage cheese, and other cheeses.
- B. longum: This strain lives in your gastrointestinal tract. It helps break down carbohydrates and also can be an antioxidant.
- L. acidophilus: This strain is found in the small intestine and in the vagina. It helps digestion and may help fight off vaginal bacteria. You can find it in yogurt and fermented soy products, such as miso.
- L. reuteri: This strain is found in the intestine and mouth. One study showed that it decreased the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay. It’s also thought to help the digestive system.
So Do Probiotics Work?
In healthy individuals the idea that consuming probiotics can boost the ability of already well-functioning native bacteria to promote general health is dubious for a couple of reasons.
Manufacturers of probiotics often select specific bacterial strains for their products because they know how to grow them in large numbers, not because they are adapted to the human gut or known to improve health.
The particular strains of Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus that are typically found in many yogurts and pills may not be the same kind that can survive the highly acidic environment of the human stomach and from there colonize the gut.
In individuals with these specific gastrointestinal conditions, probiotics can be a great remedy:
- Ulcerative colitis: research suggests that the supplement VSL#3, a combination of eight different Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Streptococcus bacteria strains, could help in addition to traditional treatment
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): 7 to 16 percent of the U.S. population, have reported that taking probiotics has alleviated their symptoms, including gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Although the research is still unclear as to specifically what type/strain of probiotic works best for individuals with IBS.
- If you're taking antibiotics: Doctors recommends taking probiotics containing the saccharomyces bacteria strain prior to starting antibiotics, and to continue for at least a few days after your course of treatment is done to help maintain the good bacteria in your gut that can be disrupted by a course of antibotics.
How do I Improve My Gut if I Don't Have a Condition?
There are a lot of naturally foods that contain probiotics that you can take without having to shell out hundreds of dollars in pills.
Plus, you get other micronutrients from probiotic foods that you may not get in pill form.
If you want a free chart of the Top 8 Probiotic Containing Foods, sign up below!
Until next time - ENVISION, BELIEVE, EXECUTE and SUCCEED
To your health!
Your Goals + Our Design = Get You Fit