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Probiotics: What, Types, Benefits, Side Effects, Food Sources

The probiotics contained in your body are made up of good bacteria and/or yeast. There is always a balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in your body. When someone gets an infection, their body is bombarded with more bad bacteria, knocking their balance out. Good bacteria counteract the bad bacteria, restoring the body's balance. Probiotic supplements help to provide the body with good bacteria.


What is Probiotics?

Probiotics are live strains of beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts, which naturally live in your body. In most cases, bacteria are seen as something that makes you sick. On the other hand, there are two kinds of bacteria inside and on your body - good bacteria and bad bacteria. Healthy bacteria make up probiotics, which keep your body strong and healthy. The good bacteria in your body helps you in many ways, including fighting off bad bacteria when you have too much of it, which makes you feel better.


Type of Probiotics

  • Lactobacillus

It is the most common probiotic and is found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea as well as in people who can’t digest lactose.  

  • Bifidobacterium

You can find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Probiotics are also made up of good yeast. The most common type of yeast found in probiotics is:

  • Saccharomyces boulardii

It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems.


Benefits of Probiotics

The main function of probiotics is to maintain a healthy balance in your body. Think of it as keeping your body neutral. Bad bacteria enter your body and it increases when you are sick. This knocks your body out of balance. Good bacteria work to fight off the bad bacteria. It restores the balance within your body which makes you feel better.

Good bacteria keep you healthy by controlling inflammation and supporting your immune function. Certain types of good bacteria can also:

  • Breakdown and absorb medications
  • Help your body digest food
  • Create vitamins
  • Keep bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick
  • Help support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed through foods from entering your blood

This balancing act is certainly occurring in your body all of the time. You don’t need to take probiotic supplements to make it happen. Good bacteria are just a natural part of your body. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fiber every day helps to keep the number of good bacteria at proper levels.

Among other things, probiotics help send food through your gut. It is by affecting your nerves that control the gut movement. Researchers are still trying to figure out which is the best for certain health problems. Some common conditions that treated are:

  • Diarrhea caused by antibiotics
  • Infectious diarrhea (caused by parasites, bacteria, or viruses)
  • Inflammatory bowel diarrhea (IBD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Some research shows they are useful for problems in other parts of your body.  For instance, some people say they have helped with:

  • Oral health
  • Preventing allergies and colds
  • Urinary and vaginal health
  • Skin conditions such as eczema


Side Effects

Though taking probiotics may provide various benefits, it can also cause side effects such as:

  • Digestive symptoms

When first using probiotics, several people experience bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Changes in the gut microbiota can result in bacteria making more gas than normal which leads to bloating. On the other hand, these side effects may clear after a few days or weeks of taking probiotics. If symptoms persist, talk with your doctor. In some cases, your doctor may suggest switching from a different probiotic.

  • Skin problems

Probiotics may cause skin itchiness or rashes in some cases. Stop using probiotics if a rash is severe. Always check the label of the product for any possible allergens. In addition, see a doctor if the rash is persistent, severe, and accompanies other concerning symptoms.

  • Allergy risk

Anybody with an allergy or intolerance for soy, gluten, dairy, eggs, or lactose may need to exercise caution when selecting probiotics. Anyone with a symptom of an allergic reaction must stop using the probiotic right away and seek medical care if the reaction is severe.

  • Increased risk of infection

A person should speak with their doctor before taking probiotics if they have a condition that affects their immune system. Also, anyone using antifungal medication must wait until the infection has cleared up before taking probiotics.

  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

The small and large intestines commonly have different types of bacteria. SIBO happens when bacteria from the large intestine start rising in the small intestine. Anyone taking probiotics and have SIBO symptoms should consult a doctor.

  • Antibiotic resistance

Seldom, probiotic bacteria can have antibiotic-resistant genes. They can pass these genes on to other strains of bacteria, including the damaging strains which might cause infections.


Foods rich in Probiotics

  • Yogurt: It is one of the most familiar sources of probiotics. Studies suggest that probiotics can help ease lactose intolerance.
  • Sauerkraut: Choose the unpasteurized kind. The pasteurizing process used to treat most supermarket brands kills active and good bacteria. Sauerkraut is also loaded with immune-boosting vitamins which help ward off infection.
  • Soft Cheeses: These are good for your digestion, but not all probiotics can survive the journey through your intestines and stomach. Research finds that strains in fermented soft cheeses are hardy enough to make it.
  • Kefir: Just like yogurt, kefir has its strains of probiotic bacteria, plus a few helpful yeast varieties.
  • Tempeh: This is made from a base of fermented soybeans. This Indonesian patty makes a type of natural antibiotic that fights certain bacteria. It is also high in protein.
  • Kimchi: This is a fermented spicy Korean side dish. Kimchi contains the lactic acid Lactobacillus Kimchi that may benefit digestive health.
  • Pickles: When looking to pickles for probiotics, choose naturally fermented kinds. Sea salt and water solution feed the growth of good bacteria. It makes pickles help with your digestion.
  • Traditional buttermilk: This is usually consumed in Pakistan, Nepal, and India. Buttermilk is low in fat and calories. However, it contains several important minerals and vitamins such as phosphorus, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.

In addition, supplements are also rich in probiotics. Probiotics aren’t only in foods. They also come in tablets, capsules, liquid forms, and powder. Even though these supplements don't provide the nutrition that foods can offer, they are easy to use. If you think they might work for you, talk to your doctor first. If you're ill or have immune system problems, you may want to be cautious about taking probiotics.

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