What Probiotics Can Do for Your Digestive Health?
Over the last two decades, probiotic supplements have become increasingly popular. There has been a dramatic increase in probiotic research and the more we become aware of it the more realize we have so much more to learn.
Probiotics and digestion
Probiotics appear to help keep the digestive system in balance and help the body recover from a bout of harmful bacteria. The benefits of probiotics are well-known. These include reducing digestive discomfort such as pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea, improved lactose, and carbohydrate digestion, and production of certain vitamins.
How probiotics can help with digestive problems
There is still more research to be done to determine the dosage and best strain for each digestive issue, but research indicates that probiotics can be beneficial for GI problems such as:
- Diarrhea: Probiotics are good bacteria that create a healthy gut environment. They play an important role in protecting your intestine against infection. Diarrhea occurs when your gut environment changes due to infection and antibiotic treatment. Restoring the balance with friendly microbes such as boulardii can help with diarrhea.
- Constipation: It’s a common issue that affects many adults. Probiotics can slow down the “gut transit time” increased the number of weekly bowel movements, help soften the stool, making them easier to pass.
- Lactose intolerance: Lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to digest lactose. Study shows that consuming probiotics with either or both thermophilus and L. bulgaricus can improve lactose intolerance. Beneficial microbes found in fermented foods can help delay gastric emptying, while some strains produce enzymes that act like lactase to help break down lactose.
- IBS: Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a disorder that affects the large intestine. Symptoms of this common disorder include diarrhea, pain, constipation, gas, and bloating. According to research, different strains of probiotics can be beneficial depending on the symptoms of IBS and the strain's properties.
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic inflammation of the GI tract. Increasing evidence suggests that imbalances in the gut microbiota are responsible for the development and severity of IBS. People who take probiotics for IBD report fewer symptoms.
Diarrhea due to antibiotic therapy
Diarrhea also occurs very frequently when you are taking antibiotics, which kills both good and bad bacteria. However, those who took probiotic supplements along with antibiotics experienced half the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. It is also possible to become infected with C. difficile, a bacterium that causes diarrhea due to antibiotic treatment, but probiotics can reduce the risk of diarrhea caused by C. difficile.
How to use probiotics for digestive health
You can increase your probiotic intake through foods and supplements. Many foods contain probiotics like:
You can also take probiotic supplements with strains like:
In choosing probiotic supplements for digestive issues, aim for a daily dose of 15 to 45 billion CFUs. High doses are more effective in treating IBS and IBD compared to low doses. Ensure that the supplement will remain viable through its expiration date. If not, probiotics that are alive when they are manufactured may be dead when you ingest them. You may also consider products with delayed-rupture technology, such as encapsulation or coating. Probiotics must be protected from stomach acid and bile during their trip to your colon.