Probiotics: food versus supplement
Probiotics can be found naturally in fermented dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and kefir, and in foods such as fresh kimchi and sauerkraut. It’s great to include these items in your regular diet, but try to keep them cold and unprocessed, as heating these foods can kill off beneficial bacteria. “Eating fermented foods is a way to bring beneficial microbes into your digestive tract. However, it’s hard to know how many microbes you’re consuming,” Strealy notes.
For those with digestive issues, Strealy often recommends trying a probiotic supplement. If you’re taking a probiotic supplement for certain symptoms and don’t see improvement after four to six weeks, Strealy suggests trying a different brand with different strains of microbes. “lactobacillusAnd Bifidobacterium (bacteria) f boulardii polysaccharides (Yeast) is generally safe,” advises Strealy.
Digestive problems that may benefit from probiotics
Although more research is needed to determine the best strains for each condition, and the most effective dose, preliminary research shows that probiotics may be beneficial when dealing with a variety of digestive issues, such as:
Diarrhea One meta-analysis of research reported that in cases of severe diarrhea, taking probiotics helped clear up the diarrhea one day faster than it would otherwise. “Probiotics can slow down the contraction of the digestive tract to stop diarrhea,” Strealy explains.
holding A separate meta-analysis found that taking probiotics improved constipation in older adults by up to 40 percent. “Probiotics can relieve constipation by reducing transit time and making stools softer and easier to pass,” says Strealy.
Gas, cramping and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) According to another study, probiotics can relieve lower GI symptoms in people with IBS — including pain, cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance There also appears to be an overall positive relationship between probiotics and lactose intolerance, according to a study, although some strains of probiotics were more effective than others.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) Inflammatory bowel disease includes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, conditions of the digestive system that can cause symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, and bloody stools. A study found that probiotics may help rebalance gut flora from anti-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory. However, more research is needed on what strains and what doses of probiotics can help IBD.
during and after antibiotics Diarrhea is a common side effect when taking antibiotics, because the medication kills the good and bad bacteria in the intestines. A meta-analysis found that those who took probiotics along with antibiotics were half as likely to have antibiotic-related diarrhea.
The use of antibiotics can also lead to infection of the large intestine with bacteria called clostridium difficult (C. diff.), which can also cause diarrhea. A separate meta-analysis concluded with moderate assurance that taking probiotics along with antibiotics can reduce the risk of diarrhea caused by C. diff.and that taking probiotics along with antibiotics is safe for most people, except in cases where people’s immune systems are very weak.
If you want to try a probiotic supplement to relieve specific digestive symptoms, your dietitian can help you choose one from a reputable brand. Alternately, Strealy suggests visiting the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics for information on how to choose researched probiotics for the condition you’re trying to treat, like IBS.
Although it may take some time to find what works for you, probiotics can be a safe way to help keep your digestive system level.