What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, that are commonly consumed as supplements or in fermented foods. They are often referred to as “good bacteria” and are thought to help maintain a healthy balance of gut microbes, improve digestion, and support overall health. The following points are information about probiotics and their effects on gut health.
Probiotics and Gut Microbiome
Probiotics can help to improve the balance of the gut microbiome by introducing beneficial bacteria into the gut. Research has shown that consuming probiotics can increase the abundance of certain beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, in the gut (source: NCBI).
Probiotics and Digestive Health
Probiotics may help to improve digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and constipation. Research has shown that probiotics can help to reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and improve stool consistency (source: NCBI).
Probiotics and Immune Function
Probiotics may also help to support immune function by stimulating the production of immune cells and regulating immune responses. Research has shown that probiotics can help to reduce the incidence and severity of respiratory infections (source: NCBI).
Probiotics and Mental Health
Some evidence suggests that probiotics may also benefit mental health, as researchers have linked the gut microbiome to mood and cognitive function. NCBI research shows that probiotics can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression in some individuals.
How Do I Choose a Gut Health Probiotic?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the type of probiotic that is most beneficial for improving gut health can depend on a variety of factors, including age, health status, and the specific symptoms or conditions being targeted. However, here are some general guidelines to consider when selecting a probiotic supplement:
Look for Strains That Have Been Studied for Their Health Benefits
Researchers have commonly studied and well-documented strains of probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Saccharomyces boulardii. These strains have a positive effect on gut health and probiotic supplements often include them.
Consider the CFU Count
CFU stands for “colony forming units,” and refers to the number of viable bacteria or yeast cells that are present in a probiotic supplement. Generally, higher CFU counts are associated with greater health benefits. However, it’s important to note that not all strains of probiotics require high CFU counts to be effective.
Choose a Reputable Brand
When selecting a probiotic supplement, it’s important to choose a brand that has a good reputation and has undergone third-party testing for quality and purity. Look for products that are certified by organizations like NSF International or the United States Pharmacopeia.
Consider Your Specific Health Needs
Depending on your individual health needs and goals, certain strains or combinations of probiotics may be more beneficial than others. For example, if you are seeking relief from digestive symptoms such as bloating and gas, a supplement containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis may be helpful. If you are looking to support immune function, a supplement containing Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus may be more appropriate.
It’s always a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement regimen, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
Harvard Health Publishing: Health benefits of taking probiotics: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics
NCBI: Probiotics and the Gut Microbiota in Intestinal Health and Disease: From Metchnikoff to Modern Times: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4045285/
NCBI: Probiotics in digestive diseases: focus on Lactobacillus GG: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424311/
NCBI: The Immunomodulatory Potential of Probiotics in Shaping Host Immunity and Inflammatory Responses: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5045144/
NCBI: The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4973349/