Probiotics. You may have heard of it before. If not, you’ve probably seen foods or drinks like cheese, milk, and yogurt with labels saying they are rich with probiotics. Besides, many people have been talking non-stop about the benefits they offer. However, the question is, do you really need to take probiotics and include them in your diet?
Here, we will take a look at what probiotics are, the benefits they offer, the myths about probiotics, and the answer to the question: Do you need to consume probiotics?
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are usually bacteria and yeast. They are the microscopic living organisms that many experts continue to study for the many benefits they offer. Although generally considered safe to consume, they may cause unwanted effects on rare occasions. These cases may be due to taking in levels that exceed maximum recommended levels or co-existing health issues.
You can get probiotics from supplements and fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese, kombucha, probiotic drinks, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other food products.
What Are The Benefits of Probiotics?
Each of us has a complex community of living microorganism in our gut. These microorganisms are referred to as the gut flora or microbiota. And according to studies, the gut flora performs many functions that are essential for optimal health. Their functions are very diverse and complex, but its primary purpose is to promote digestive health. Other health benefits of probiotics include improving brain function, lowering bad cholesterol and high blood pressure, reducing severe allergies or eczema, boosting the immune system, and promoting weight loss, among others.
Myths About Probiotics
While many consumers find probiotics really helpful, there are many misconceptions related to its use. Part of the misunderstanding is their role in curing disease. None of the probiotics containing foods are approved to treat specific ailments, and yet, some manufacturers are making general health claims. For instance, there are claims that it improves conditions such as liver disease, tooth decay, and even common cold. But, these concepts are very vague, and there is no definitive evidence about how they work.However, it is not entirely all advertisements and false claims. Research suggests that probiotics can be beneficial for some people. Some digestive diseases specialists and experts believe that gut-dwelling microorganisms help keep harmful organisms in check. Scientific studies also found proof that probiotics contribute to nutrient absorption and immune function.
But, not all probiotics have the same effects. Different kinds may have different effects. Different individuals may exhibit different responses.
So far, science says that probiotics might help prevent and improve conditions such as:
Certain disorders of the digestive system like antibiotic-related diarrhea, infections, inflammatory bowel diseases, and irritable bowel syndrome
Allergic disorders such as allergic rhinitis or hay fever and topic dermatitis (eczema)
Colic problems (severe, fluctuating pain in the abdomen due to intestinal gas or obstruction in infants
Certain liver conditions
Periodontal disease, tooth decay, and some dental problems
Preliminary investigations have been made in relation to the conditions listed above; more studies need to be done. Experts are still trying to single out which strains or types of probiotics are helpful for specific health problems and which are not useful at all.
Do You Need To Consume Probiotics?
While there is much folklore around the advantages and health benefits of foods with probiotics, many cases have proven that probiotics are somewhat beneficial. To determine if it is safe for you to take foods or supplements with probiotics, always consider the following:
Use of probiotics depends on your condition and the state of your overall health.
Probiotics may have severe or unwanted side effects for people with underlying medical problems such as severe infections, chronic diseases, terminal illness, and other critically ill individuals,
It is recommended not to give probiotics to individuals who has had surgery, people who are immunocompromised (with weak immune system), and very sick infants or children
In general, probiotic-enriched foods or supplements have a good and safe track record in generally healthy individuals. Side effects are possible if they occur at all, but usually, are mild and non-threatening.
And even if you consider yourself healthy, remember that there are uncertainties about the use and safety of probiotics. Like with the use of other supplements, many aspects have not been thoroughly investigated.When it comes to strains of probiotics, most of research and knowledge relates to certain types—the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. And less information is known about other strains.
If you are planning to take probiotic supplements or consume foods with probiotics, keep in mind what science says about how effective probiotics are. Also, not all health benefits are guaranteed. That is why we recommend that you seek counsel from your primary care provider before consuming foods, drinks, and supplements with probiotics.
About the Authors:
Mike Zhang is the founder of the MZF Group. He graduated from the University of Toronto on the dean's list with a Masters Degree in science. Mike was a two time National Muay Thai Champion, and a strength and conditioning coach to several learned athletes. He has over 14 years of experience as a Muay Thai Coach.
Marijune Tiamzon, RN, MHPNP
With nearly 5 years of experience in the medical field, Marijune holds a registered nurse license and a certificate as a mental health nurse practitioner. She is an adventurous young professional, and her hobbies include diving, windsurfing, and saber fencing.
As an avid writer, she is most passionate about sharing acquired knowledge in the medical field and how to apply it to improve the quality of life of our readers.