Are Probiotics Good for You?

Nikhil Goswami

Probiotics have been the go-to supplements for people suffering from stomach issues. These dietary supplements aid the digestive system and help with issues like irritable bowel syndrome. They also have other health benefits like improving skin health, boosting weight loss, increasing cognitive function, etc. However, how safe are these all-powerful supplements? Can you use them with no side effects? Are they safe for consumption?

These are just a few questions people have asked over the years regarding probiotics. Sometimes, when something sounds too good to be true, it tends to be. So, are probiotics one of them? Are they good for you?

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics consist of good bacteria and, in some cases, yeast that naturally reside in your body. Now, you probably think all bacteria are bad and harmful to you, but they are not. Your body has a balance of good and bad bacteria. When you fall sick due to an infection, this delicate balance can be affected, and the bad bacteria outnumber the good ones. In a case like this, the good gut bacteria work to kill off this excess bad bacteria and fix the imbalance. 

This is where probiotic supplements come into play. 

That said, probiotics are just a fraction of a bigger system that takes care of your body. This system is known as your microbiome. A microbiome is a community of organisms known as microbes that work together to keep your internal system healthy and strong. 

As the name suggests, probiotic supplements for women contain probiotics – live microorganisms that have evolved with humans. 

There are trillions of microbes in your body, and no two humans (not even twins) have the same microbial makeup; therefore, our microbiomes differ based on the individual. The microbes that make up the microbiome include:

  • Bacteria
  • Protozoa
  • Viruses 
  • Fungi

Not all microbes are considered a probiotic. For a microbe to be classified as a probiotic, it must have specific features. Here are some features that make up probiotic bacteria:

  • It needs to be isolated from a live human.
  • It should be able to survive in your stomach after consumption.
  • It should be beneficial to you.
  • It should be safe for consumption.

You can find probiotics in many fermented foods, such as fermented tea, whole grains, and yogurt. However, if your intake of these fermented foods is low, taking probiotic supplements is an excellent way to ensure you always have an adequate amount of probiotic bacteria in your system. 

How Do Probiotics Work?

Probiotics work in different ways, but their primary function is to keep a healthy balance between good and harmful bacteria. They ensure your body is in a neutral state, and when the bad bacteria start to increase, and you fall sick, they work to reduce that number.

There are also probiotics for weight loss & probiotics for UTI if you want to have a look at it. 

Good bacteria ensure you stay healthy by controlling inflammation and supporting your immune function. Certain probiotics can also help with digestion, the creation of vitamins, lining your gut to protect it against ingested bad bacteria, and the breakdown of food and medications.

Where Can You Find Beneficial Probiotics in Your Body?

You can find probiotics all over your body. The most common probiotics you will find are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, which are bacteria. Another one is the saccharomyces boulardii, which is yeast. Other probiotic bacteria include Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, Saccharomyces, and Bacillus. The most famous place that hosts beneficial bacteria is your gut, but other places exist where you can find them. These places include your:

  • Skin
  • Vagina
  • Lungs
  • Urinary tract
  • Mouth

Importance of Probiotics in the Gut

Although you can find probiotics in several places in your body, your gut benefits the most from these microbes. This is why you must have a lot of good bacteria in your gut to keep it functioning properly. They have numerous health benefits, such as improving your digestive health.

The community of microbes in the gut is called the gut flora, gut microbiome, or gut microbiota. This community consists of bacteria, archaea, helminths, viruses, and fungi — with bacteria making up most of the community. You have about 300 to 500 bacterial species in your gut.

You can find most of the gut microbiome in your large intestine. Interestingly, your gut flora metabolic functions are similar to your organ’s. Hence, some scientists call the gut microbiota the “forgotten organ.” 

Your gut flora is important because it performs several health functions, and these include:

  • Manufacturing vitamins, such as vitamin K and certain B vitamins.
  • Turning fibers into fats such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate. These fats feed your gut wall and perform numerous metabolic functions. 
  • Boosting your immune system and strengthening the gut wall. With these performing optimally, your system can stop harmful substances from entering your body, which reduces the need for an immune response.

Benefits of Probiotics

There are numerous benefits to taking probiotics. The best thing about probiotics is that their full potential has not been discovered, so their possibilities are seemingly endless. That said, here are some potential benefits of using probiotics. On the other hand, the human body varies, and you might not experience these benefits.

  • Treatment and Prevention of Diarrhea

One of the most well-known benefits of probiotics is the treatment and prevention of diarrhea. These gut bacteria can prevent or reduce the severity of this condition.

Diarrhea is a side effect of antibiotics. It happens because antibiotics can negatively tip the scales of the balance between good and harmful bacteria in your gut. However, studies have shown that probiotics can reduce the risk of antibiotic-related diarrhea. You can also use probiotics to treat diarrhea not caused by antibiotics.

That said, the effectiveness of good bacteria against diarrhea varies depending on the severity of the condition, the strain of probiotics taken, and the dose ingested. The strains known to treat diarrhea are Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

  • Improve Cognitive Functions and Mental Health Conditions

Studies are beginning to show that gut health can affect mood and mental health. A study carried out on animals and humans showed that probiotic supplements can greatly improve mental health issues, such as autism, depression, and anxiety. It can also improve cognitive functions, like attention and memory.

With continued use of probiotics for up to four weeks, you might see a change in your attention span, memory, and overall mental awareness. Those with mental conditions might experience reduced symptoms of their conditions.

  • Lesser Gas and Bloating

One way probiotics help your body is by restoring good bacteria in your gut. When these microbes restore balance, they help to reduce the swelling of your bowel and excess gas production. This improvement means your digestive system is less likely to have irregular bowel movements or gas.

  • Stronger Immune System 

Whenever individuals experience gastric problems, they tend to fall sick often. This is because the gut flora is imbalanced, and the immune system is not functioning optimally. You are more likely to get sick when your immune system is not at its best. However, if you use probiotics, your gut will start healing, and your immune system will follow suit. 

In addition, when your gut microbiome does not have the right balance, it is harder for your system to absorb nutrients. When this happens, your immune system does not work properly, but with probiotics, there is a possibility that you will not experience these problems.

  • Healthier Skin

As we mentioned, you can find probiotics outside your gut, such as on your skin. Hence, if the probiotics on your skin are healthy and in balance due to probiotic supplements, you will be less likely to suffer from issues like acne, eczema, or other skin conditions.

  • More Energy

When you eat, probiotics aid in absorbing nutrients from the food. Thus, when the helpful bacteria in your system are not at optimal levels, your body will not be able to absorb the vitamins and nutrients it needs. This means you will feel tired more frequently.

But, if your gut health is superb, your system will be able to absorb these nutrients and fuel your body. It will also be able to produce B vitamins, which are vitamins that produce energy in the body.

Likewise, when you are low on good bacteria, and bad bacteria start to increase, this will prompt an immune response to fight the toxins. This response can also lead to you being tired. Hence, when you take this probiotic supplement, the bacteria in your system will be balanced, meaning there will be no need for an immune response. 

  • Weight Loss

When you take probiotics, you are improving your gut health, which in turn, improves your body’s fat metabolism. An increased body fat metabolism means you will burn fat faster. Further, probiotics help to produce GLP-1, a hormone that can help curb your cravings and reduce your appetite. Finally, there is a chance that probiotics can reduce your absorption of dietary fat. This means you will excrete more than usual, which leads to weight loss.

Can You Use Probiotics For Medical Conditions? 

Probiotics are still undergoing a copious amount of research to determine all the benefits they possess and what conditions they can treat. Although there have been positive results from taking this supplement, researchers still need more findings regarding how well probiotics treat various conditions.

However, there are medical conditions probiotics may be able to help with. Keep in mind that the supplement results vary based on the individual, and what works for you may not work for someone else. Also, results vary based on the strain of probiotics. 

Some conditions that probiotics possibly treat include:

  • Constipation
  • Yeast infections
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Sepsis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Upper respiratory infections

Are Probiotics Good For You?

Probiotics naturally exist in your body and are important to your health. Probiotic supplements are just as important because they add to the good bacteria you already have in your system. Hence, these dietary supplements are good for you. There have been no known cases of probiotics causing any severe side effects in humans.  

With that said, some people may experience issues like diarrhea, mild bloating, gas, or other stomach issues. However, these symptoms only occur in the first week of using the probiotics because their systems are still adapting to the supplement. So, after that first week, the symptoms should clear off, and you should be good to go. But, if the symptoms persist, you should stop taking the supplements and visit a doctor.

There are some reasons why you might react negatively to probiotics after the first week. Although, none of these reasons should worry you. Some reasons include allergic reactions and lactose intolerance (some supplements are made with lactose). Sometimes, your body does not accept that brand of probiotics, and switching to another product may solve the problem. 

Certain people should be careful when using probiotics because it could lead to infection. If you belong to this category, it would be best to stay away from probiotics.

  • Those with a destabilized immune system. For example, people undergoing chemotherapy
  • People with critical illnesses
  • Sick or premature infants
  • People who recently had surgery

This is why it is vital that you speak to your healthcare provider before taking probiotics. They have experience dealing with these situations and can give you the best advice on whether you need these supplements or are susceptible to side effects.

Can Probiotics Hurt You?

Researchers are still trying to determine how effective probiotics are and when and how you should use them. Still, these supplements are generally considered safe and do not cause harm for most healthy people. That said, consult your doctor before starting any supplements because they might not be right for you.

Are There Any Serious Health Risks to Taking Probiotics?

Probiotics supplements are usually safe, but there are some risks that affect certain people, such as the ones we mentioned above. If you fall under any of those categories, you should be cautious and seek medical advice.

Likewise, there are other risks to taking probiotics. These risks are extremely unlikely but are still a possibility, and they include:

  • Infection
  • Resistance to antibiotics
  • Releasing harmful byproducts

Are Probiotics Safe for Kids?

Probiotics naturally exist in kids and adults; thus, kids can also take these supplements. If your child has an infection or any other condition that requires antibiotics, using a probiotic can help to relieve some symptoms. Besides, you can use these supplements to treat acid reflux, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and eczema (atopic dermatitis) in kids.

Some brands sell supplements specially formulated for infants and children. If you do not want to give your child these supplements, you can introduce them to probiotic foods. By including probiotic-rich foods like cottage cheese and yogurt in your child’s diet, you can increase the number of good bacteria in their system and improve their gut health.

Despite these options, it is always best you talk to your child’s pediatrician before offering them probiotic supplements or introducing a new probiotic-rich diet.

Safety of Probiotic Products

When the right products are used properly, probiotic products can change your digestive health for the better. However, you might not always find the safest products.

Probiotics are not considered medications. Instead, they are classified as dietary supplements. Hence, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them, and manufacturers can sell these products without their approval. Due to this lack of supervision, manufacturers sell all kinds of supplements with unfounded and unverified claims. In some cases, these supplements are unsafe and ineffective (they might not even contain probiotics). Products like these can lead to serious health complications. 

That said, some authorized organizations offer certifications for these supplements. So, it would not hurt to purchase a product with this certification. If you are unsure about what product is safe, you can talk to a healthcare professional with experience in gut health. They should know about some legitimate probiotic supplements.

Purchasing from other countries is also risky because probiotic regulations are different worldwide, so you might not know what you are getting into. It is easy to find unregulated items on the internet, and you cannot confirm their safety. So, it would be best if you steered clear of such products. If you must buy online, ensure the product has some form of approval from a reputable health organization.

Regardless of where you buy your supplement, ensure the company follows the best and safest practices. These include transparency, manufacturing procedures, and third-party testing. While these may not always be available, they are the best way to ensure you buy the safest option possible.

Tips for Buying Probiotics

Safety is one of the many factors you must consider before buying a probiotic supplement. Once you have confirmed that the brand you want to buy from is safe, you need to look at other factors. Some of the factors you need to look out for include:

Species and Strains of Probiotics

There are different species and strains of good gut bacteria, and different types of probiotics address different health problems. Hence, you need to select the right product that suits your condition.

Most products are identified on their labels based on strain species and subspecies. Some supplements come with different species in one product; they are called multi-probiotics or broad-spectrum probiotics. Seek a doctor’s medical expertise if you do not know what species or strains you should buy.

Human Strains

Bacterial strains come from different sources; however, only human strains are strong enough to live on and replicate in your gut. Other bacterial strains found in probiotic foods like cottage cheese and yogurt do not fare well in the body, and in most cases, they pass through the gut in a few days. Thus, we suggest you buy products with human bacterial strains for long-lasting effects.

Pure Products

Due to how unregulated they are, many probiotics come with unnecessary components. In most cases, manufacturers include fillers to increase the quantity of their product. However, by doing so, they are reducing the quality of their product. Hence, it would be best to avoid them. Stick to products with no fillers, such as animal proteins, gluten, and soy. Check the ingredients for any allergens. Moreover, there are vegan-friendly products for those who follow a special diet.

How Do You Take a Probiotic Supplement?

Probiotics come in various forms, and you can take these supplements in several ways. Here are some of the forms of probiotic supplements that you can buy:

  • Beverages
  • Capsules
  • Tablets
  • Powders

These supplement forms are all effective, so you can choose what variant works best for you and stick to that. However, you must be careful with some forms, such as capsules, because they come with freeze-dried bacteria, and your stomach acid might destroy them before they reach your gut. When this happens, you do not get any benefits from using the supplement.

Also, if you want to experience the health benefits of probiotic supplements, you need to take adequate amounts; you need about 1 billion to 100 billion live organisms daily.

Luckily, most products come with instructions on how to take the supplement. So, read the label and follow the instructions. That said, different brands have different instructions, so always ensure to read the label in case you plan on switching products.

Some products come with probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics are a food source for good bacteria and help keep them healthy in your system. Some examples of prebiotics are pectin, inulin, and resistant starches. Products that come with both prebiotics and probiotics are called synbiotics. 

Do Probiotics Have Specific Storage Instructions?

Certain probiotic strains are fragile and require protection from oxygen, heat, humidity, and light. The probiotics might break down or die off if exposed to these conditions, thereby eliminating their valuable traits.

Thus, to prolong the lifespan of your product, you need to store them in favorable conditions. In some cases, you may need to store your probiotics in the refrigerator.

The label on your probiotic product should contain the details for storage, so ensure you read the label before purchasing. In addition, look out for the expiration date, and ensure you can finish the product before the date elapses.

Do You Need Probiotics After Taking Antibiotics?

In most cases, you take antibiotic medications to fight off infections caused by bad bacteria. Although these medications kill the bad bacteria, they also take some good bacteria with them. This is why some people experience diarrhea caused by antibiotics. In other people, the bad bacteria might overshadow the beneficial bacteria and populate your gut flora. Thus, you might need to take probiotics after taking antibiotics. However, these dietary supplements do not treat diarrhea in everyone.

It would be best if you considered opting for probiotics after taking antibiotics to restore balance in your system. By taking probiotics, you are repopulating your system with good bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics. With this additional good bacteria, your gut will be populated with helpful live microorganisms that can kill off any bad bacteria left in your system. Most people believe that adding probiotics to their system does not hurt and, in fact, can make them feel better quicker.

Challenges With Probiotics

While probiotics thus far have helped improve overall health, researchers still face some challenges. The past two decades have been promising. During this period, science has helped us understand how probiotics play an important role in human health and the fight against clinical infectious diseases. However, the research on probiotics is still fairly new, and there is so much we need to learn.

Despite years of general studies, scientists are still trying to identify all the microbial species present in your gut. By identifying them, researchers should understand how each one functions to improve or deteriorate human health. However, the strains are too many, and the process could take a long time.

Studies show that probiotics are helpful against certain clinical conditions, but sometimes, these results contradict each other. One major reason is that the methods for testing probiotics differ worldwide, and countries use varying processes and analytical data.

Unfortunately, having a standard research procedure for testing probiotics will be challenging because the human body comprises a diverse group of microorganisms. Moreover, case subjects vary among countries. Even subjects in the same countries have different microbial compositions. Also, the bacterial strains are constantly evolving, and so are the environment and health of the hosts, so it is hard to study ever-changing conditions.

So, probiotics researchers face the challenge of classifying trillions of ever-changing microorganisms based on specific conditions. However, with time, the true potential of probiotics will be unlocked.

Conclusion: Is It Okay For Me To Take Probiotics Everyday? 

Opting for probiotics is worth a shot if you have certain gastrointestinal disorders. You might see a notable change in your gut health and overall health. Remember that these results vary, and you might not experience what others do.

In general, probiotics are safe and do not cause any harm. If you are wary and want to start easy, you can change your healthy diet to include probiotic-rich foods. After a while, you can switch to the supplement. If you want to take probiotic supplements, we suggest conversing with your healthcare provider before pressing on. This is because they need to confirm your condition and prescribe a strain that will work to treat it.

Share this Article