Let us suggest that you asked yourself “Should I take probiotics?”, and the answer was “yes”. Probiotics may prove very beneficial for various aspects of your health, from digestion to your immune system. They reduce the growth of harmful bacteria in the body, improve your nutrient intake from foods, produce important vitamins, etc.
Naturally, you would want to ensure that what you are doing is effective. This is why this article summarizes briefly every basic about probiotics, so that you know exactly, what to expect and how to get the best results.
What is Probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that have been discovered to have a positive impact on human health. Some of the are similar to bacteria that are naturally present in your gut flora. If you want to experience the benefits of a probiotic for yourself, you may consume them with:
- some dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, or some cheeses (gouda, cheddar, cottage cheese, mozzarella);
- fermented foods: sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kimchi;
- a probiotic supplement.
Do not mix up probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics. Here is the difference:
- Probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial for well-being.
- Prebiotics are complex carbs that are low-digested but create a good medium for the bacteria to grow. Onion, garlic, asparagus, oat, and banana are some examples.
- Synbiotics are the products that contain both. They exist as a supplement but you can create a synbiotic food, such as miso soup with garlic and onions, or yogurt with banana.
Types of Probiotics
Probiotics are differentiated by strain. In this article section, we will briefly explain the most common of them.
Bifidobacteria. Although they make up less than 10% of bacteria in the gut microbiome of an adult human, they are of huge importance for our health. For example, they:
- produce fatty acids and B vitamins;
- help the body digest fiber and secret short-chain fatty acids which reduces the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, and other chronic conditions; reduces hunger; improves gut health in general.
- help our immune system by stimulating adaptive immune responses and suppressing toxins produced by Escherichia Coli, thus preventing food-born illnesses.
Lactobacillus. As the name suggests, they are linked to milk constituents and their metabolism.
- Lactase production. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down milk sugar, thus helping people digest dairy products.
- Lactic acid production. Lactic acid takes part in brain metabolism and mineral absorption and serves as muscle fuel.
- Oppose harmful microorganisms, preventing such conditions as yeast infections.
Saccharomyces boulardii. Those are a type of yeast known for binding water and therefore reducing symptoms of diarrhea and preventing diarrhea dehydration. They are associated with reducing gut inflammation process and acne.
How Probiotics Work
After entering the gastrointestinal tract, probiotics need to survive in an acidic medium of the stomach. After passing it successfully, they reach the gut and can start to grow and reproduce. Different strains live in different parts of the intestine. They increase the number of gut bacteria and change the composition of the microbiome for the better. Probiotics working result in:
- Production of various chemicals that the body needs.
- Reducing the growth of harmful yeasts and bacteria.
- Improvement in some system functions, such as immune reactions.
Signs that probiotics are working
After you began taking a probiotic supplement or enriching your diet with probiotic foods, the changes will not come in a blink: the body requires time to adjust. You may start noticing any significant effects in 2 to 8 weeks depending on the state of your gut health and the general condition of the organism.
Let us look closer and get some details about the possible signs your probiotic is working.
Reduction in digestive issues
There are many studies confirming that a healthy gut microbiome can help with a lot of digestive issues:
- Stomach pain and cramps.
- Bloating caused by issues in your digestion.
- Constipation. People often take probiotics for diarrhea which is an option also, but they can save one from the need for laxatives by regulating bowel movements.
- As mentioned earlier, diarrhea also goes into the list, especially the kinds associated with traveling (and changes in food and water) and antibacterial medication.
If your digestion improved, that is definitely a sign your diet or supplementation does good work.
Boost in the immune system
Have you heard about 70% of your immune system is in your gut? This is actually related to the number of immune cells residing in the intestines. Logically, the healthier your microbiota is, the better environment is created for those immune cells. Good bacteria helping the body to fight off intruders also contribute to your resistance to certain diseases.
Mental health improvements
What do the guts have to do with how your psyche works? Well, there is a thing called “a gut-brain axis”. CNS and GI tract are connected in several ways:
- Healthy gut microbiome produces B vitamins that are essential for healthy nerve function. Their deficit is accompanied by vulnerability to stress, low motivation, high fatigue level, and depression.
- Good bacteria also produce neurotransmitters responsible for better cognitive functions and mood, such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.
- Microflora disbalance can cause inflammation processes and higher toxin levels in the bloodstream which affects the brain functions negatively.
Acne is a sign of inflammation, metabolism disorders, and harmful bacteria overgrowth—all the things that probiotics reduce. This connection is mirrored by better skin condition as one of the consequences of probiotics working.
Decrease in allergy symptoms
Essentially, allergy is a twisted immune reaction to things that are not that harmful to the body (like certain products, for example). By reducing inflammation created by an allergic response and improving immune functions in general, probiotics may reduce the intensity of allergy symptoms.
You may also feel more energetic, due to the better nutrient absorption from your food. A decrease in digestive and mental health disorders will improve the quality of your sleep. Healthier digestion and metabolism also contribute to more balanced weight changes, so it may be easier for you to achieve and maintain the desired body mass.
Tips for getting the most out of your probiotics
Here is what you can do to get the best results from your probiotic.
Choose the right strain of probiotics
Remember that different strain has different functions, so pick them carefully to achieve the desired effect. For example, if you have an issue with constipation, Saccharomyces boulardii supplement is not your choice.
Take probiotics on a regular basis
Everything works when it is consistent, from a healthy diet to sports. The same goes for probiotics: the body needs a routine to adjust. A one-time dose of the best bacteria ever cannot be a solution to anything.
Combine probiotics with prebiotics
Prebiotics will help your good bacteria to stay and thrive in the gut. Also, the fibers in prebiotics are good for digestion as is, so combining is a win-win method.
Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle
An unbalanced diet and harmful habits, such as smoking and being sedentary, are bad for your body in general and your gut microbiota in particular. A wholesome lifestyle has a powerful impact on your health, so by ignoring it, you greatly decrease the efficacy of every beneficial thing that you do.
Probiotics can be a welcomed add-on to your nutrition and help you to reduce or get rid of many nasty physical and mental disorders. Do probiotics work? They most certainly do if the conditions are right. Proper diet and lifestyle, careful research of what can be the most beneficial for you, and maybe a consult with the healthcare professional will help you to get them right.
How do you know when a probiotic is working?
Positive changes in mental and physical health can be a sign of a probiotic taking effect.
How long after taking probiotics will I notice a difference?
It depends on many factors, starting from the quality and quantity of probiotics to the condition of your organism. The period can be of 14 days or 2 months. On average, if there is no effect after a month of taking probiotics, you may want to think about changing your routine.
What happens to your body when you start taking probiotics?
The balance of your gut microbiota changes, and the body and its metabolism adjust. It could show as having better digestion, mood, energy level, etc.
How do you know if your probiotic is too strong?
Too many bacteria can cause mild adverse effects, such as bloating or gassing.
Do probiotics make you poop?
It depends on the type of bacteria. Some will improve bowel movements and digestion, improving and easing defecation, while some are indicated to reduce diarrhea, thus having a reverse effect.