Probiotics Facts and Fiction: Here’s What You Should Know

Sources of probiotics

Probiotic Facts & Fiction

Probiotics, or “good” bacteria, are a hot topic in medicine these days. Not only do they have the potential to treat certain diseases and conditions, but they can also help with common digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But how effective are they? Are they safe to use? And which ones should you take? This article will explore its facts & fiction.

What Do Probiotics Do?

Probiotics are live bacteria found in some foods, such as yogurt and kefir. These bacteria help you stay healthy by keeping your gut healthy. (Gut health is essential because it’s where most of your immune system lives!)

They can help numerous conditions, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—a condition that causes stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation.
  • Diarrhea—a loose stool with frequent trips to the bathroom.
  • Constipation—hard stools that are difficult to pass out of the body.

Probiotic Myths

Below are a few common myths regarding probiotics:

Fiction: Probiotics Are a Cure-All and Can Replace Good Hygiene

Fact: Although they may help strengthen your immune system, they don’t replace proper hygiene or prevent illness on their own. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands often with soap and water to reduce the risk of spreading germs from person to person.

Fiction: Probiotics Are a Substitute for a Healthy Diet

Fact: Probiotics can’t take the place of eating well and maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein sources such as chicken or fish at most meals each day to ensure that you’re getting all essential vitamins and minerals that promote good health including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc—which is important when taking antibiotics since they deplete these nutrients faster than usual.

Side Effects of Taking a Probiotic Supplement

The side effects of taking a probiotic supplement are usually mild and not severe. You may experience one or more of the following:

  • Stomach discomfort, bloating, gas or diarrhea. These symptoms can happen if you take too many probiotic supplements or don’t eat enough fiber while taking them. If these problems persist, consult your doctor.
  • Headache and dizziness from rapidly changing blood sugar levels. This is more likely to happen if you have diabetes and take a high dose of prebiotics (the food for the probiotic) in your diet at once because these sugars cause an increase in blood glucose levels very quickly. Try spreading out your daily dose into several smaller quantities throughout the day instead of taking it all at once; this will reduce its effect on your blood sugar level as well as decrease any uncomfortable side effects related to rapid changes in insulin production by pancreas cells (which can cause headaches).

Deciding if Probiotics Are Right for You

First, it’s important to note that not all probiotic supplements are created equally. Some contain different strains of bacteria and fungus, while others can have too high or low a dose. Some studies show taking too many probiotics can be harmful.

So if you’re thinking about taking a probiotic supplement as a first step toward improving your health, talk to your doctor first! Your doctor will help determine whether or not the benefits are worth the risks for you personally (and vice versa).

Secondly: Probiotics aren’t suitable for everyone. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease—or any other condition where there is an overreaction by our immune system—you should generally avoid them until speaking with your doctor about them. This is because some strains of bacteria in some probiotics can aggravate autoimmune responses in people with these conditions.*

Probiotics Aren’t Only Found in Dairy Products

You may think of probiotics as limited to yogurt or other dairy products, but they’re also found in plenty of other foods. They are in many fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir. They can also be found in supplements and even non-dairy yogurts like coconut milk yogurt or soy probiotic yogurt (look for the words “probiotic” on the label).

If you want to add some cultured veggies from your fridge into a salad or sandwich without having to make them yourself at home first—or if you don’t have time for that—you can buy them pre-made at most grocery stores these days too.

Probiotics Are Live Bacteria That Can Positively Affect You if You Eat Them

Probiotics are live bacteria that can positively affect you if you eat them. They’re not the same as prebiotics, which are essentially foods that feed probiotics. Antibiotics and antibacterial soaps also kill bacteria, but they’re not the same as probiotics.

Probiotic products may contain prebiotics, which are foods that feed probiotics in your gut (like fiber). Probiotic supplements will often list what bacteria they contain on their packaging.

Probiotics Can Have Some Side Effects

Probiotics are good bacteria that help to give you a better balance of microorganisms in your gut. They’re very safe for most people and can have a lot of benefits. It would help if you were not afraid to take them.

However, it is vital to realize some potential side effects of probiotics, especially if you have an infection or certain medical conditions. Here are some things you should know:

Remember: probiotics are food, not drugs. This means the FDA doesn’t regulate them, so they don’t require proof of safety or efficacy before being sold on store shelves. That said, most research shows that probiotics (with few exceptions) do little harm when used appropriately and can benefit most people in some way or another, depending on their needs/issues at any given time.

Never Take a Probiotic Without Talking to Your Doctor First

It is important to note that you should never take a probiotic without first speaking with your doctor. This is because certain groups of people shouldn’t take probiotics, including those with allergies or severe illnesses. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor before taking any form of a supplement containing live bacterial cultures.

Taking such supplements could cause harm to an unborn child or nursing infant and may not be safe for them in other ways.

Probiotics Can Help With Illness and Disease

It’s important to understand that probiotics are not a cure for illness. They can help with symptoms of disease and recovery from illness, but they’re not meant as a treatment for severe health conditions. Probiotics are not a substitute for medication, and they shouldn’t be used in place of other medical treatments. Probiotics can also assist in immune function and general health—but when treating an acute condition, it’s best to talk with your doctor before taking them.

Now that you’ve heard a little about probiotics in facts & fiction, you understand that probiotics are a popular supplement that can help boost your immune system and keep you healthy. But it’s important to remember that they aren’t for everyone, so talk with your doctor before taking any supplement.

For more on how to navigate your own digestive issues, check out the Red Bank Gastroenterology.