Our body has two types of bacteria: the bad or “harmful” bacteria and the good or “useful” bacteria. While harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella can cause food poisoning (among other disorders), probiotics like lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus can protect us from health problems and offer other potential benefits.
There are several trillion bacteria in your gut working to digest food, and probiotics can help to keep them balanced and healthy. You may choose a probiotic to address specific health concerns, but they can benefit everyone.
To learn more about how probiotics work and how they can provide health benefits, continue reading our guide.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics are helpful bacteria of the same variety that already reside in your stomach. By taking probiotics, you support this population and keep it balanced against harmful bacteria.
Before they get to work, probiotics must survive your stomach acid. Then, the probiotic bacteria seep into the small intestine. Some strains of bacteria also remain in the large intestine around the bowel area.
Once they find a suitable place to live inside our stomach, the probiotic organisms start multiplying rapidly. By exponentially boosting their population, they start crowding out the pathogenic bacteria, or the “bad” bacteria. The probiotic organisms start competing with pathogens for food and space, making it increasingly difficult for the bad bacteria to sustain themselves.
The time taken by probiotics to work varies by numerous factors including:
The composition of your current gut bacteria
Your present health condition (any current infections or diseases)
The number of bacteria in the probiotic and the varieties of strains
Probiotics affect everyone differently. While most of them are beneficial for a majority of people, how long it takes to work varies and can depend on what condition you are trying to treat. Studies have shown that it can take anywhere from four to 12 weeks to reduce infections, for example.
Because of these factors, it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact timeframe to get results. We recommend keeping a diary or spreadsheet where you note down the symptoms and keep track of any improvements you may be experiencing. It can also help you notice any side effects or adverse reactions early on when it can still be managed.
What are the benefits of using probiotics?
From boosting the immune function to improving gut health, probiotic bacteria strains have significant potential to help us lead healthier, happier lives. Bear in mind that you should always consult your primary care physician before using probiotics to treat specific health problems.
How probiotics can help improve digestion
Probiotics are most widely consumed to help improve the functioning of the digestive system. When we consume antibiotics for a significant period of time, the chances of experiencing diarrhea go up. This happens because antibiotics can harm our natural gut bacteria, thus, disrupting the balance of our microbiome. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, probiotics have been shown to help cure antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Can I use probiotics instead of visiting my doctor?
While many probiotic supplements are good for health, they are not a substitute for professional healthcare. You should always consult your doctor when treating health problems like obesity, depression or IBS.
The best probiotics to buy
While which probiotics you should buy depends on the symptoms you currently have and the results you are hoping to achieve, here are some general health-boosting options to consider.
Seed Daily Synbiotic: Our top pick includes both prebiotics and probiotics for maximum effectiveness. Though they can only be purchased through a subscription, their unique double-capsule design works to get probiotics into your gut reliably.
Nutrition Essentials Probiotic Supplement: This popular and affordable probiotic enables your body to digest the enzymes more effectively bypassing stomach acids for the best absorption into the intestines.
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