Everything You Need to Know About Probiotics

In our ever-evolving, health-conscious culture, probiotics have become very popular over the last several years. We see probiotic labels on everything from yogurts and cereals to supplements and energy drinks. Probiotics aren’t just prevalent at the supermarket — they’ve even made appearances in the pop culture scene. Hollywood celebrities like Halle Berry, Demi Lovato, and Madonna have all publicly said that they swear by probiotics to keep their food cravings in check and their fitness goals on track.

So if you’re wondering what’s so cool about probiotics, why people take them, and if you should be adding them to your own personal diet — well then read on, because you’ve come to the right place. Let’s unpack the plethora of information on probiotics pinch by pinch.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are made up of good bacteria (yes, there is such a thing as good bacteria) and yeasts that naturally live inside your body. In fact, our bodies are made up of both good and bad bacteria. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when your body starts to produce more bad bacteria than good, this puts your system out of balance — and it’s also what can cause infections. Good bacteria comes to the rescue like the superhero that it is and restores balance once again, helping you to feel a whole lot better.

Probiotics have the ability to bring back good bacteria to the body; in fact, probiotics can keep your body working well and in optimal health in the first place, keeping that undesirable bacteria at bay. When it comes to bacteria and your body, health experts say that probiotics are actually part of a bigger picture. They refer to it as your microbiome, meaning the microorganisms inside your body.

So how do probiotics even work? When someone is feeling ill or they are exposed to harmful bacteria, this particular bacteria can offset the balance in our digestive system. As described, the good bacteria steps in to get working on fighting off this harmful bacteria and bring back balance. To be more specific, probiotics also support the cells that line the gut and help with the body’s absorption of vitamins.

Your Guide to Taking Probiotics

So who should be taking probiotics? While we’ve all gotten infections at some point in our lives, there are specific signs that probiotics could help improve your digestive system.

Medical experts say that consistently having an upset stomach is one the most obvious signs that there is an issue with our digestive system. Having an upset stomach could range in the realm of having gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn. Studies have shown that more than 70% of Americans commonly experience at least one or two of these symptoms.

Unfortunately, if you have a particularly sweet diet — or one that is high in processed food — these kinds of foods can lower the good bacteria in the gut. Doctors say that the imbalance can create even more sugar cravings, causing a vicious cycle that further harms the intestines. What’s more, consuming refined sugars like corn syrup, which is especially high in fructose, has been linked to instigating inflammation in the digestive system.

This one might sound surprising, but if you’ve had drastic changes in weight (either by gaining or losing a lot of pounds) in a short period of time without having made changes to your diet, this could also be a sign of some digestive problems. Medical experts say that imbalance in our bodies hurts its ability to process nutrients, regulate blood sugars, and also to store fat. Doctors say that the weight loss could be the result of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, known as SIBO.

If you do decide to take probiotics — and of course, please make sure to consult with your family physician before making the decision to take probiotics or any other dietary supplements for that matter — how much of it should you take?

It’s important to understand that probiotics come in much larger doses than most other nutrients and supplements out there. While dosages can certainly vary, American Family Physicians recommend that adults consume 10 to 20 billion colony-forming units (CFU) of probiotics per day. Be sure to check in with your own doctor regarding the right dose for you!

Where Can Probiotics Be Found?

The beauty about probiotics is that they come from all sorts of sources. They’re plentiful in a wide variety of foods and come in scores of supplements. Probiotics are even available in a host of beauty products — they’re called “probiotic cosmetics” and topical applications include formulas that help with skin hydration, acne, rosacea, as well as anti-aging!

Of course, probiotic health supplements can be easily found in the vitamin section of your local pharmacy or supermarket, or at any health food store.

Best Sources of Probiotics

When it comes to food sources, probiotics are best found in fermented foods. At the top of the probiotic list is — you guessed it — good old yogurt. The reason for this is that yogurt is made from milk that has actually been fermented by probiotics such as lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria. Even if you’re lactose-intolerant, the good news is that yogurt should still be suitable for you. The reason for this is because the bacteria turns some of the lactose into lactic acid, which is actually what gives yogurt its sour taste.

Don’t rule out other dairy: traditional buttermilk, which is leftover liquid from making butter in India, Pakistan, and Nepal contains a good dose of probiotics as well.

Kimchi, a fermented, spicy Korean side dish made with cabbage and other vegetables, is also high in probiotics, and very pleasurable to eat. Kimchi contains lactic acid bacteria which is great for digestive health.

Additionally, kombucha — a fermented black or green tea beverage — is also plentiful in probiotics. This popular Asian tea drink is fermented by a friendly colony of bacteria and yeast.

Tempeh, a fermented soybean product and also a great source of protein, is high in probiotics. Tempeh has a firm texture and the flavor is best described as rather nutty, earthy, and even similar to the taste of mushrooms. Tempeh’s origins are in Indonesia and it has become quite popular all over the world as a substitute for meat products.

Speaking of soybeans, you may also have heard of miso. This Japanese seasoning is traditionally produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji, but it can also be made from mixing soybeans with either barley, rice, or rye. The paste is regularly used in miso soup, which is a very popular breakfast staple in Japan. You can buy miso in a variety of colors such as yellow, red, brown, and white.

Last but not least, we have to give it up for good, old-fashioned gherkins, also referred to as pickles. These cucumbers have been preserved in a salt and water solution are left to ferment for a period of time, so they use their own natural lactic acid bacteria.

Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics supplements can be superheros when it comes to gut health because they work by changing the composition of the bacteria in our gut or the metabolic activity of existing bacteria. The beauty about probiotics is that they push out the bad bacteria in our intestines to stop it from increasing and causing inflammation and infection. Scientists say that probiotic supplements can also help alleviate antibiotic-associated diarrhea because antibiotics kill much of the natural bacteria in our gut — again shifting the gut balance and allowing bad bacteria to thrive.

Research also suggests that probiotics can help fight Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and similar symptoms.

Read on to learn how probiotics can be of more specific aid and nutritional help depending upon your biological gender.

Probiotic Benefits for Women

Women can greatly benefit from taking probiotic supplements or incorporating probiotic foods into their diets for a variety of reasons. For starters, not only do probiotics restore good bacteria and keep organs and the gut in healthy order, they can also prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and treat vaginal infections.

Probiotics can also boost immunity and improve fertility. Plus, it can improve skin — in fact, many skincare products are promoted as having probiotics in the ingredients list. Bonus: probiotics are touted for being able to prevent travelers’ diarrhea.

Probiotic Benefits for Men

Men can also benefit from probiotics in a myriad of ways. As we already know now, probiotics replenish the good bacteria in the gut and can help with digestive disorders like diarrhea. But did you know that there is evidence that probiotics can support mental health? Research indicates that probiotic bacteria helps to produce and metabolize the signals that are sent to the brain from the bloodstream. Medical experts say that the composition of gut bacteria can influence the messages that get sent to our brain and impact our mental wellbeing.

Men can look to probiotic support to improve and promote their metabolism, liver health, immune health and physical fitness. Taking probiotics can also help with weight loss and of course, boost immune system health.

Side Effects of Probiotics

While probiotics are safe for the majority of the people out there, they are not without side effects altogether. Medical experts advise that the most common side effect is a temporary increase in gas, bloating, constipation, as well as thirst. It isn’t known exactly why some people experience such symptoms, but the good news is that these symptoms do typically and naturally subside within a few weeks of continued use of probiotics.

There is also a chance that some people may react negatively to the naturally-occurring amines in probiotic foods or even the ingredients used in probiotic supplements. If symptoms are especially bothersome or persist for too long, please make sure to make an appointment with your doctor to address any issues.

Find the Right Probiotics for You on Vitabox

Check in with your medical professional to understand if adding probiotics can be beneficial for you personally. When you’ve got the all-clear, head on over to Vitabox to find the right probiotic supplement for you. We have probiotics in gummy, capsule, and tablet form to suit any supplement style including:

Vitabox has all of your over-the-counter health needs all in one place so that you can shop with efficiency and ease.