When you're deciding whether or not to add a new supplement to your nutritional regimen, it's crucial to do your research. Probiotics are among our best-selling supplements and many of our customers have had questions about them.
Below we'll cover the basics so you can decide if a probiotic supplement is right for you.
1. What are probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms, a type of "good bacteria" that lives within the gut. These bacteria are able to survive within the digestive tract despite the acidity to assist the body in staying well. There are several strains of probiotics that live within the intestines and provide different benefits for the body, especially when taken in combination. More on that in a bit. You can get probiotics from fermented food and yogurt or in supplement form.
2. What do probiotics do?
The main function of probiotics is to balance the "bad bacteria" within the body that can cause illness and inhibit proper breakdown and digestion of food. This is why probiotics can help relieve and prevent digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating. Probiotics also support the immune system -- 70 percent of which is in the gut -- to help the body fight off threats of infection and illness. This can be especially beneficial for anyone who has taken antibiotics, which kill all kinds of bacteria, both good and bad. Lastly, probiotics assist the endocrine and central nervous systems and may also support skin and oral health.
3. How are probiotic supplements made?
As previously mentioned, there are more than a dozen different strains of bacteria that are used to create probiotic supplements as well as some strains of yeast that are also used. The most recognizable types are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis. Because they're living microorganisms, special care must be taken when creating the supplements to make sure the bacteria survive, such as temperature control. Certain ingredients may be added to stabilize and protect the supplement from spoilage, such as lecithin or silica.
4. Which type of probiotic should I choose?
Your decision should be based on your own specific health needs, like whether or not you're looking to remedy a serious digestive issue or imbalance or just seeking to additional support for the body. As previously mentioned, specific strains can target specific conditions, whereas blends may provide more comprehensive support. Discuss your symptoms and needs with your doctor to determine the proper formula. The amount of microorganisms per serving in listed as colony forming units (CFUs) and they're usually listed in the billions. The amount on the package is the amount present at the time of manufacture -- all supplements will lose some CFUs over time, but this doesn't make them ineffective unless they're more than a year expired.
5. How do you store probiotics?
Some probiotic supplements are considered "shelf stable," meaning they don't need to be refrigerated. However, it never hurts to keep them in the fridge. As a general rule, probiotic supplements shouldn't get hot. Avoid leaving them on a windowsill in direct sunlight or putting them in checked baggage when traveling to keep as many CFUs alive as possible.
6. What is the best time to take probiotics?
Probiotic supplements should be taken at the end of a meal for the best absorption and results. This is because they need something to feed on themselves, which brings us to our next question, about prebiotics.
7. What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are actually plant fibers we get through the food we eat that are fermented within the gut. These fibers act as food for the probiotics, helping them survive and thrive within the gut. This goes back to the previous question about when the best time to take a probiotic is, and that again is after you've eaten to make sure the prebiotics are there for the probiotics.
8. What physical changes will I notice?
Natural supplements affect everyone differently, and if you suffer from a chronic condition, it may take longer for you to experience results or it may take tinkering with the dosage to find the best one. In general, probiotics are known to reduce symptoms of indigestion and promote regularity. You may also notice some benefits in your skin if you suffer from acne breakouts.
9. How long should I take probiotics for?
Current research doesn't show any danger in taking probiotics for an extended length of time. As with any new supplement, plan on taking it for four to 12 weeks before seeing any noticeable changes, as your body needs time to adjust.
10. Can I have an averse reaction to probiotics?
Probiotics are generally recognized as safe, with no reported negative side effects, however, it's important to check with your doctor before adding any new supplement to your routine, especially if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or have been diagnosed with a medical condition. If you suffer from a chronic auto-immune or inflammatory condition, your doctor may advise you against taking a probiotic.
Check out our entire selection of probiotic supplements today at eVitamins and let us know if you have any more questions. Stay well!