MONTH 2 – Article
What are probiotics and should I take them?
Last Reviewed: 18/10/2021
Time To Read: 3mins
Probiotics are the good bacteria that are often marketed to help maintain digestive health and to boost the immune system. You can take probiotics as a dietary supplement or get them from food sources like yoghurt. They are a source of living bacteria.
Gut microbiome (the bacteria, viruses and fungi living inside the intestinal tract), have been linked to a number of diseases including obesity, allergies, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. A recent scientific study* showed that in general, some probiotics can be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal conditions. The study also highlights that when choosing probiotics, the type of disease and type of probiotic are important considerations.
Benefits & Risks
While probiotics may be helpful in reducing gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating and constipation, more studies are needed to determine who exactly will benefit from them.
There are many probiotic dietary supplements on the market. The problem lies in the fact that regulations are not consistent globally, which means you have to trust the supplier that what is on the label is actually what is in the product.
Possible side effects of taking probiotics include:
- Feeling sick (nausea) or vomiting (being sick)
- Stomach upset
- Stomach gas or bloating
- Signs of infection such as high fever, chills or persistent cough
- Signs on an allergic reaction such as rash, itching, swelling of the fact, tongue or throat, or difficulty breathing.
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Top food sources to obtain probiotics from include:
- Yoghurt (especially plain Greek yoghurt)
- Fermented vegetables such as pickles or sauerkraut.
Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium are the most common types of bacteria species used in probiotics. When you take these as a supplement the digestive system warms them up and they then become fully active.
You can find probiotics at pharmacies, ‘health’ stores and supermarkets, as either capsules or powder. The concentration of microorganisms in a probiotic is typically reported in colony forming units (CFU).
The bottom line:
Always seek advice from a medical professional before deciding to take probiotics. People with a compromised immune system or cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor’s approval.
We hope you found this blog useful.
The team @ The Food Cruncher.
* Ritchie ML & Romanuk TN (2012). A Meta-Analysis of Probiotic Efficacy for Gastrointestinal Disease. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34938. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?type=printable&id=10.1371/journal.pone.0034938
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