Have you ever wondered why stomach pain or flu can completely drain all your energy and prevent you from fulfilling your daily goals?
You may have heard that our gut health – also known as the “second brain” – plays an important role in determining our overall well-being.
As a consequence, more and more people have become interested in ways to improve our bowel health. Probiotics, also known as the “good bacteria”, play an important role in this respect.
In this article, we will be looking at what probiotics are, how they work, and how they can improve your digestive health.
What are probiotics?
According to the British Journal of Nutrition, Probiotics are “live” micro-organisms living naturally in our bodies. These bacteria exist in various strains and take care of numerous tasks in our gut system making sure that our body is in balance. Their main role is to regulate our gut flora, thus maintaining our digestive and immune health.
The two most common probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These bacteria can convert carbohydrates to lactic acid, and they are commonly used in the food industry to provide the sour taste in yogurt and other fermented foods.
Why are probiotics important?
Besides the general health benefits of having a well-functioning immune and digestive system, research has proposed probiotics as being beneficial for multiple medical conditions such as:
Furthermore, research suggests that probiotics may be used in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by normalizing the unbalanced gut flora.
Why you should consider bringing probiotics when traveling
Traveling is often connected with the exploration of new places and cultures and is a great way to get out of our comfort zones and learn new things about ourselves. However, when traveling our bodies experience increased stress compared to when being in our daily routines and diets. Such stress can result in bloating and constipation. Furthermore, traveling sometimes comes hand-in-hand with the consumption of contaminated food and drinking water leading to an upset stomach and traveler’s diarrhea.
Probiotics can be used to reduce the risk of experiencing these unpleasant digestive disorders during travel, as stated in the journal Antibiotics.
It is recommended to take probiotics two weeks before and during travel, and that these contain either Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains.
Probiotics for children
Probiotics are great at managing a range of health issues that are common for most children. A study has shown that the use of the specific probiotic strains, Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium Animalis, can help improve the immune response of children and help them better fight off upper respiratory infections. Another study has shown the probiotic strain, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG, to be effective in the prevention of diarrhea and respiratory tract infection in daycare centres.
As for adults, children already taking antibiotics can benefit from probiotics to help reduce the risk of experiencing antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Probiotics are considered safe to use for children. However, some exceptions are if the child has a compromised immune system or if the child is a premature infant. In these cases, probiotics can put the child at risk for infections.
In conclusion, it is always recommended to check with your family doctor before you start giving your children probiotics.
Probiotics as a supplement
If you are considering implementing probiotics into your daily routines, we recommend starting by adding probiotic-rich foods into your diet.
Probiotic cultures are naturally found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchee, sauerkraut, and miso.
However, getting an adequate number of live cultures with the right diversity within strains can be challenging due to the availability of these types of products. One way to overcome this problem is by adding probiotic supplements to your diet.
There are several benefits of using probiotic supplements to consider.
The use of supplements can help you manage the specific amount and type of strains you ingest. Some strains are more directed towards specific health issues, such as Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG which is shown to be effective in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Furthermore, most probiotic supplements are free from lactose, allergens and gluten why they can fit into anyone’s diet.
What should I know before I start taking probiotics?
When going for probiotic supplements, always remember to consider the following:
- Expiration date: Probiotics are “live” micro-organisms. You should always check the expiration date on the label of the supplement.
- Multiple strains: A combination of probiotic species has proved to be more effective than single bacterial strains, as stated by the European Journal of Nutrition. Make sure that the probiotic you choose has an adequate number of strains and that the strains provide the evidence-based benefits for the outcome you are seeking.
- CFUs: Probiotics are measured in the number of colony-forming units. Although specific conditions require a high number of CFUs, most people will benefit from a daily dose of 10-15 billion CFUs, which is similar to the number of bacteria obtained from a healthy and diverse diet.
- Be consistent: Probiotics work best when taken regularly. Every individual is different and the way you respond to formulations will vary depending on your lifestyle and your diet.
- Consult your doctor: Due to the diversity among individuals, it is important to consult your family doctor for personalized advice on probiotic use.
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