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Probiotics and Your Health

Ever wondered what probiotics are and and how they can help you? Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts found in your intestines. They are good for your health, especially if you have trouble with your digestive system. Probiotics are also good for your pets with products specially made for cats and dogs.

What Are Probiotics?

We have more than 100 trillion bacteria present in our intestines – a thousand times more than the number of cells in the entire human body. These bacteria play a crucial role in protecting our health, such as:

There is a healthy balance between harmful and helpful bacteria in the gut. If this balance is upset, the helpful bacteria may not be able to do the tasks they are supposed to do. Poor nutrition, inflammation, antibiotics, and stress can all kill the helpful bacteria in the gut.

Probiotics may help to restore the balance in the gut since they contain live microorganisms that can improve the balance. Probiotics are found in dietary supplements and fermented foods.

Benefits of Probiotic Foods and Supplements

There is still a long way to go to understand the different benefits of probiotics and how well they work. Here is a list of benefits so far uncovered by research:

Proven Benefits

Possible Benefits

Research supports that probiotics could be beneficial in treating the following:

Probiotics in Food

Probiotics can be found in certain foods like kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh. Each food and brand contain different amounts of bacteria, so read the labels to see whether it “contains live active cultures.” Most yogurts do not contain sufficient amounts of live bacteria and do not survive in our intestines. Yogurts often also contain too much sugar, hindering the benefits of any live cultures.

Probiotic Supplements

There are many probiotics on the market to choose from causing it to be difficult to know which one to buy.

The names of probiotics contain three parts: genus, species, and strain. Examples of the genus include Lactobacillus, which works in the small intestine, and Bifidobacterium, which work in the large intestine.

Different probiotics produce different strains.

Here are a few tips when selecting probiotics:

Probiotics Doses and Duration

  1. A daily dose of 1 x 10⁹ (1 billion) colony forming units (CFU’s) is usually enough. Some experts recommend 1 x 10¹¹  (100 billion) CFU’s for Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. For young children and infants take 1 x 10⁸ CFU’s.
  2. Take probiotics with food on a daily basis.  It takes 2 weeks to 2 months for probiotics to  re-colonize healthy bacteria. Take probiotics for 4 months if you are suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Probiotics Side Effects

Probiotics are usually safe with very few adverse effects. Avoid probiotics if your immune system is severely compromised due to bacteria entering the bloodstream. You may feel gassy when you first start taking probiotics.

Need More Help?

The FDA regulates probiotics the same way they control food, not like medicine. The producers of probiotics don’t need to prove whether their products are safe or not. It’s best to ask your doctor and vet for more information on the best product and dosage for you and your pets.

Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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