What Are Probiotics And Why Must You Take Them?

Updated on & Medically Reviewed by Dr Lalitha

When we talk about bacteria, it is commonly thought of as something that causes diseases and infections. However, a lesser-known fact is that the human gut is home to about 100 trillion bacteria. It consists of good as well as bad bacteria.

The good bacteria work to keep the bad bacteria under control and keep our system neutral. It is when the concentration of the bad bacteria in the body rises that infections occur.

Both these bacteria form a part of a much larger system in the human body called the microbiome. But, our body does not produce this bacteria. We develop the gut microbiome at a very young age, and the amount of bacteria in the body since then keeps fluctuating over time.

So, to ensure that our body always maintains an adequate level of good bacteria in the gut, it is necessary that we take probiotic supplements, especially in these modern times. Let us dig deeper into our understanding of probiotics and why they are important in modern times.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics consist of live bacteria or yeast that help maintain the concentration of good bacteria in the body over the bad. While they can be taken as supplements, we also derive them naturally from our diet through fermented foods like curd, idlis, dosas, dhoklas and fermented beverages. In our discussion of probiotics, it is important to keep in mind that probiotics are natural and not synthetic or are not medicines.

Should You Take Probiotics Daily?

Every human being in this day and age, apart from those with some medical exceptions, may have to take supplements having probiotics because the gut flora gets severely affected by our environment, the foods we consume, overconsumption of sugar, high stress levels etc.

It is also affected when we take antibiotics which is why some people are advised to consume probiotics along with them. Even if you do not exclusively take antibiotics, it is essential to note that certain foods like meats and animal products contain high levels of antibiotics. The water we drink is often treated with anti-bacterial chemicals or chlorine which can disturb the concentration of good bacteria in your gut along with bad bacteria.

Another thing about probiotics is that once you stop consuming them, they leave the body within seven days, and you no longer derive the benefits. All this makes it important to consume probiotics daily and not as a short-term remedy to some conditions.

You may not get an adequate amount of probiotics from your diet and even if you do, the anti-bacterial foods might nullify their effect, which makes it necessary to take probiotics in the form of supplements. It is worth mentioning again that probiotic supplements are not medicines.

Can You Get Addicted to Probiotics?

Addictions are formed when we start relying on any substance and become dependent on them for certain actions. Unlike laxatives, probiotics are not addictive. They simply complement your natural gut bacteria and help in maintaining or returning the balance.

Some people believe that relying on probiotics will interfere with the body’s ability to produce good bacteria naturally, and they will always have to rely only on probiotics for production. The silver lining here is that the body does not produce any bacteria on its own. Taking probiotic supplements adds to the good bacteria which was formed in your gut long back and helps them overpower the bad bacteria when the concentration of bad bacteria in the body increases.

When Should You Not Take Probiotics?

Probiotics can be taken by all healthy adults except for those undergoing hormone replacement therapy, taking immune suppressive medications, those who’ve undergone surgeries recently, and those who find dark blood in their stools. You can discuss with a doctor first.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women must consult their gynecologists’ before they begin consuming their daily dose of probiotics. People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome might find some relief after consuming probiotics.

Some people might feel bloated after taking probiotic supplements, but the feeling subsides as the bacterial level adjusts. If the dose of probiotics is higher than that required by the body, you might also face temporary constipation that gets cured automatically.

It is imperative that you do not consume foods like garlic, ginger, or others with anti- bacterial properties two-three hours before and after consuming probiotics because they will otherwise destroy the good bacteria introduced by the probiotics.

Should You Consume Probiotics or Synbiotics?

Probiotics have a synergistic relationship with the host where they feed on the fibres in the host’s gut and, in turn, help the host fight against infections and diseases. Synbiotics go a step above probiotics, i.e., they are a combination of probiotics and

While probiotics are good bacteria, prebiotics is the indigestible fibres that these bacteria feed on. This synergistic relationship is where the “syn” in synbiotics comes from. Instead of relying on foods for probiotics and prebiotics, synbiotic supplements ensure that the bacterial concentration in the body increases and the prebiotics ensure that the
concentration is maintained.

One of the best & most efficient combination of Synbiotcs is the GUT+ product ( available in sachets to be mixed with a glass of water and drank)

How Do You Choose Probiotics that are Best for You?

Probiotics are sold as supplements, and there are many brands out there with different compositions. Since they are not drugs, they do not need FDA approvals which is why you must carefully pick your probiotics from your health store.

While choosing your probiotics, there are three things you need to consider, i.e., the name of the bacteria and the colony-forming units (CFUs). The most common types of bacteria that you will find in good probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus paracasei, Bifidobacterium longum, Saccharomyces boulardi among others.

The CFUs, on the other hand, tell you about how much bacteria you are getting through each dose. Most doses range from 1 to 10 billion. There is no ideal amount of CFUs that you should be getting daily. Hence, anywhere between 1 to 10 billion should help maintain the gut flora.

Along with taking these supplements, ensure you consume a balanced diet, exercise daily, stay hydrated at all times and consume foods with anti-bacterial properties well in advance or after having probiotics for best results. If you suffer from any other ailments, you could consult a doctor before making probiotics a part of your daily diet.

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