Posted on by Village Green Nutrition Team
Probiotic supplements are all the rage, but what do they actually do for you? How important is gut health for your overall well-being?
In this guide on probiotics, we'll cover the benefits of probiotics, what to look for in a supplement, and how to take them.
Probiotics 101: What Are Probiotics?
Your gut microbiome is an ecosystem of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeast and more. A healthy gut contains a balance of good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are good bacteria that are beneficial for your gut microbiome.
Consuming probiotics can aid your digestion and help promote a healthy balance of bacteria. A healthy gut plays an important role in your overall well-being. An unhealthy gut can impact your hormone levels, immune system, mental health, and so much more.
When your gut is unhealthy, your body has a harder time fighting off illnesses. This is why it may be a good idea to incorporate probiotics into your diet, either with food or supplements or both.
Foods Rich in Probiotics
Foods with high levels of probiotics include:
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics. Additionally, eating a healthy balance of fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds will also help maintain your gut health.
Probiotic Strains in Supplements
Taking a probiotic supplement may also help to keep your gut healthy. There are two types of probiotic strains found in many supplements: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
Bifidobacterium strains are branch-shaped bacterium found in the large and small intestines of humans and mammals. Lactobacillus strains are rod-shaped bacteria found in the human gut, genitals and vaginal system, and is an extremely abundant type of bacteria.
These two strains are the most common in probiotic supplements because they are the most researched. When you're shopping for a supplement, make sure to read the product label to find out which strains are included. Some supplements mix these, as well as other strains, which is good for maintaining a diverse microbiome.
Beneficial bacteria can become imbalanced by antibiotic use. Supplementing with a probiotic formula is especially important when taking an antibiotic prescription medication.
The Benefits of Probiotics
As we mentioned above, having a healthy gut microbiome helps maintain your overall well-being. Let's look more at the benefits.
First, a healthy gut is the starting place of proper digestion. If you notice that your stomach feels upset after you eat, or you deal with regular constipation or diarrhea, poor gut health could be the problem.
Most doctors advise patients with GI issues to take a probiotic supplement and eat fermented foods, especially if they have been on antibiotics for a long time. Other GI issues that are signs of poor gut health include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Mental Health and Mood
The gut and brain have a strong connection, and both organs send signals to each other. Think about the last time you were facing a situation that made you feel nervous. Did you feel butterflies in your stomach? Maybe you even felt nauseated.
The term "gut-wrenching" illustrates this connection. When you are upset, you usually feel it in your gut as well as your brain. Because of this connection, our gut health has a huge impact on our mood, emotions and mental health.
The connection works both ways. Increased stress can lead to more GI disorders or make previous issues worse. Activities that reduce stress, such as therapy, exercise and rest, may also improve your gut problems.
Therefore, supporting your GI health can be an important way to promote mental well-being. Consider taking a probiotic supplement that contains specific ingredients shown to support both GI and mental health.
The Immune System
Your gut and immune system are also closely interconnected. Most of your immune system actually lives in your gut and feeding it good bacteria helps to make it stronger. When you have a healthy gut, your immune system is more equipped to fight off pathogens.
What to Look For in a Probiotic Supplement
There are many options for probiotics on the market today and since we are all different, we often have different needs. Most individuals can benefit from taking a general probiotic blend that provides a variety of beneficial bacteria. However, some individuals may require a more targeted formula.
Different probiotics are suited for different conditions. A health professional can recommend trusted brands and help find the right probiotic supplement for you.
Also, check how many probiotic cells (CFUs) are in the probiotic supplement before you buy it. CFU stands for Colony Forming Units, which is the number of alive and active microorganisms in one serving. Taking a product that contains at least 1 billion CFUs per dose is recommended for most people, although some individuals can benefit from taking a probiotic with a higher potency.
When and How to Take Probiotics
Once you choose the right probiotic supplement for you, take it based on the label instructions and your health care practitioner's recommendation. Make sure you check the storage requirements and shelf-life, as some probiotics need to be kept in the refrigerator.
Some Final Thoughts
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to gut health. We recommend working with a health care practitioner to help ensure that your probiotic supplement meets your unique needs.If you have any questions about finding the right probiotic supplement for you, contact us today.
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