A Nurse Practitioner Explains Probiotics Gut Flora And Things To Consider About Yogurt
We see the word probiotic on food labels, especially relating to yogurt. At Vanderbilt Walk-in Clinics, nurse practitioner Robert Anderson, DNP, APRN, cares for people dealing with ailments that often affect the digestive system. He also sees how often antibiotics are prescribed for various illnesses. Here, Anderson answers questions about probiotics, diet and how antibiotics can create problems.
Question: What does the term probiotic mean?Answer: Probiotic means live bacteria and yeast thats actually good for you. Probiotic literally means for life.
Question: Are probiotics mainly good for the digestive system, or in other ways, too?Answer: The focus now is on digestive health. Good bacteria keep bad bacteria in check in the gut. Theres a thing with bacteria called colonization resistance. A healthy colony of good bacteria in the gut helps suppress bad bacteria.
Question: Whats the connection between probiotics and yogurt? Does all yogurt contain probiotics?Answer: Milk is turned into yogurt by lactobacilli bacteria thats how it becomes yogurt. But depending on how a certain yogurt is processed, the pasteurization process may have killed the active cultures. So if youre eating yogurt to get probiotics, be sure the label says active cultures. Youre going to find active cultures in yogurts, kombucha, kefir. And sauerkraut, fermented foods such as that. Its a good way of getting active organisms into the system.
When To Proceed With Caution
The initial makeup of our gut microbiome begins with delivery and feeding, taking into account the type of birth, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding .
Since your bodys bacteria are already equipped to replicate on their own, supplements may not be necessary for everyone. Additionally, they are always in flux mediated by the types of foods or supplements we consume.
In general, probiotics are recommended for individuals who are taking antibiotics, as they can alleviate some of the side effects of medicine, such as diarrhea. If you have irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive issues, consider trying various types of probiotics to find the one that works for you.
Probiotics may not be appropriate if you have a weak immune system. Consult your physician to see if probiotics could be beneficial in your routine.
What Are Probiotics For Cats
Just like in humans, the majority of a cats immunity resides in its digestive tract so keeping it balanced with an array of good bacteria is a great way to ensure that your feline stays healthy. One possible way to do that is by supplementing your cats diet with probiotics friendly bacteria that help to regulate digestive and overall health. These live microorganisms are believed to help treat or prevent a variety of illnesses and diseases, especially those related to the gastrointestinal system.
But how do you know if you should give your cat probiotics? What kind of probiotics should you buy for your cat and how often should you administer them? petMD reached out to an array of experts who have studied the topic to find out more about probiotics for cats.
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Understanding The Digestive System
The digestive system has several organs, including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Within the network, the average person has about 300-500 different species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The bacteria totals in the billions, with hundreds more species recently discovered by researchers. This is known as the gut microbiome. Some are helpful probiotics, and some are harmful to a personís overall health. Creating a balance between the two types of bacteria is vital for digestive health.
How Might Probiotics Work
Probiotics may have a variety of effects in the body, and different probiotics may act in different ways.
- Help your body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms or help your bodyâs community of microorganisms return to a healthy condition after being disturbed
- Produce substances that have desirable effects
- Influence your bodyâs immune response.
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Role Of Probiotics In Digestive Health
The gut is home to around 100 trillion microorganisms, both good and bad. The composition and functions of these microorganisms that include bacteria, yeast, and fungi play a major role in maintaining ones health. The good microbes of the gut are required for carrying out metabolic, digestive, and immune functions. Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain beneficial bacteria or yeast that help to restore the composition of gut microorganisms and their beneficial functions.
Probiotics play a vital role in digestive health, and they help to:
- Promote a healthy digestive system.
- Help the body in digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Help in the synthesis of vitamins and activation of some enzymes required for digestion.
- Help to maintain a healthy microbiota in the digestive tract.
- Restore the natural balance of gut microbiota after being disturbed by infection, illness, improper diet, or antibiotic medications.
- Inhibit the growth of pathogenic or harmful microorganisms in the gut and prevent bacterial or fungal infections.
Other important benefits of probiotics include:
- Help the liver to neutralize and eliminate toxins from the body.
- Influence the bodys immune response like inflammation and allergies.
How Can Probiotics Help With Constipation
Probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut that help maintain good digestion, immune function, neurotransmitter production, and more. Youre born with some probiotic bacteria, but many of the probiotics that end up in our digestive system come from our food, and now, supplements. Consuming probiotics can help improve your microbiome balance and even fight the bad bugs, harmful bacteria, yeasts, and parasites .
There is a significant and growing body of scientific evidence showing that probiotics can help to improve gut transit time and relieve constipation. Many systematic reviews and meta-analyses show that probiotics:
- Lessen bloating
- Improve overall quality of life
In the research so far, there does seem to be a difference in probiotics effectiveness in adults and elderly people versus children, with a significant beneficial effect in the former and less conclusive effects for the latter . This may be due to age-related issues like bacterial overgrowth .
Along with improving microbiome status in the gut, probiotics can lower inflammation , reduce and repair damage to the gut lining , and modulate immune system function .
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Digestive Enzymes And Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Digestive enzyme supplements have gained popularity for their claims of treating common forms of gut irritation, heartburn and other ailments. But how do digestive enzymes work, and who really needs to add them to their diet? Morgan Denhard, a registered dietitian at Johns Hopkins Medicine, provides the answers you need.
Do Probiotics Help With Digestion Gas & Bloating
The term “probiotics” refers to a group of bacteria that occur naturally in the human body but that are also found in some foods, such as yogurt, as well as many supplements sold over the counter. Often referred to as “friendly” bacteria, probiotics can help control harmful bacteria in the body, particularly in the digestive tract, which can aid in digestion and potentially prevent gas and bloating — especially for those with digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Consult your doctor before taking any form of probiotics for a specific health problem.
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Are There Any Risks Related To Probiotics
Probiotics are generally considered safe. However, there are some risks linked to the supplements. These risks are increased if you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, have recently had surgery or have other serious medical conditions.
Unlikely, but possible, risks can include:
- Developing an infection.
- Developing a resistance to antibiotics.
- Developing harmful byproducts from the probiotic supplement.
How Probiotics Became So Popular
The guidelines come as a growing number of American adults are taking probiotics. As of 2015, an estimated 3.9 million U.S. adults used probiotics, roughly four times the number of people on probiotics in 2007, according to the AGA.
When the AGA panel reviewed research to date on the health effects of probiotics, they found few high-quality studies and insufficient evidence to support probiotics for most gastrointestinal conditions.
There were, however, exceptions where the evidence showed a potential benefit for probiotics, provided patients read the labels very closely to ensure they were taking the exact type of probiotics recommended by the AGA.
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Kefir Is A Probiotic Drink
Kefir is a thick and creamy fermented milk product. It tastes tangy like yogurt. Probiotic strains in kefir may help reduce cholesterol, protect against cancer, fight allergies, and improve the digestion of lactose. Kefir is rich in lactic acid bacteria , friendly bacteria that may help prevent and treat diarrhea, boost immunity, and improve the body’s ability to ward off infection. Kefir is rich in Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus kefir, Lactococcus cremoris, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus casei, and a few varieties of beneficial yeast. You can learn to make your own kefir using kefir grains as the starter.
Like kefir, kombucha is a fermented drink that may improve the function of the immune system and boost energy levels and detoxification. Beneficial bacteria in kombucha may improve antioxidant activity in the body as well. Kombucha tea comes in black and green varieties. Kombucha tea is made using a SCOBY, or a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, that is necessary for the fermentation process. Saccharomyces boulardii is a probiotic yeast strain that is found in kombucha.
Constipation And Gut Dysbiosis
Making better food and lifestyle choices can help some people fix constipation and restore the digestive system. Eliminating processed foods from your diet, adding more high-fiber, whole fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water may be enough to kickstart motility.
However, for others, fiber can make constipation even worse by feeding gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis occurs when harmful microorganisms overpower the good bacteria in your gut, causing gastrointestinal and often other symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and mood issues.
Fiber feeds all bacteria in your gut it doesnt distinguish between good and bad. So, when you consume a bunch of fiber with an imbalanced gut, symptoms like constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating may actually get worse .
Once dysbiosis occurs, a vicious cycle of slow motility leading to further dysbiosis and so on can perpetuate indefinitely. This happens because the waste matter sitting in your digestive tract ferments and produces more harmful bacteria, yeasts, and toxins, creating further constipation. From there, leaky gut may develop, causing additional symptoms like brain fog, eczema, and fatigue.
Fortunately, probiotic therapy can help break this cycle and speed up gut transit time.
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Do Probiotics Help With Constipation
Constipation is common, affecting millions of Americans every year . But while occasional constipation or slow gastrointestinal motility may be normal, if its chronic and affecting your quality of life, it should be addressed. Often, the problem can be solved by resolving underlying imbalances within the gut microbiome.
Chronic constipation affects up to 27% of the U.S. population, and is most common among women and older adults above age 65 . Constipation is medically defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, usually with hard stool that is difficult to pass. However, functional medicine typically defines healthy bowel movements as having a bowel movement at least one per day, ideally 1-3.
Do probiotics help with constipation? In short, yes, they can. And while other treatments like laxatives are fine for short term use, probiotics can actually help address the root cause of chronic constipation for longer lasting change.
Probiotics Vs Digestive Enzymes
Probiotics and digestive enzymes both support a healthy digestive system, but theyre not the same. Probiotics are living microorganisms that live in your gut and help balance your gut microbiome.* You can think of them as little helpers that help maintain harmony in the guts ecosystem. On the other hand, digestive enzymes are non-living proteins that help speed up chemical reactions in your digestive system.* They play a key role in helping to break down food so that your body can absorb the nutrients.*
When your digestive system is functioning properly, it naturally produces enough digestive enzymes.
However, in some cases, the body does not produce enough of these enzymes, and the digestive system suffers as a result. Thankfully, digestive enzyme supplements are a great way to help your body break down food better and support healthy digestion.*
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What Can Cause An Imbalance In Natural Probiotics
- Diet plays a huge role in determining the balance of healthy bacteria in your body. The normal Western diet has strayed way too far from what I would consider normal food. Processed foods loaded with sodium and sugar are just downright harmful. On top of that, few people consume enough raw fruits and vegetables to maintain the proper alkalinity in the body.
- Medications may also disrupt your balance. Steroids, chemotherapy, antibiotics, and certain pain killers just to name a few.
- Infections. Harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses will wreak havoc on your balance.
- Environmental chemicals or chemicals in the food supply.
- Too much sugar will feed the toxic bacteria and decrease the healthy bacteria.
A little too much sugar for my taste!
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How Are Probiotics Regulated In The United States
Government regulation of probiotics in the United States is complex. Depending on a probiotic productâs intended use, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration might regulate it as a dietary supplement, a food ingredient, or a drug.
Many probiotics are sold as dietary supplements, which donât require FDA approval before they are marketed. Dietary supplement labels may make claims about how the product affects the structure or function of the body without FDA approval, but they arenât allowed to make health claims, such as saying the supplement lowers your risk of getting a disease, without the FDAâs consent.
If a probiotic is going to be marketed as a drug for treatment of a disease or disorder, it has to meet stricter requirements. It must be proven safe and effective for its intended use through clinical trials and be approved by the FDA before it can be sold.
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Preemies May Benefit From Certain Probiotics
One of these exceptions is premature and low-birth-weight babies, who may have a lower risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a common and serious condition that develops when tissue in the intestines gets inflamed or injured, if they take certain multi-strain probiotics. For these vulnerable newborns the right mix of probiotics is also associated with shorter hospital stays and a lower risk of death.
For these newborns, the AGA recommends several specific combinations of probiotics, such as a mix of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The quality of evidence for this use of probiotics is moderate to high, according to the AGA.
The fact that a wide variety of preparations although certainly not just anything that calls itself a probiotic offer benefit suggests some fundamental mechanisms underlying these effects, says Alexander Khoruts, MD, the coauthor of an editorial accompanying the AGA clinical guidelines published in Gastroenterology and a professor in the division of gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Its possible that certain combinations of probiotics help stimulate faster development of the intestines in premature babies, Dr. Khoruts says. This might, in turn, improve digestion and reduce feeding problems so that these babies are able to gain weight.
Benefits Of Taking Probiotics
Not all probiotics are the same. Different strains of the bacteria have different effects. For example, one strain may fight against cavity-causing organisms in our mouths and don’t need to survive a trip through our guts.
Research has been promising for these friendly critters. Potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in the treatment or prevention of
- H. pylori
- vaginal infections
- infection of the digestive tract caused by
- eczema in children.
Digestive Enzymes Vs Probiotics: Whats The Difference
Sometimes people confuse enzymes and probiotics. Both affect your digestion, but in very different ways. Probiotics are live organisms that make up the good bacteria in your gut. They help keep your digestive tract healthy, so they support the work your enzymes do. Unlike enzymes, probiotics do not have the ability to break down or digest food components.
Without good gut bacteria, you might experience symptoms similar to those of an enzyme insufficiency, such as bloating or gas, due to abnormal bacterial overgrowth or imbalance in your intestines.
Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Current data shows that probiotics can benefit people with irritable bowel syndrome, but according to the NIH, the data stops short of recommending particular strains of bacteria to treat the condition. More clinical trials are needed to nail things down, so in the meantime, consider talking with a healthcare provider about their recommendations.
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Want To Know The Benefits Of Probiotics Here You Go
Probiotics are known to promote a healthy balance between bad and good bacteria in human gut. There is an ongoing scientific investigation suggesting the importance and benefits of a healthy gut microbiome ranging from improving heart health to helping relieve symptoms of various allergic reactions. Here is a guide to some of the advantages of probiotics:
Common Questions About Probiotics And Digestive Health
From supplements to yogurt and granola bars, probiotics are showing up on labels everywhere claiming to improve digestive health and a number of other ailments. But what are probiotics exactly? Weve highlighted eight common questions about probiotics and digestive health to help you decide whether or not you should consider taking probiotics.