Probiotics are good for your gut, but what are they? We bust the common myths around this helpful supplement
Your gastrointestinal tract is home to trillions of microbes. This may sound scary, but many of them are actually beneficial. The ‘friendly bacteria’, known as probiotics, not only aid in digestion, but also protect your gut from infections and help maintain your overall well-being. However, health problems can arise when the gut’s ratio of good and harmful bacteria goes out of whack; probiotic supplements can help restore this balance. With so many products on the market, how do you pick the best for you and your family? Know the science so you can make the right choices.
Myth 1: You can get all the probiotics you need from your diet.
While eating fermented foods like yogurt, tempeh and kimchi can boost your body’s good bacteria count, their content of live cultures varies according to how the foods are prepared. To match the doses in probiotic supplements, you might need to eat a whole lot of fermented foods! Your options may also be limited if you’re sensitive to lactose in dairy products.
Myth 2: When it comes to probiotics, the more the merrier.
The strength of a probiotic supplement is measured in terms of billions of units. The listed number of live cultures in OptiBac’s probobiotic supplements (for example, 5 billion in the For Daily Wellbeing supplement) is guaranteed until the end of the supplements’ shelf life.
Still, quantity does not always equate to efficacy. The quality of the strain or combination of strains can be even more important. In a 2015 study, researchers found that high-strength supplements can be just as effective as low-strength ones in relieving constipation.
Myth 3: You can’t take probiotics together with antibiotics.
Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics do not always cancel out the effects of probiotics. Some robust strains, like Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52, can reach the gut alive even when taken at the same time as antibiotics. Studies also show that some probiotics can reduce your chances of getting an upset stomach, a common side effect of antibiotics.
Myth 4: All probiotics do the same thing.
The human body hosts a great diversity of microflora, and they have different roles to play. Probiotics like Lactobacilli help break down food in the small intestine, while Bifidobacteria in the large intestine promote regular bowel movements. For ladies, the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 strain also helps to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina.