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With the huge interest in probiotics, it can be very difficult to find the best one for your needs. Do you require a probiotic that specifically targets digestive health only? Do you need a probiotic which perhaps helps with vaginal health? How about allergies? There are many benefits to taking probiotics, but there are also several different types to look into.
Luckily, there is plenty to choose from, but shopping around for your ideal type is vital. Always remember to talk to your doctor before you begin taking any type of supplement, but overall probiotics haven’t really yielded any disadvantages, and many benefits.
If you’ve done any research into probiotics, you’ll know that they are a friendly type of bacteria, but how exactly do they work?
Article at a glance
- 1 Why Are Probiotics Good For Your Gut?
- 2 What Are The Main Probiotic Strains?
- 3 What is The Best Probiotic Food?
- 4 What is The Best Time to Take Probiotics?
- 5 Can Children Use Probiotics?
- 6 What Are The Best Probiotics for IBS?
- 7 What Are The Best Probiotics for Digestive Health?
- 8 What Are the Best Probiotics for Vaginal Health?
Why Are Probiotics Good For Your Gut?
We’ve just talked about the fact that probiotics are good bacteria, and when you put that into perspective and realise that there are around 100 trillion different micro-organisms found in your bowels alone, which make up around 500 different species of bacteria, you’ll understand that you need good to outweigh the bad. These figures are all according to Harvard Medical School, and you know they know what they’re talking about!
In addition to all of this, your actual make up of bacteria within your gut is completely individual to you – nobody else has the same mix that you do, and when one thing throws that mix out of whack, e.g. perhaps an illness which requires you to take antibiotics, or a stressful period of time, you can end up with digestive problems, such as bloating, upset stomach, diarrhoea, vomiting, and gas. Anyone who suffers from IBS will also find that a flare up occurs during these times.
By taking probiotics, either through your diet or a supplement, you are helping to fight the bad bacteria and restore your own personal harmonious balance to your gut. The bad bacteria is therefore prevented from growing in numbers, and your immune system takes a dose of benefit too.
What Are The Main Probiotic Strains?
There are countless different strains of probiotic, but some are more common than others, and therefore more readily available on the market as a supplement. These are:
- Bifidobacteria – This is one of the most common types of friendly bacteria you will see and hear about, and it is found in many common supplements on the market, as well as foods you can add into your diet. These types of probiotics are ideal for helping with gut health overall but also in ensuring all nutrients are extracted from lactose, to help with the body’s overall healthy function.
- Lactobacillus – This is another of the common ones you’ll hear about, and this type of bacteria produces an enzyme called lactase. This breaks down the sugars in milk, as well as lactose, and again, converts it to nutrients for the body to make use of, as well as producing lactic acid, which is required for fighting bad bacteria. Lactobacillus is a good probiotic for oral health, as it is naturally found in the mouth, but also in the vagina, so this is a good probiotic for vaginal health.
These are the two main species, but within those categories you will find subcategories, e.g. the strain of that particular bacteria. When shopping around for the ideal probiotic for you, you will see the probiotic strain named on the label, and there will be a B. or an L. in front of it. This indicates the bifidobacteria species or the lactobacillus, followed by the particular strain within that species.
A few you should look out for include:
- animalis – Ideal for helping with indigestion and immune system boosting
- breve – Naturally dwelling within the vagina and the digestive system, this type of probiotic breaks down fibres, to aid with digestion and absorbs nutrients from sugars too
- lactis – You will naturally find this type of probiotic in traditional buttermilk, cottage cheese, and a few other types of cheese too. Again, this is a good one for aiding digestion in general and is found in some infant formulas
- Longum – This type of strain is also an antioxidant, so ideal for your immune system, but it is also very useful in breaking down carbohydrates, therefore reducing bloating in the gut
- acidophilus – This is another type of bacteria which is naturally found in the vagina, so is a good one for maintaining the natural balance in that area. It is also found in the intestine, helping with digestion
- reuteri – As well as helping with gut health overall, this strain is good for oral health, because it naturally dwells within the mouth. Boosting the presence of the good bacteria in the mouth, helps to avoid problems and balance up with the potential bad, as well as helping to prevent tooth decay, when used in conjunction with a good oral health routine
What is The Best Probiotic Food?
You don’t necessarily need to take a supplement to gain probiotic benefit, and it could very well be that you gain enough benefit from your diet, provided you pack it with the foods that are high in probiotic content. Some of the most common are:
- Fermented foods, such as pickles and gherkins
- Certain types of cheese, such as Gouda or cottage cheese
- Traditional buttermilk
- Dark chocolate (but not too much!)
Not everyone finds it easy to supplement their diet with a lot of probiotic-rich foods, but it is possible, and that is certainly not an exhaustive list. Yogurt is probably the easiest to add to your daily routine, as this versatile food can be had as a snack, as part of breakfast, and added to savoury foods as a topping. When shopping for yogurt, do be careful that it mentions the words ‘live’, or ‘active’ cultures on the label, as this will tell you which is the best option in terms of probiotic value. Yogurts which are high in sugar, or have been produced in a certain way, do not have much in the way of probiotic content, and are not as good for you as you might think. Greek yogurt is also not the best option for probiotic value, so stick to the ones with the words on the label.
Kefir is also thought to be a probiotic super-food, and is actually thought to have more benefit than yogurt. This is a milk drink, but the production method means it is fermented in grains and yeasts, which allow it to absorb more in the way of probiotic benefit.
Of course, the best probiotics, and the most natural are found in your foods, but if you do struggle to get enough benefit from your diet alone, it is perfectly acceptable to take a supplement, in the form of a capsule, tablet, or a probiotic yogurt drink as well, or instead.
What is The Best Time to Take Probiotics?
So, you’ve decided to take a supplement, now you might want to know what is the best time to take probiotics? Is it in the morning? Is it on an empty stomach? Does it really matter?
The answer to this is complicated, because there is no hard and fast rule. What is considered not to be the best time is first thing in the morning. The reason for this is because a probiotic is something which is alive, i.e. a living bacteria, and for that bacteria to continue living it needs the basic things for life – food, warmths, and water. Having said that, there is no hard and fast evidence to suggest this is a bad time either.
The best advice is to look at the label of the particular product you’re taking and follow what the manufacturer suggests. You could also have a chat with your doctor if you’re not too sure. Remember, we’re all individual, so it could be that you cope better taking your probiotic in the morning, or you might not find it useful at all. If you’re taking your probiotic content through your food, this problem doesn’t really come into existence for you!
Can Children Use Probiotics?
Yes, but it’s best to find a probiotic product which is specifically designed for children. Many parents prefer to ensure their child gets a good probiotic amount by incorporating probiotics foods into their diet, but if you do want to go down the line of a supplement, make sure you shop around for the best probiotics for kids, and perhaps speak to your doctor first.
There have been many studies into whether probiotics could be useful for children, and one study by JAMA Paediatrics found that giving infants probiotics for the first three months of their lives might help with colic problems and excessive crying due to digestive issues.
Of course, every child is different, so you should always check with your doctor before introducing any such supplement. There is not enough evidence to suggest there are no side effects, and whilst there isn’t much to suggest there are either, it’s not a risk worth taking without medical advice.
What Are The Best Probiotics for IBS?
Anyone who regularly suffers from the pain and discomfort of IBS will no doubt what to know what are the best probiotics for IBS issues. Thankfully, many probiotic strains are ideal for helping with the pain, bloating, and gas which works alongside IBS.
There is no hard and fast evidence to suggest that one type is more effective than another, but the following have been found to be useful in IBS situations:
It might be that you need to chop and change once or twice to find the right one for you, but IBS in general responds very well to probiotics, with a healthy diet alongside.
What Are The Best Probiotics for Digestive Health?
Most probiotics in general all work for digestive health, but there are always going to be some which are thought to be more effective than others. In this case, B. bifidum and L. casei are two of the best, and you’ve no doubt heard of L. casei on TV adverts relating to supplement drinks.
Many studies have gone into the effectiveness of L. casei in particular and found that it is particularly useful for reducing diarrhoea problems, as well as easing bloating. Studies by Harvard Medical School showed that taking probiotics can help with constipation issues, and both species types were found to have benefits. The best probiotic for constipation is therefore hard to pin down, as this is a common benefit from all types, boosting the overall working of the digestive system and keeping everything running smoothly.
Many people also ask about the best probiotics to lose weight, and whilst there isn’t a huge amount of evidence to suggest that robotics overall help with weight loss, there is a suggestion they could help with loss of belly fat, due to allowing the digestive system to run smoothly overall. These two strains could be useful for that aim.
What Are the Best Probiotics for Vaginal Health?
In terms of the best probiotics for vaginal health, there are certain strains which are naturally found in the vaginal area, and by boosting the numbers, it helps to keep a natural balance in place, therefore reducing the incidences of yeast infections and UTIs for women. Lactobacillus genus is thought top be one of the best around, to ensure the right pH within the vagina and a good yeast balance.
As you can see, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that introducing probiotics into your life, either by boosting content in your diet, or by taking a supplement, can have a lot of beneficial effects for overall health and wellbeing. Whilst more studies are currently ongoing into their actual effectiveness, as well as finding out if there are any specific side effects, there’s no denying that in terms of gut health alone, probiotics are certainly beneficial.