Probiotics are supplements that many people should consider taking. Probiotics contain live bacteria that can be taken to help balance the digestive tract. And before you start thinking that all bacteria is bad, realize that there is good bacteria and bad bacteria. Bad bacteria can cause inflammation and make you sick, all while running rampant throughout the digestive tract. What can stop these nasty bacteria from their reign of terror? The good bacteria found in things like fermented foods, but also found in probiotics.
These friendly bacteria can take on the role of security guard within the digestive tract.
They can stop the bad bacteria in their tracks, destroy them and return the digestive system to a place of order and balance. A bacterial imbalance in favor of bad bacteria can cause escalating problems in the digestive tract, creating a multitude of problems.
Here are just a few possible ramifications of a bacterial imbalance:
- Food may not be digested properly, creating a state of malnutrition.
- Blood can stop clotting correctly due to a lack of vitamin k.
- There can be the development of Candida, a yeast overgrowth that is usually kept in check by the proper balance of beneficial bacteria. This yeast overgrowth can infiltrate the bloodstream and create a host of symptoms and side effects.
- The intestinal wall, which normally blocks harmful substances in the gut from entering the bloodstream, can become more permeable. When the gut becomes more permeable, substances escape into the bloodstream that should be blocked, leading to food sensitivities and inflammation.
- There can be digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, IBS and ulcerative colitis.
So, having the right amount of these bacteria is pretty important.
There are reasons why someone might be high risk to have this type of bacterial imbalance. A strong risk factor is having taken multiple courses of antibiotics. This is because antibiotics kill off both the good and bad bacteria, and the bad bacteria can rebound quicker when the good bacteria is out of the way. Additionally, birth control pills can destroy good bacteria which will also compromise bacterial balance. Stress is another factor that can contribute to lousy levels of good bacteria. A processed, sugar filled diet is another factor. So a modern lifestyle makes it easy for a bacterial imbalance to occur.
Now you might be wondering, what are the tangible symptoms of a bacterial imbalance run amok?
Unfortunately, the list of possible symptoms is so plentiful that I can’t list them all. Additionally, having one of these symptoms isn’t a guarantee that you have a bacterial imbalance, but only a possible indication. This list should give you an idea of the range of possibilities:
- Gas, Bloating
- Acid Reflux
- Sugar Cravings
- Weight Gain
- Fatigue/ Brain Fog
- Joint Pain
- Seasonal Allergies
Probiotics contain friendly bacteria in a pill form.
If you don’t have any symptoms of a bacterial imbalance, probiotics may be helpful in stopping a growing imbalance from transitioning into a disease in the body. If you’re exhibiting side effects, there’s probably some work beyond supplementation needed to start healing. But supplementation can still be a good place to start.
Some of the most common strains of bacteria you’ll find are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. For someone who has never supplemented with bacteria, a good place to start would be around 1 billion to 2 billion CFUs, though many find benefit in building to a much higher dose. Most people tolerate probiotics quite well, but, of course, everyone is different.
One of the most common side effects is gas and bloating which usually subsides after a week or two as the body adjusts. That is why it is better to start low and increase as needed to ascertain how well you tolerate supplementation. It is also best to purchase probiotic supplements from the refrigerated section. Beneficial bacteria are heat sensitive and are often destroyed as the temperature rises. So the only way to maintain supplement potency is to keep it cool. And pills that are currently sitting on store shelves may have been sitting in hot stockrooms for months.
And one more thing. I bet you’re wondering if you can just skip the pill and eat fermented foods.
That might be fine depending on the level of bacterial supplementation you need and how much fermented food you eat. Examples of fermented foods are miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir and yogurt. The average store bought cup of yogurt has 60 CFU of bacteria. Kefir can have up to a billion. Sauerkraut can have about a billion cfu as well. So food sources might be appropriate when bacterial needs are low. For many of us, we need more on a daily basis than a normal portion of fermented food may provide. And in many cultures, the most commonly consumed fermented food, yogurt, can become irritating of consumed on a daily basis due to milk intolerance.
Probiotics aren’t right for everyone, but they are a good option for many. Have you ever tried supplementing with probiotics? Do you eat fermented foods? I would love to hear your story!