Although they're actually bacteria, probiotic bacteria are not the same as the infection-causing organisms you attempt to kill with antibiotics. Rather, probiotic bacteria provide the healthy gut flora benefits galore.
These friendly good bacteria colonize the GI tract and prevent bad organisms from taking residence. If the bad organisms take up residence, you may find that your symptoms worsen. Probiotics can balance the appropriate levels of both the good and bad bacteria and so help to alleviate the problems caused by the excess growth of the bad bacteria. They also have the effect of killing harmful bacteria.
Probiotic use has been shown to increase the number of Lactobacillus acidophilus in the GI tract, which helps to promote the production of lactase, a hormone that helps to break down milk sugar. The use of probiotic products also appears to boost the immune system, which provides additional health benefits.
For instance, people who take probiotic supplements may be less likely to develop food allergies, according to research at the University of Wisconsin. Probiotic use also appears to improve the digestion of protein and fat, which reduce constipation and improve the absorption of other nutrients.
Probiotic supplements like Floraspring are usually taken in capsule form or in liquid form. Liquid forms are often considered easier to take because there are no powders to mix, and they can be more easily integrated into the GI tract. Collagen and other ingredients that help preserve the ecosystem are adding to probiotic supplements to promote long-term health. In fact, some studies suggest that the microbes alone can promote the maintenance of the ecosystem, thus preventing the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
There are many documented benefits of taking probiotics.
- They reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance by increasing the population of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- The population of friendly bacteria is necessary because some antibiotics kill off the "bad" bacteria. However, some antibiotics can also kill off the "good" bacteria
- Antibiotics can have some side effects, however. They can lead to diarrhea, nausea, depression, lethargy, and altered senses of smell, taste and even vision.
- Studies suggest that taking probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus can reduce the risk of having one of these side effects, and some studies have shown a reduction in the amount of antibiotic use needed to prevent one.
So, although antibiotics are commonly used to treat a condition that would otherwise cause a person to be unhealthy (such as an extended period of diarrhea), taking probiotics can help to avoid a potentially harmful side effect.
Good bacteria in the digestive system
Another benefit of probiotic supplementation is that it can increase the population of the good bacteria in the digestive system. This increases the efficiency with which nutrients are absorbed and used by the body.
A recent study found that the microbes in milk help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. The microbes in milk contained components that are required to protect the intestinal lining from damage caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium associated with a variety of cancers. These protective molecules are known as "prebiotics," and a milk intake of probiotic yogurt may be all that's needed to protect against the growth of such dangerous microbes. Also, the microbes in milk contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, which has been proven to be important in maintaining and repairing the immune system.
Some strains of the "bad" bacteria also have effects on the intestine, and these can lead to a number of gastrointestinal problems, including irritable bowel syndrome and IBS. Probiotic cultures eliminate those types of bacteria that are detrimental to the intestines. It is not yet known if taking probiotic supplements will help to resolve some of the issues that come with IBS, or whether they will be needed to alleviate some of the symptoms. But there is some evidence that they could be very beneficial for people who are taking antibiotics for any other condition, whether it has a relation to IBS or not.
Ally Cooper, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian with a Master’s in Human Nutrition. Ally is also an advocate of real vs fake supplements. Ally has been featured and quoted in publications like Parade Magazine, The Healthy, Fitbit.com. ALly is passionate about fitness and when she is busy reviewing supplements, she listens to her favourite music and chill. 🙂