Probiotics, typically found in foods like yogurt and fermented items like Kombucha, are live bacteria that are considered to be beneficial to our health. The most common bacteria found in most probiotics are species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These species of bacteria are similar to the bacteria found in the GI tract naturally.
Although research is still emerging about probiotics, current literature supports the idea that probiotics may help contribute to overall GI health by helping to establish good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics work by reducing the number of harmful organisms that may be present within the gut, producing substances that help inhibit the growth of these harmful organisms, and helping to improve the body’s immune response. Much of the research regarding probiotics has been centered on specific conditions commonly found within the GI tract, such as, antibiotic associated diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome.
Dosages of probiotics vary dramatically, but most commonly are up to 10-20 billion CFUs for adults and up to 5-10 billion CFUs for children. CFUs stand for colony forming units per day and are a measure of the amount of bacteria within a product. There must be enough CFUs to withstand that digestion process in order to impact the gut.
Most individuals experience few or mild side effects when taking probiotics, including abdominal discomfort. Although probiotics have been found to be relatively safe, speak to your doctor if you are considering taking a probiotic. There is limited research on the long term side effects with probiotic use, especially if other health conditions are present. Probiotics may also not be safe with individuals who have a lowered immunity or in those who are critically ill.
If you are interested in taking a probiotic, remember that one does not fit all. Talk to a health care professional to decide which probiotic may be best for you.