A Guide to Probiotics

A Guide to Probiotics

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Healthy living and fitness has certainly become a top priority for many of us. There are numerous people that I come across who flaunt fitness bands, use health tracking apps and workout every day to stay healthy. It seems like we are finally getting to understand the depth of the proverb “Health is Wealth”. And on that note, I’d like to bring your attention to gut health. Health gurus, doctors and nutritionists believe that a clean gut can cure a gamut of health conditions like diarrhoea, bloating, constipation and at times even acne. So what do we do to help our gut stay healthy?

Experts suggest taking a probiotic, either in food or supplement form for a healthy gut. While there are foods like kefir and kimchi that can help you get your daily dose, supplements like lactobacillus plantarum, bifidobacterium and lactobacillus acidophilus are considered to be the best sources for including probiotics in your regular diet. In reality, taking a probiotic has become almost as routine as popping a multivitamin. I am no longer surprised to find myself amidst an in-depth discussion about the comparison of different strains and makers of probiotic supplements.

Our Bollywood celebs are regularly spotted carrying bottles of ‘Kombucha’ a fermented tea that contains probiotics, while Bollywood star Kajol endorses the health benefits of the probiotic drink Yakult. While the shiny world of celebs are already benefitting from the use of probiotic supplements for a fitter body, for many of us it is already a part of what we consider a healthy diet and daily regimen.

The good news is that research backs up our cause, by proving that in some cases probiotics can actually help. According to research conducted by Poornachandra Rao and Sreenivasa M Y, Department of Studies in Microbiology, University of Mysore; the ability of probiotics to ensure a clean gut can help autistic children {the gut bacteria-brain connection in autism}. In the most recent {September 2016} newsletter published by the Probiotic Association of India, probiotics can help in the prevention of diarrhoea and it also plays an important role in enhancing the immunity of your body. So we know that it is essential for healthy living, but do you still think that there a number of questions that are unanswered about probiotics? Let us uncover more about probiotics and how it can help our body.

What Is a Probiotic?

If you were to ask me “What is a probiotic?”, then the best way in which I can describe this supplement would be “Bugs in a capsule”. If you don’t mind the technical jargon, then probiotics is described as active bacteria which are grown and cultured in a laboratory. They are considered to be beneficial for the human microbiome which you would know as the human gut. At this time, probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which means that their benefit as a drug is yet to be tested.

Are Probiotics Actually Beneficial?

There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests taking a probiotic could enhance immunity; although researchers are still in the process of studying the bacteria that live in our body and through controlled clinical trials are still trying to unveil the actual benefit of probiotics. With more bugs than body cells in our body, we do not know enough about these bacteria to treat them. Which ones are healthy and which ones can harm our immune system? Research is gradually progressing to provide early clues, but a lot more needs to be done.

What has really worked for people who are suffering from a severe case of gastrointestinal problem is fecal microbiota transplantation. It involves the implantation of fecal bacteria of a healthy person to someone who is suffering from clostridium difficile which is an infection that causes severe diarrhoea. The implantation of bacteria is usually done via enema. Needless to say, the process is complex and it involves its own risks. This is probably why it is done in extreme cases where the person is not even able to leave the house or the toilet.

Is it Safe to Take Probiotic Supplements?

Ever since gut health catapulted into the limelight, probiotic supplements have grown hand in hand becoming one of the most popular supplements for healthy living. So far, it looks like these supplements have been somewhat safe. But for some, adverse effects may follow. A few people who start taking probiotic supplements complain of symptoms like brain fogginess and bloating. Another problem that can affect your health is that probiotics is meant to be colonized in the large intestine and if they end up colonizing in the small intestine, then you may end up suffering from what is known as Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth (SIBO). If you suffer from this problem then you will not be able to tolerate probiotics till the time your gut recovers completely.

Do I Really Need Probiotic Supplements?

While there are some doctors who may not think twice about recommending probiotic supplements, there are others who will flat-out refuse to do so. If you would like to try it yourself, whether or not your doctor finds it beneficial, then you can simply walk into any drug store and buy probiotic supplements over the counter without a prescription. SCD Probiotics is known to be an effective supplement for those who are hoping to improve their gut health. As for me, I strongly believe that probiotics aren’t really meant to be taken like multivitamins.

What Can I Do to Improve My Gut Health?

Imagine your gut as a garden. The good bacteria are the flowers and the bad ones are the weeds. For your gut flora to be healthy, you have to remove the weeds and make sure that you provide a suitable environment for the flowers to bloom. Most of this can be done by ensuring that you follow a healthy diet {while including complex carbohydrates & fibre} and a good workout routine. The foods you eat should have the nutrients you need to empower your immune system and keep a clean gut. Include variety in your diet and ensure you eat healthy, unprocessed food from different sources so that you can get all the nutrients your body needs naturally. My answer to a healthy gut is – eat healthy and let your microbiome take care of the rest.

Conclusion

If you were to conduct your own research, you will find numerous arguments for and against the use of probiotics. With the universe of bacteria that lives in our body, researchers are still in the process of finding out more about them. While probiotics has largely been popularized because people have benefitted from it, its limitations stem from fewer clinical trials and insufficient research conducted thus far. Ongoing studies may help us unravel more about probiotics; so for now, I feel that if you really want to include probiotics in your meals then choose foods that can aid your intake of probiotics naturally.

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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