Probiotics, which are safe live microbes, are important for supporting and improving health, but should you take probiotics daily?
Your microbiome is the collection of microorganisms in your gut. There are around 500 to 1000 types of bacteria in the intestines. A healthy microbiome must be diverse in order to fight against many different pathogens. The bacteria in the microbiome play an important role in human physiology. They can influence digestion, immune development, and mental wellbeing. Dietary fibre, prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods can all influence the gut microbiota.
Probiotics are live microbes that can provide health benefits when consumed in large enough amounts. Live microbes are an important part of the human diet and can be found in many foods. These include yogurts, fermented foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The microbial content of fresh fruits and vegetables is normally 10 colony forming units (CFU). Probiotic foods have been linked with lower blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and risk of obesity. This could be because the non-harmful microbes found in food can act as a crucial source of microbial stimuli for the immune system.
Probiotics can help to maintain a healthy gut by reducing the number of ‘bad’ bacteria present in the gut. Bad bacteria can often cause illness or inflammation. This is why it is extremely important to replace them with good bacteria.
Taking probiotics on a daily basis may help you restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut, including the stomach and intestines when gut health has been compromised. Illness and medicines can affect the bacteria in your gut.
Consuming probiotics is generally thought to be beneficial and health-promoting. Probiotics may be able to help support a healthy immune system, prevent the growth of harmful organisms in the digestive system, reinforce the gut barrier. They may even help with oral, skin, and mental health. The recommended daily intake of probiotics is not yet known.
Who benefits most from probiotics?
Probiotics are particularly helpful in individuals suffering from diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. There is some evidence that probiotics can help reduce inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis.
Probiotics may also be useful in treating allergies and asthma, skin conditions, stomach and respiratory infections, and lactose intolerance. They are particularly helpful with digestive disorders, including diarrhea, constipation, and acid reflux.
Probiotics may help individuals prevent and treat urinary tract infections and yeast infections. They can help prevent side effects of taking antibiotics, such as diarrhea. Individuals who do not regularly consume fermented foods may benefit from probiotic supplements to keep their gut healthy.
How often should you take probiotics?
Probiotics work by colonizing the intestinal tract with live bacteria. Consuming probiotic supplements that guarantee at least one billion live cultures is typically recommended. Recommendations also usually suggest daily probiotics, since they are only effective as they pass through the body, they need to be consumed regularly to provide any benefit.
Are daily probiotic supplements necessary?
Investigating the relationship between consumption of live microbes and health outcomes is difficult due to a number of reasons. These include insufficient records on the intake of microbes in past human populations, and the intricate biology of the digestive tract.
According to research published in The Journal of Nutrition, consumption of yogurt and fermented milk provides various benefits to human health. This can include improvements in gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health, bone density, and cancer risk. It also facilitates weight loss, in addition to the management of diabetes and metabolic health. This could be because the intestinal microbiome has potential implications on susceptibility to obesity and diabetes.
There may also be evidence to support the use of live microorganisms to treat colic, functional gut symptoms, acute upper respiratory tract infections, and symptoms of lactose intolerance. According to the study, it may be more advisable to consume probiotics that are a regular and essential part of the diet, rather than using probiotic supplements to treat a deficiency condition.
Dr Mary Sanders, a co-author of the paper, stated, “Currently, food guides around the world do not recommend daily intake of live microbes. Although continual doses of live microbes may not be critical for our survival, by ignoring them we may be missing out on an important opportunity to support the health of different populations.”
Are probiotics safe?
Probiotics are generally safe for use in individuals with a healthy immune system. However, probiotics can cause side effects, including stomach upsets, diarrhea, and bloating. They can also trigger an allergic reaction. You should avoid taking probiotic supplements if you have any immune system problems, or if you are suffering from a critical illness. Always consult your doctor before taking probiotics or any type of supplements, to make sure they are safe for you.
Although taking probiotic supplements daily may not be necessary, it is important to remember to include probiotic foods, such as yoghurt, in your diet. Talk to your doctor to find out which probiotic strain would be most beneficial for your particular needs.
Written by Albina Babu, MSc
Marco, M.L., et al. (2020). Should there be a recommended daily intake of microbes? The Journal of Nutrition, 150(12), pp.3061-3067.
Can we improve our health with doses of safe, live microbes on a daily basis? (2020). EurekAlert! Retrieved from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/isaf-cwi120320.php