Probiotics are considered “good bacteria” or “friendly bacteria.” Not all bacteria cause illness. Probiotics are a type of bacteria that live in the body, help keep the gut healthy, and can help defend the body from infections.
Commonly used probiotics include:
- Lactobacilli acidophilus (L. acidophilus)
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- A yeast that may help fight diarrhea and other digestive issues
Probiotics may help you poop by helping restore the balance of gut bacteria, and they are often used to help relieve constipation. Probiotics that contain Bifidobacterium may be the best choice.
According to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, probiotics:
- Helped soften stools, making them easier to pass
- Increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3
- Probiotics slowed “gut transit time” by 12.4 hours
In addition to helping you poop, probiotics are often taken:
Probiotics and prebiotics are not the same. Prebiotics are a source of food for probiotics.
What Are Side Effects of Probiotics?
Probiotic use can cause some side effects in some people, but these side effects are usually temporary and will go away as the body adjusts to taking them.
Side effects of probiotics may include:
- Digestive symptoms
- Feeling more full than usual
- Changes in bowel movements
- Headaches and migraines
- Allergic reactions
- Those who have allergies or sensitivities to dairy products, egg, soy, yeast, or other specific foods should check the label on the product
- Skin reactions (uncommon, may be due to allergy)
- Skin rashes
- Mild itching
- May contribute to Small intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, and check product labels for any possible allergens or intolerances.
Are Probiotic Supplements Necessary?
You do not need to take probiotics unless your doctor has advised you to do so. If you eat a healthy diet, you should be able to maintain a healthy gut and be able to poop regularly without probiotic supplements.
5 Probiotic Foods to Eat
Healthy foods that contain probiotics include:
- fruits and vegetables,
- whole grains,
- beans and legumes,
- yogurt, and
- fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut.
What Are Risks of Taking Probiotics?
In many cases, even if probiotics do not help, they are not necessarily harmful. However, there may be some risks with probiotic supplements:
- Probiotics are considered dietary supplements and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like medications, which means products may not contain what the labels claim they do.
- People with weakened immune systems (such as people on cancer chemotherapy or with certain illnesses) may get an infection following use of probiotics.
Talk to your doctor before adding probiotic supplements to your diet.
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