Probiotics for Fitness and Health: Supporting Your Wellness Journey
General Nutrition • • minute to read • By INFS, INFS Faculty
Did you know that there are trillions of beneficial microorganisms (bacteria sp.) residing in your digestive tract? These microorganisms perform various functions in the body, such as digesting food, producing certain vitamins, enhancing immunity, aiding in weight loss, and improving mental health. In fact, these microorganisms outnumber our body cells 10 to 1. In this article, we will discuss probiotics, living microorganisms that can offer health benefits to the host. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products. Let’s explore the world of probiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that are consumed in sufficient concentrations to offer health benefits to the host. The term probiotic comes from the Latin preposition “pro,” which means “for” and the Greek word “biotic” meaning “life”. Probiotics can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products.
Why Are Probiotics Important?
The gut contains both good and bad bacteria. The ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria is 85:15. When the ratio gets disturbed or bad bacteria increases, our body experiences disturbances in health and may face some signs and symptoms, such as digestive disturbances, skin conditions, mood swings, a weak immune system, allergies, and asthma. Consuming probiotics regularly in the form of supplements or foods can help maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut.
How to Select Probiotic Supplements Wisely?
When selecting probiotic supplements, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Strains – Look for multi-strain supplements that contain friendly bacteria from groups such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These strains are the dominant strains in the human intestinal tract. Non-bacterial microorganisms like Saccharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae are also beneficial and can be used as probiotics. Avoid single-strain supplements.
- Colony Forming Units (CFUs) – Check the number of billions of CFUs (Colony Forming Units) in the supplement. Ideally, each gram of the supplement should contain more than 10 billion (10 9 or 10,000,000,000) colony-forming units. A probiotic supplement having more than 5 billion CFUs in children and more than 10 billion CFUs in adults per day is recommended for providing optimal functioning of gut health.
- Ingredients – Avoid supplements that contain artificial additives and fillers.
- Dates – Check the manufacturing and expiry dates before purchasing.
How to Consume Probiotic Supplements?
To yield maximum benefits for the body, certain parameters like preferable time, dosage, and duration for consumption should be taken into account:
- Time – Take a probiotic supplement on an empty stomach in the morning preferably after a glass of water, or 30 minutes before a meal. Avoid taking probiotics with other antibiotics.
- Duration – Probiotics should be consumed daily. There is no set limit on when to stop. Consult with your physician on this.
How to Store Probiotic Supplements?
Probiotic supplements require proper storage as they are living microorganisms. Check the product label for proper storage instructions. Some probiotic supplements require refrigeration, while others should be stored in a cool, dry area.
Probiotic Indian Foods
Apart from probiotic supplements, adding probiotic-rich foods to your regular diet can promote the growth of bacteria in your gut. Naturally cultured probiotic foods include idli/dosa, dhokla, ragi ambli, curd, buttermilk, cheese, paneer, homemade veg pickles without vinegar, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and other tasty fermented foods with naturally-cultured probiotics. These foods can help support gut health and promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. However, it’s important to note that the concentration of probiotics in these foods may vary, and it may be difficult to consume enough to obtain the desired health benefits.
Avoid Probiotic Supplements in These Conditions
Despite the beneficial role of probiotics, in certain conditions, it is advised to avoid probiotics in the diet. For example, individuals who are critically ill, suffering from autoimmune disorders, undergoing chemotherapy, or have severe infections should avoid probiotics. The reason for restricting probiotics in these conditions is the risk that the bacteria could migrate out of the intestines and into the bloodstream.
Probiotics are essential for maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut. They offer a range of health benefits, including improved digestion, immunity, mental health, and weight loss. While probiotic supplements are widely available, naturally-cultured probiotic foods can also provide a good source of beneficial bacteria. When purchasing probiotic supplements, look for multi-strain supplements with high CFUs and avoid artificial additives and fillers. Follow the recommended guidelines for consumption, and store them properly to ensure their effectiveness. However, it’s important to avoid probiotics in certain conditions and consult with your physician before adding them to your diet.
Can probiotics help with weight loss?
Probiotics have been shown to have a modest effect on weight loss, particularly when combined with a healthy diet and exercise routine. However, the evidence is mixed, and more research is needed to determine the best strains and dosages for weight loss.
Are there any side effects of taking probiotics?
While probiotics are generally safe, some people may experience digestive upset, bloating, or gas when first starting to take them. These symptoms usually subside after a few days or weeks. Rarely, probiotics can cause more serious infections in people with weakened immune systems.
How do I choose the right probiotic supplement?
Look for a supplement that contains multiple strains of bacteria, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The supplement should also contain at least 10 billion CFUs per dose, and should not contain any artificial additives or fillers. Consult with a healthcare provider if you have any health concerns.
What are some naturally probiotic-rich foods I can add to my diet?
Some examples of naturally probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh. These foods can be a delicious and healthy way to support gut health and overall wellness.
Can probiotics help with mental health?
There is some evidence to suggest that probiotics can have a positive effect on mental health, particularly in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, more research is needed in this area to determine the best strains and dosages for mental health.
- “Effect of Lactobacillus on body weight and body fat in overweight subjects: a systematic review of randomized controlled clinical trials.” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419998/
- “Safety and side effects of Lactobacillus probiotics in children and adults: a systematic review.” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424311/
- “Probiotics for Gastrointestinal Conditions: A Summary of the Evidence.” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4490230/
- “Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry.” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468748/
- “Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhoea: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3966178/
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