As discussed previously, probiotics can benefit patients with gut complications such as enteritis, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Probiotics may also help decrease allergic inflammation, treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and fight immune deficiency diseases. Ingesting probiotics can improve calcium absorption and bone calcium accretion to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. They may even have a role in the management of obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Most probiotics are oligosaccharides and can be synthesized or obtained from natural sources including asparagus, artichoke, bamboo shoots, banana, barley, chicory, leeks, garlic, honey, lentils, milk, mustards, onion, rye, soybean, sugar beets, sugarcane juice, tomato, and wheat. Foods rich in probiotics include kefir, kimchi, yogurt, sweet acidophilus milk, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, aged soft cheese, and more.
Some probiotics include an ingredient called a “prebiotic.” This is a non-digestible carbohydrate that acts as food for both the probiotic and the good bacteria already residing in the gut. Prebiotic stimulates the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of genus/species in the gut, making the probiotic more effective and longer lasting.
Here are some of the various types of probiotics…
- Lactobacillus naturally occur in our digestive, urinary, and genital systems and can treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions.
- Bifidobacteria are found mostly in the colon. They help improve blood lipids and glucose tolerance and can alleviate IBS and IBS-like conditions such as pain, bloating, and urgency.
- Saccaromyces boulardii is the only yeast probiotic. It’s used to treat C-Dif (an antibiotic complication), traveler’s diarrhea, acne, and more.
- Streptococcus thermophilus helps prevent lactose intolerance.
- Enterococcus faecium supports the intestinal tract.
Are there side effects? Generally, side effects are rare and if they occur, they tend to be mild and usually relate to the digestive system and include symptoms such as gas or feeling bloated.