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  • Dr. Susan

Probiotics for IBS & Women’s Health

Probiotics Explained

Our bodies contain trillions of microorganisms - in fact, some scientists estimate that bacteria cells outnumber human cells by 10 to 1!

While this sounds scary, you should know that many of these microorganisms help our bodies function properly. Bacteria help break down food, destroy

disease-causing microorganisms, and produce vitamins.

Many of the microorganisms in probiotic supplements are similar to microorganisms that naturally exist in our bodies. They’re sold as supplements in pill

form, can be used topically in skin creams, and also exist naturally in foods.

There’s a lot to know about probiotics, and we’re about to break it all down!

History of Probiotics

Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff introduced the concept of probiotics in the early 20th century. Known as the “father of probiotics,” he was the first to

propose that consuming beneficial microorganisms could improve people’s health.

Researched continued to investigate this idea, and the term “probiotics” eventually came to use.

The Micro-Organisms That Make Up Probiotics

Probiotics contain a variety of microorganisms, but the most common ones belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each one of

these groups includes many types of bacteria.

How do Probiotics Work

Probiotics have a variety of effects on the body and can affect different people differently - however, these are some of the ways that probiotics might


-By maintaining a more desirable and balanced community of microorganisms

-By stabilizing the digestive tract’s barriers against undesirable microorganisms or produce substances that inhibit their growth

-Outcompete undesirable microorganisms

Are Probiotics Safe?

In generally healthy individuals, probiotics have a good safety record, and side effects, if they occur at all, usually consist of mild digestive symptoms.

However, if you have an underlying medical problem, have recently had surgery, or have a weakened immune system, you should check with your

health practitioner before beginning a probiotic regimen.

Probiotics for Diarrhea

A large meta-analysis - or review - of 35 studies found that certain strains of probiotics can reduce the duration of infectious diarrhea by an average of 25 hours.

It was also found that probiotics reduced the risk of travelers’ diarrhea by 8%, and lowered the risk of diarrhea from other causes by 57% in children and 26% in adults.

Probiotics for Mental health

An increasing number of studies link gut health to mood and mental health. Both human and animal studies have shown that probiotic supplements can improve mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more.

Probiotics for Allergies

Some research has found that certain probiotic strains may reduce the severity of eczema in children and infants.

One study found that the children of women who took probiotics during pregnancy had an 83% lower risk of developing eczema in the first two years of life.

Probiotics for Immune system

Because probiotics can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, it may also help give your immune system a boost.

An extensive review found that taking probiotics reduces the likelihood and duration of respiratory infections. Another found that children taking

Lactobacillus GG reduced the frequency and severity of respiratory infections by 17 percent.

Probiotics for Weight Loss

Taking probiotics might help with weight loss through a number of different mechanisms:

-Some probiotics prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestine, excreting it through feces rather than stored in the body.

-Some can help you feel fuller longer, resulting in more calories burned and less fat stored.

In one study, dieting women who took Lactobacillus rhamnosus for three months lost 50% more weight than women who didn’t take a probiotic.

Another study of over 200 people found that taking even low doses of Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks resulted in an 8.5% reduction of belly fat.

Take note that not all probiotics aid in weight loss. Some studies found that certain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, can even lead to weight


Probiotics and PreBiotics

We’ve touched on probiotics now, but have you ever heard of prebiotics?

The most straightforward way to describe prebiotics is as fiber. However, a more accurate description is that they’re a non-digestive fiber meaning it isn’t broken down by the gut. Instead, it passes to the colon where it is fermented to feed gut microflora.

In other words, prebiotics are a food source for beneficial bacteria that probiotics bring to the table, and can help them survive and thrive in the gut microbiome.

Food sources of Probiotics

Drink Your Probiotics: Kombucha

These days, kombucha is everywhere! This popular drink is made from black or green tea that’s been fermented by a friendly colony of bacteria and


Have you tried kombucha?

Eat your Probiotics

Yogurt is one of the best forms of probiotics, as the process of making yogurt consists of fermenting milk with friendly bacteria.

When choosing a yogurt, look for those long greek names of live cultures listed as ingredients. Also, make sure to choose a yogurt that’s low in sugar.

Closely related to yogurt is kefir - a fermented probiotic drink that contains both friendly bacteria and yeast. Better yet, if you’re lactose intolerant, you

can probably still handle Keifer, so give it a try!

Fun fact: the word kefir allegedly comes from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” after eating.

Sauerkraut and Kimchi

Fermented cabbage has been eaten for centuries all over the world, and for good reason - both sauerkraut and kimchi can bring tons of health benefits!

Sauerkraut, a European staple, is a probiotic rich in fiber as well as vitamins C, B, and K. Additionally, it contains iron, manganese, and antioxidants

such as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Kimchi, sauerkraut’s cousin from the East, is a spicy Korean side dish/condiment. It’s made with a mix of seasonings such as red chili pepper flakes,

garlic, ginger, scallion, and salt. It contains the lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus kimchi, as well as other lactic acid bacteria that can benefit digestive



Have you ever tried tempeh? It’s a fermented soybean product that’s formed into a patty and is used worldwide as a high-protein meat supplement.

Through the fermentation process, soybeans are broken down to lower the amount of phytic acid -a compound that impairs the absorption of minerals

like iron and zinc- to provide the body with probiotics as well as B12.


You’re likely familiar with miso soup, but did you know that it contains probiotics, protein, and fiber as well as vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds

such as vitamin K, manganese, and copper?

In Japan, miso soup is typically consumed at breakfast time. To incorporate some into your diet, buy as a paste and create a broth to sip.

Probiotics and Antibiotics

You’re likely prescribed antibiotics to treat bacterial infections like strep throat or an open wound. While antibiotics play an essential role in treating

severe diseases, they can also come with adverse side effects. Antibiotics kill ALL of the bacteria in your body- beneficial and harmful. This includes the

microbes that are helping your body operate.

How? Because in addition to killing disease-causing bacteria, antibiotics can destroy healthy bacteria too, which drastically affect the amounts and types

of bacteria. In fact, only one week of antibiotics can change the makeup of the gut microbiota for up to a year.

Take a probiotic during and after an antibiotic dose to help restore some healthy bacteria that have been destroyed.

Just remember that probiotics are bacteria too, so they can be killed by antibiotics if taken together, therefore, take antibiotics and probiotics a few hours


Gut Is Individual and Personal

Everyone’s gut microbiome is unique, which means that some of the effects that probiotics have on one person may not present the same way in


Based on the balance of bacteria in your gut, you might react differently to foods like kimchi and kombucha. You may not feel results after your first

bottle of probiotics.

Keep in mind that most of what we discussed today are not steadfast rules that apply to every person. Your journey to better health and a more

balanced gut is personal to you.

How To Pick the Right Probiotic

When you decide to pick out a probiotic, picking the right one can make a world of difference. Keep these tips in mind as you’re standing in your local health store:

-Always choose a probiotic with at least 10 billion live organisms per dosage. Keep in mind that the probiotic should ensure (in writing) that you’ll continue to receive this number throughout the shelf life of the product.

-Look for probiotics with a wide array of different bacteria. The most excellent products can contain up to 14 different strains.

Take on an Empty Stomach

One last tip - take your probiotics first thing in the morning when your stomach acid levels are lower!

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