It’s clear to see that concerns around health have been growing. The general public now recognizes the importance of taking ownership of their own wellbeing in order to optimize their health. But before any form of self-care can start, we first need to learn about what makes us healthy.
This is where expert advice comes in. Thanks to the growing emphasis on public health, there’s a rising need for healthcare studies degrees covering non-clinical health demands like health education and creating quality health-related products. These non-clinical healthcare workers like healthcare educators boost general health literacy through information campaigns and other programs.
As the discourse around health evolves, there remain knowledge gaps about many developing aspects to do with health. This is why continuous health education and research is crucial in order to address these developments — one of which concerns probiotics.
Probiotics have been growing in popularity over the past few years, but are they simply a trend or do they truly benefit our bodies? Read on to find out.
What are probiotics?
Humans can have up to 300 trillion bacteria in our bodies. Some of these are helpful, some can cause diseases, and the majority of them are harmless.
When these bacterial colonies are out of balance, they can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. This can result in many complications, including obesity, metabolic diseases, dysbiosis, and much more.
While health professionals’ knowledge of probiotics can vary, over 80% agree that the definition of probiotics as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Rigorous clinical trials proved beneficial health effects can be ascribed to probiotics as a general class, instead of only strain-specific probiotics.
This is opposed to common misconceptions and even misapplying the term to refer to fermented products with a diverse community of live microorganisms, which may not specifically apply to probiotics.
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics stimulate or inhibit the growth of beneficial and harmful bacteria in our microbiome respectively by directly interacting with our body’s organs as well as other microorganisms. For example, some probiotic strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus can create antimicrobial compounds and organic acids that regulate endotoxins in the intestine.
Probiotics can also produce compounds that reduce inflammation or alleviate leaky gut. These safeguard your gut from any infections or pathogens that might cause bloating. While leaky gut may also be caused by food sensitivities or even hormonal responses, it doesn’t hurt to take daily probiotics to recolonize good gut bacteria and improve digestion overall.
However, as a word of caution: While the majority of health professionals agree on the general definition, there’s no consensus on when and where to take them. 79% of health professionals would still advise their patients to use probiotics for reasons such as during antibiotic therapy, for diarrhea, for constipation, and more.
So can probiotics be harmful?
For the most part, probiotics have been found to be very helpful. However, it’s important to understand that there is an absence of any experimental proof of their benefits. Currently, the FDA has not officially approved any probiotics as a solution for any particular health issues.
Caution is therefore advised for people with serious medical illnesses and overwhelming infections, more so infants or the elderly. It is important to consult with your personal physician and other non-clinical healthcare workers before taking them. To date, though, the most adverse effects that can happen to healthy people include bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Where can you find probiotics?
Besides supplements, probiotics are naturally found in some food. The most popular options include yogurt or Yakult, but fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, or kombucha are a safe choice. In natural produce, look for green bananas and garlic.
While probiotics have generally been recommended for better gut health, there is still a huge window of opportunity for future non-clinical health and public health education to further the discourse. Be sure to do your own research and consultations before deciding the best intake for yourself. With time, research, and better health education, we are sure to see a growth in probiotics use and better health outcomes for all.
by Rosie Braden