Should You Add Probiotic Supplements to Your Diet?
by Aussie Pharma Direct,
7 min reading time
Gut health is more than just having a relationship with your toilet seat. It’s about having a well-functioning gut that contributes to effective nutrient absorption, immune system modulation, and even influences aspects of mental well-being. Probiotics have become widely recognised for their association with gut health, playing a significant role in fostering optimal conditions within the digestive system.
Fermented foods, like yoghurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, have been the go-to natural sources of probiotics. But here's a question: when the option of probiotic supplements is on the table, is it really necessary to jump on that bandwagon when there are natural options available? In this blog, we'll explore when it might make sense to introduce these gut health supplements into your dietary line-up.
But first, let’s identify signs you might benefit from probiotics
Here are certain situations where incorporating probiotics into your routine could hold potential benefits.
Bloating, gas, constipation, and IBS can send your digestive system into a tizzy. Scientific evidence suggests that these gut probiotic helps restore a harmonious gut environment, potentially contributing to the alleviation of digestive discomfort.
Antibiotics, while crucial in combating infections, can inadvertently disrupt the delicate balance of gut microbiota by wiping out the good guys too. Probiotics can help restore the equilibrium within the gut microbiome after antibiotic treatment by introducing the beneficial bacteria. It's worth noting that simultaneous consumption of both antibiotics and probiotics isn't always optimal. Antibiotics tend to dominate the stage, so, the key lies in a sequential approach, where you can take probiotics after a designated interval.
Travel or diet changes
Alterations in diet, especially during travel or dietary shifts, can occasionally lead to digestive challenges. In these instances, probiotics are believed to play a role in assisting the gut in adapting to new dietary environments. Their inclusion might aid in minimising potential digestive discomfort resulting from changes in food consumption.
Weakened immune system When your immune system waves the white flag, probiotics can give your immunity a nudge in the right direction. Research has explored the potential of probiotics to modulate immune function, especially during periods of illness or heightened stress.
When might probiotic supplements be beneficial?
And so, you’re considering probiotic supplements. There are scenarios where they might be the better bet. Let's dive into it:
Lactose intolerance - Since many natural probiotic sources, such as yoghurt and kefir, are dairy-based, you might experience digestive discomfort after consuming these foods if you’re lactose intolerant.
Dairy allergy - If you’re allergic to dairy, consuming dairy-based probiotics can trigger allergic reactions ranging from mild discomfort to severe symptoms like hives, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis.
Gastrointestinal disorders - If you have certain gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or celiac disease, you might need to avoid certain foods such as fermented ones that can exacerbate the condition.
Vegan or vegetarian diet - A lot of the probiotic sources are dairy-based. While there are non-dairy and vegan probiotic options, you might still prefer or need to supplement with probiotics to ensure adequate intake.
Medical dietary restrictions - Certain medical conditions and treatments require specific dietary restrictions that might limit the consumption of certain foods, including those containing probiotics. For instance, if you’re on low-fibre diets, you might need to avoid certain fermented foods
Allergies or sensitivities - Specific ingredients found in natural probiotic sources could include ingredients like soy or specific types of grains used in fermentation.
Simply for convenience - Have no time, even for yourself? Supplements offer a convenient alternative. They can be easily integrated into your routine, especially when travel or time constraints are factors.
But be aware- not all probiotics are created equal
Hold onto your shopping cart, because beyond the simple label of "probiotics," there are three primary types of probiotic supplements you should be aware of:
Single strain - Each supplement is packed with a specific probiotic strain. They are designed to target particular health concerns, offering focused support.
Multi-strain - Multi-strain supplements blend a variety of probiotic strains. These formulations aim to offer a broader range of benefits by harnessing the power of diversity.
Synbiotic - Combines probiotics and prebiotics, providing both the beneficial bacteria and the nourishment they thrive on.
What could be the disadvantages of taking probiotic supplements?
While daily probiotic offers potential benefits, there are also some cons to consider when opting for supplements.
Limited prebiotics - Prebiotics are the fibres that nourish beneficial gut bacteria. Natural sources of probiotics, like fermented foods, offer the best prebiotic and probiotic combination. Supplements generally lack this natural synergy, potentially limiting the growth and effectiveness of the introduced probiotics.
Individual variation - Each person's gut microbiome is unique. While certain strains might work well for some, they might not be as effective for others.
Viability concerns - Probiotic supplements need to remain alive and viable until consumed. Factors such as storage conditions, manufacturing processes, and expiration dates can influence the viability of the probiotics in supplements.
Unknown interactions - Introducing high concentrations of specific strains through supplements might lead to interactions that aren't well understood.
Possible overconsumption - Excessive consumption of probiotic supplements might lead to an imbalance in the gut microbiome, especially if specific strains dominate and others are neglected.
Cost considerations - High-quality probiotic supplements can be expensive.
Nutrient benefits - Natural sources of probiotics often come with additional nutrients. For instance, yoghurt and kefir are rich in protein and calcium. Relying solely on supplements might mean missing out on these added nutritional benefits.
Digestive sensitivities - Some individuals might experience digestive discomfort when taking probiotic supplements, especially if the strains in the supplements are not well-tolerated by their gut.
Concluding thoughts: Dietary diversity matters
Probiotics, often referred to as "good bacteria," are a diverse group of microorganisms that naturally inhabit the gut. Their presence helps regulate various digestive functions, akin to the guardians of an intricate ecosystem. While probiotic supplements offer their merits, they should be seen as a complementary measure rather than a replacement for a diverse and balanced diet. In the end, whether you opt for probiotic supplements or rely on dietary sources, the key is to be well-informed and mindful of your body's signals.