But before you start reaching for the calcium supplements, there may be a more effective way to support your bone health. Like many other parts of the body, the health of your bones is closely tied to the health of your gut, especially your intestines. Temporary intestinal inflammation can trigger an immune response in which your body releases interleukins, proteins that have an immune function but also absorb bone tissue. If the temporary inflammation remains unaddressed, these molecules can take a toll on your bones, eventually weakening them.14
Many Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are naturals at protecting and improving gut health. Additionally, research in animals and humans has shown that probiotics decrease scores on depression assessments, thereby alleviating depression. As a matter of fact, there is a new term, psychobiotics, for these microbes that influence mental health conditions like depression.
Billions Of CFU – One of the first things you will notice on a bottle of probiotics is the phrase “X Billion CFU.” Probiotics vary in the number of billions of cultures they pack in each capsule, but the lingo always stays the same. CFU stands for Colony Forming Units, so if the bottle reads 5 Billion CFU, it means that there are 5 Billion Colony Forming Units per capsule. The higher the number, the more flora contained in each pill.
Candida yeast species, on the other hand, can cause numerous infections in and on you. Although they are usually present in controlled amounts, Candida overcomes your usual defenses and establishes itself when conditions are favorable, such as when you take antibiotics and many beneficial bacteria, which normally would control Candida, are killed. Unlike the Saccharomyces yeasts, which are not invasive, Candida species form hyphae, finger-like projections that penetrate tissues, causing deep infections that are difficult to eliminate. Candida is also able to weaken your immune defenses.
As you progress with increasing dosages of probiotics internally, you may experience increased abdominal gas, upset digestion with diarrhea, headache, fever, muscle pain, brain fog, and/or anxiety. If the symptoms become too uncomfortable, decrease the dosage for a few days and try again. These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that things—such as a die-off of pathogens or an awakened intestinal reflex—are changing.
Many studies have shown that probiotics reduce diarrhea associated with taking antibiotics in both adults and children. In fact, it is common for physicians and pharmacists to recommend eating a probiotic-fortified yogurt every day during a course of antibiotics to prevent diarrhea. More research is needed to determine which probiotics are associated with the greatest effect for specific antibiotics.
Following a healthy and active lifestyle and eating a balanced diet are the best ways to foster a bountiful gut flora. Taking care of your gut flora can help with things like irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation, among other things. Even if you’re not sold on pursuing probiotics for your allergies, they’re good to consider if you’re experiencing any gastrointestinal issues.
Russian microbiologist Elie Metchnikoff (1845-1916) was the first to associate the large amounts of fermented dairy products with the good health and longevity of Bulgarians back in 1907. He proposed that the acid-producing organisms in fermented dairy products could prevent what he called "fouling" in the large intestine. He believed if eaten regularly, these foods could lead to a longer, healthier life. One version of the Old Testament even attributes Abraham's long life — 175 years — to the "consumption of sour milk." Fermented milk products may have also been used to treat illnesses of the digestive tract during Roman times.
Possibly the most popular probiotic food is live cultured yogurt or greek yogurt made from the milk of cows, goats or sheep. Yogurt, in most cases, can rank at the top of probiotic foods if it comes from raw, grass-fed animals. The problem is there is a large variation on the quality of yogurts on the market today. When buying yogurt, look for three things: First, that it comes from goat’s, sheep milk or A2 cows milk; second, that it’s grass-fed; and third, that it’s organic.
Eating foods rich in good bacteria and using probiotic supplements may help provide protection from inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The evidence is stronger, however, for an improvement in ulcerative colitis, while Crohn’s disease may not benefit as greatly. In addition, there is ongoing research studying the role of probiotics in gluten issues, including celiac disease.
The other way that probiotics help is the impact that they have on our immune system. Some believe that this role is the most important. Our immune system is our protection against germs. When it doesn't function properly, we can suffer from allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders (for example, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis), and infections (for example, infectious diarrhea, H. pylori, skin infections, and vaginal infections). By maintaining the correct balance from birth, the hope would be to prevent these ailments. Our immune system can benefit anytime that balanced is restored, so it's never too late.
The second piece of research investigated whether patients should take probiotics to help the recovery of the natural gut bacteria after treatment with antibiotics. The evidence supporting this is not entirely clear and the FDA does not officially recommend it, but there are some reputable sources which discuss their use, such as this blog from Harvard Medical School. Research has suggested that up to 60% of healthcare professionals in the U.S. recommend taking probiotics, but is this justified and could it even be harmful?