We’re assuming that if you're reading this article, you already know about probiotics – if you didn’t, you'd be researching something different, like “what is a probiotic?”
Here, rather than introduce you to the topic of probiotics in general, we’re going to look at some of the reason why you might need to supplement with probiotics. However, we will introduce probiotics, just in case.
A Brief Overview of Probiotics
A probiotic is a type of microorganism, most commonly they are bacteria or fungi. While some bacteria and fungi are bad for us, probiotics are good for us. We call bad bacteria “harmful bacteria” and good bacteria either “probiotic” or “friendly bacteria” – although they have other names too.
Probiotics have many roles within the human body:
• They help us digest food
• They help fight off infections – some even fight viruses
• They help consume dangerous bodily by-products, such as sulphur
As you can see, they have a vital role in immunity and in keeping our bodies nutritionally healthy.
Different types of probiotic play different roles. For example, acidophilus tablets help us to digest milk, lower cholesterol, and doctors are starting to investigate whether it has a role in fighting off cancer.
Where Do We Get Probiotics?
Scientists used to believe that we first accumulate probiotics during birth – from the birth canal. While it’s true that we do derive many of our original body fauna (a name for the collective probiotics) from the birth canal, we’re actually first exposed to them in the womb. In fact, some scientists postulate that exposure to probiotics in the womb help to reduce allergies, and possibly even autism – but there is no proof just yet, so don’t rush off any buy probiotics if you’re pregnant, because it might not be safe.
After we’re born, we collect probiotics from numerous other places, including the food we eat, other people, the ground, and from animals.
Why Might You Need a Probiotic?
Unfortunately, we can lose some of our probiotics – it’s not hard to do, given that there’s up to 400 trillion on and in your body, it’s unsurprising that you lose some of them!
You might need to supplement with a probiotic supplement, such as acidophilus tablets, under any of the following conditions:
• You were born by Caesarean section. OK, this is only for new-borns, if it happened 20 odd years ago, you don’t need to do anything – you’ve probably replenished the stocks by now. However, doctors often prescribe new-borns with probiotics because they aren’t exposed to their mother’s fauna during the birth process.
• You have taken a course of antibiotics. Certain strains of antibiotics can kill off some of our friendly bacteria, and we need to supplement to recover numbers quickly. A sign that you need to supplement with probiotics is recurrent diarrhoea following a course of antibiotics.
• You have recently had diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can sometimes be a sign that you have diminished levels of probiotics in your digestive tract. However, the diarrhoea itself can also remove probiotics from your body. It makes sense to take a probiotic supplement following a bout of diarrhoea.
• You don’t eat a varied diet. We get many of our probiotics from the food we eat. Certain foods are richer in probiotics than others are. You should consider eating more live yoghurts, cheeses, and fermented products in order to replenish your stocks.