Everyone knows that there are good bacteria and bad bacteria. And we know that touching and ingesting yucky things is how we pick up most bad bacteria. But how exactly does one get the good stuff in her system? Probiotics, that’s how. And new studies show it’s good for all kinds of reasons.Studies show that probiotics (live microorganisms) can improve digestion health, combat gastrointestinal problems, and support immunity. Recent research also suggests that they can increase metabolism and weight loss. A poor diet, stress, and antibiotics can increase the bad bacteria in the digestive tract. Experts say that we’re more susceptible to disease and gastrointestinal issues when our bad bacteria outnumber the good ones. So some experts believe that the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria affects weight loss because the composition of microflora, the bacteria in the digestive tract, could help to determine how many calories are absorbed from food. Probiotics help to maintain a healthy balance and cut down bloating.
I don’t have any experience with the weight-loss effect of probiotics, but I can tell you that probiotic supplements have done wonders for my digestive health. I’d been dealing with this burning sensation in the top of my stomach that brought on nausea and vomiting, regardless of whether I ate. I tried relieving the pain with hot herbal tea and Pepto-Bismol, but nothing worked. (On a side note, if you’ve taken Pepto and noticed that your tongue and waste have turned black; don’t be alarmed because it’s just the Pepto. Anyway!) I finally went to the doctor: I was diagnosed with very unspecific gastritis, was advised to cut out spicy, greasy, and fried foods — basically anything with some taste — and was prescribed an acid reducer, which worked for a while. But one day, I was in so much pain that the acid reducer couldn’t get rid of, and I vowed to find another way. (I was also skeptical of the acid reducer because the stomach needs to be acidic to help digestion along.)
I spoke with a few people who had experienced similar symptoms, and they advised me to try probiotics. I thought: It’s only one little pill, so I wouldn’t have to make a huge effort. I’m happy to report that probiotics, along with papaya extract, changed my life. I no longer have the terrible burning in my stomach that made me vomit. And I can still occasionally eat the spicy, fried, greasy foods I enjoy.
If you’re thinking of taking up a probiotic regimen, look for ones that contain at least one billion live microorganisms per serving and contain more than one strain of bacteria, according to experts. Certain strains are beneficial for certain heath needs. If you don’t want to go the pills route, naturally fermented foods like yogurt, miso, and cottage cheese also contain probiotics. There’s also an ever-growing selection of probiotic-infused foods, like juice, breakfast cereal, and snack bars, on the market now. [Teen Vogue]