As probiotics surge in popularity, we asked Angie Chapman—sales associate at Nature’s Outlet in Forest—to answer a few top questions.
Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger: Angie, first off—what exactly are probiotics?
Angie Chapman: Probiotics are what you call healthy gut bacteria. It’s also used to describe the supplementation of good gut bacteria.
SB: How can they help you?
AC: Your gut is what really runs the body, so having a healthy gut biome can affect how your body and mind works, how you react to stimuli, how your body heals and its immune system. You want to make sure all the little bacteria are in balance for your body’s needs.
SB: How do we develop bad gut health?
AC: Existing good gut biome can be damaged by many things including: overdoing sweets, alcohol and tobacco, certain medications and some artificial sweeteners.
SB: There are different strains of bacteria in various probiotics. Why is that?
AC: Certain strains have been proven ideal for men while others work best for women. Some target lung health and others focus on bacteria to help with mood.
SB: In what forms can you take probiotics?
AC: Probiotic supplements typically come in capsules, though some come in powders and liquids. They are also naturally occurring in fermented and aged foods such as sauerkraut and certain cheeses and meats.
SB: Should you take them on a certain schedule?
AC: We typically recommend that you take your probiotics with a high fiber meal. For some, this is breakfast—for others, it will be dinner. The reason for this is that the fiber acts as food for the bacteria and can keep it healthy while it reaches the gut. The best results will come from personal experimentation with what timing works for you.
SB: What are some misconceptions about probiotics?
AC: That they aren’t important! Probiotics are a huge factor in total body health due to how interconnected your gut is with the rest of your body. Your immune system has its headquarters in your gut, and especially now, we have to keep it in tip top shape. There is a misconception that there is a one-size-fits-all probiotic. Every body, a physical body, is different! What works for some won’t work for others.
SB: Why have probiotics become more popular in recent years?
AC: Right now, there are a lot of big names talking about them and a lot more science exploring it. The more the science brings to light and defines how bacteria helps the human body, the more people will be asking why they hadn’t paid more attention to their gut biome before.
SB: What should a person know before starting to take probiotics?
AC: A few things: First, there may be an adjustment period for any probiotic supplementation. This means for a couple days you may feel some discomfort, usually gas. This is bad bacteria dying off in your gut and it will typically subside in a few days.
Second, prebiotics could boost the activity of your healthy gut biome. There are fiber- and bacteria-based prebiotic options.
The bacteria-based ones are effective for really getting rid of those overgrown strains that are causing troubles, priming your gut for the good bacteria you’re supplementing with.
Third, you may not see a difference. We’ve had people start a probiotic regimen and say they don’t notice anything different. That is what we call “maintenance.” You’re better able to maintain an existing healthy gut biome. It’s common in people who don’t have any existing issues linked to an imbalanced gut biome.
Finally, you may not find your perfect probiotic for a while! Try different products to find what really works for you.