Top 9 questions
Nishta Saxena, MSc, RD
1. Should I take a probiotic supplement? Are they a valuable supplement?
Probiotics have many different clinical functions, and can be helpful and beneficial in certain scenarios. Whether or not you should take a probiotic supplement depends on your individual health needs and circumstances. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement, especially if you have specific health concerns or medical conditions.
There is definite clinical evidence that in many situations, probiotics can provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts for things related to gut health and pediatric health. Probiotics have been studied for various conditions such as occasional diarrhea, occasional constipation and other upper and lower functional GI symptoms.
2. Should I give my kids a probiotic supplement? Will it help them?
Many children struggling with digestive symptoms may benefit from supplementation with a probiotic.
First, we would look at habits, diet, fluids and lifestyle, and then determine how to use probiotic supplements with your children judiciously. There is evidence in Canada for specific strains of probiotics to be beneficial in children's health.
Giving probiotic supplements to kids can also be a decision best made in consultation with a Registered Dietician. Probiotics have been studied in children and some research suggests they may be helpful in certain situations, such as reducing antibiotic-associated diarrhea or managing specific digestive issues. However, just like with adults, the effectiveness of probiotics can vary depending on the strain and the child's individual health needs. A balanced diet rich in natural sources of probiotics, such as yogurt and fermented foods, may also be a viable option for maintaining gut health in children.
3. Where do you stand on probiotics?
I think probiotics can be an excellent addition to an optimized and already health focused lifestyle. I also think they have an excellent role to play throughout recurring periods. They have an important role at different points in the nutrition and life cycle, to help us resolve symptoms, to ease symptoms and potentially improve some of our bodily functions or address certain specific health concerns.
There is evidence for probiotic use, as an example, during medication treatment, or with certain gastroenterological symptom management, and I think they can absolutely be a tool in the toolbox of a living a healthy, balanced life.
4. Are probiotics worth the hype?
Some probiotics are worth as much hype as other supplements. Using any supplement has to be considered as a piece of the puzzle of how you can be most healthy feeling, and probiotics can fit into that puzzle. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you're being judicious and you're using the right one for you, but in terms of money spent on supplements, they are definitely in the category where, when you need them, they are worth the money that you will spend on them.
5. What are the benefits of probiotics?
The benefits of probiotics really relate to how each blend, strain and dose of probiotic can impact either a symptom that you're managing in your body of some type – whether it is the gut, the immune system, or the vaginal system. Probiotics are matched to these systems and that's really how we see their action unfold. In all of these different body systems, we can see that there's research and studies that are showing that probiotic use can be very important to help with managing symptoms and potentially even reducing the risk of certain conditions.
The potential benefits of probiotics can include:
- • Supporting the immune system: Some research suggests that certain probiotics may promote the body's immune response.
- • Managing occasional digestive issues: Probiotics have been studied for their potential to alleviate functional gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, occasional constipation, regurgitation and abdominal pain, flatulence.
- • Reducing antibiotic-associated side effects: Taking probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics may help reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and support a quicker recovery of the gut microbiome.
6. Which is the best probiotic for any type of condition?
The one thing we know about probiotics is, they are best used to manage a specific symptom or condition. We don't want to always just use the same probiotic for every different thing we're dealing with, because we know there's a lot of evidence for specific strains of some of the bacterium probiotics to be very helpful at certain doses for certain conditions or symptoms.
7. Do you take probiotics yourself?
I have taken probiotics on many occasions throughout my life. I don't take them every single day, every day of the year. I often use them periodically as needed. For instance, if I was dealing with a specific symptom, or trying to manage something, I would use a probiotic. I'm experiencing perimenopause, and the changes in hormonal health is an area where there is some new data coming out about probiotics, and how those supplements may help at this point of life. And so that is something that I'm personally experimenting with. To see if there's any benefit to any of the hormonal management or symptoms that come with.
8. How long do I take probiotics for, or should I take probiotics?
This is a great question. The duration you take the probiotic for is related to the specific issue you are trying to solve or manage with probiotic supplementation. As an example, for post-antibiotic treatment diarrhea that occurs as a part of the treatment, you may take probiotics for a week.
And that's why it's best to work with an expert to determine how and when you need to start and stop. Probiotics have many different functions. They can help with a huge variety of symptoms and issues that we deal with in the body.
9. Is it possible to consume too much probiotics?
As with any food or supplement, over consumption is possible. Most of the time, this will present as diarrhea or constipation, depending on the strains of probiotics that were consumed.
But generally speaking, for most people, the use of probiotic supplements under proper care and following the instructions are often not going to be harmful. That's a really nice bonus compared to taking a single minerals or vitamins like iron or vitamin A. We can very easily overdose on these types of supplements, and they can even become life threatening. So one advantage of using probiotics judiciously is they are unlikely to cause harm.