One of the buzziest health words of the past few years? Probiotics. From probiotic-rich recipes shared across social media to food brands adding probiotics to beverages and snacks, you might be wondering if it’s too late to ask what probiotics do.
In a nutshell, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that benefit your body. “Probiotics are often referred to as ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria since they can help support our health,” Charleston-based registered dietician Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, says. “They do so by aiding in the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients and can support the immune system. Certain probiotic strains may help relieve digestive issues you get from time to time, like bloating and gas.”
Although you already have a population of microbes living in your body called your microbiome, you can help support it with probiotic supplements. “There are many different probiotic strains, though each strain has different clinical studies and some more than others,” Manaker says. Instead of taking a general probiotic, Manaker encourages researching the different strains so you can find a probiotic that supports your health goals.
For example, if you’re looking for a probiotic that helps to soothe occasional bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort*, try Align Bloating Relief + Food Digestion Probiotics Supplement Capsules, which contain a unique probiotic strain called Bifidobacterium 35624™ that was developed by gastroenterologists. Plus, it includes vitamin B12 to help support the breakdown of fats and proteins into cellular energy,* and a complementary blend of digestive enzymes. Once you start taking a probiotic supplement, Manaker advises that you commit to taking it daily for best results and give it a month to see how it can work for you.
But how do you know whether you really need to take a probiotic (besides just listening to everyone on your social media feeds)? Here are three signs that you might want to start incorporating a probiotic into your wellness routine, according to Manaker.
1. You lack a well-rounded diet
Fermented food such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso can help add live microbes to your gut microbiome. However, only foods and supplements that contain live, active cultures, that have been studied and proven to deliver a health benefit actually count as probiotics. Some foods marketed as probiotic foods may not technically contain live cultures with proven health benefits. Supplementation can help you maintain and grow the probiotic population in your gut.
“If your diet lacks sufficient fermented foods, which are a natural source of [live microbes], you should consider incorporating a probiotic supplement into your daily routine to help bridge the gap [by adding good bacteria],” Manaker says.
2. You experience occasional bloating and gas
We all know (and dread) that oh-my-god-I-need-to-unbutton-my-pants-ASAP feeling, but if you experience this discomfort from time to time—whether it takes the form of occasional bloating or gas—Manaker says it may be time for you to add a probiotic supplement to your routine.
“While these issues can be caused by various factors, they may be linked to an imbalance in the gut microbiome,” Manaker says. “A quality probiotic supplement can help maintain this digestive balance, potentially alleviating bothersome symptoms like occasional bloating and gas.” However, any persistent digestive issues should be evaluated by a health-care professional to rule out serious conditions, she notes.
3. You struggle to stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is one task that’s easier said than done—especially when you live a busy life. But when it comes to your gut, the cost of being dehydrated may show up in the form of abdominal discomfort, Manaker says. “Therefore, staying well-hydrated [may help] maintain a healthy digestive system and avoiding issues, such as occasional abdominal discomfort and bloating,” Manaker says.
Even if you bring your emotional support water bottle everywhere you go, adding in a daily probiotic, such as Align Bloating Relief + Food Digestion Probiotics Supplement Capsules, can help soothe occasional bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort*. Breathe out that sigh of relief now because you actually know what probiotics do and whether you should consider taking one.
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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.