Why are there so many different types of probiotics?Trong-Nguyen/Shutterstock
If you know anything about bacteria, you probably know that you contain a multitude. The bacterial cells in your body outnumber your human cells by about 3 to 1 ratio, technically making you more bug than human. This fact also helps explain why your local pharmacy carries so many varieties of probiotics. Stare too long and you’ll likely wind up with a furrowed brow, wondering where you should even begin. Start with the U.S. Probiotic Guide to get a thorough look at the tons of different types of probiotics, advises Keith Ayoob, MD. It lists the hundreds of different bacteria cultures, capsules and varieties that are available.
What can probiotics do?NATTHAPONG-SUNTORNDECH/Shutterstock
Primarily known as a remedy for gut ailments, probiotics gained their reputation by helping people tame the diarrhea that follows a course of antibiotics or a trip to a country with sketchy water. There’s also interesting research suggesting that probiotics can tame irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic digestive issues, skin problems like eczema, and urinary and vaginal health problems; they may even promote healthy teeth and gums.
Who should take a probiotic?Katarzyna-Wojtasik/Shutterstock
The long and the short answer: Everyone, at any age, depending on what’s going on in their lives or body. Even when you’re feeling at the top of your game, it can be beneficial to take a probiotic, especially if you struggle with any of the things probiotics can help with. People on a special diet, like being gluten-free, can mean you’re missing out on some of the microorganisms—such as yeast—your gut craves, says Svetlana Kogan, M.D. and author of Diet Slave No More!. It’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about your goals while taking a probiotic, says Dr. Kogan, since most experts believe you shouldn’t be on them forever. “I recommend them only as a temporary intervention, together with healthy diet and lifestyle changes,” she explains. “This leads to a permanent healthy outcome, at which point the patient does not need to take anything anymore,” she explains. One time you should absolutely take probiotics? After an illness. Find out the benefits of probiotics after antibiotics.