By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
The primary site of action for probiotics is the gastrointestinal tract. Also, GI complaints such as diarrhea and/or constipation, gas, bloating, inflammation, pain and GI discomfort are symptoms that frequently cause people to use probiotics therapeutically. Therefore, improvement in these symptoms is a way people with GI complaints can judge if their probiotic is working. Also, the speed or rate of symptomatic relief is a measure of how well a probiotic is working.
Most people have experienced an occasional “bad hair day.” It is also common, and not particularly serious, to have an occasional “bad stool day.” However, if diarrhea or constipation are an ongoing problem, attempts should be made to correct the problem. Numerous studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals reporting that specific strains of probiotic bacteria can be used therapeutically to resolve conditions of diarrhea and/or constipation.
Therefore, how a well probiotic is working to resolve either diarrhea or constipation issues is an assessment of whether the individual’s bowel movements have normalized. Healthy stools should be well-formed, meaning not too hard and also, not loose and watery.
And now, to be blunt, foul smelling farts and excessive gas are also GI symptoms related to bacterial imbalance. Flatulence or passing gas is normal, everyone does it. However, horrible foul selling gas is a sign of a problem. Extensive intestinal gas can also cause abdominal bloating and in some cases, a great deal of discomfort. People frequently use probiotics to help resolve these problems.
When a probiotic supplement is used to treat these problems, how quickly these symptoms resolve is another way to measure the relative effectiveness of the product.
Food poisoning frequently causes nausea and vomiting, which are the body’s attempt to eliminate “bad” bacteria that have been ingested. Some probiotic products have been shown to be helpful in treating food poisoning when the probiotics are delivered directly into the stomach. It is easy to judge if the chosen probiotic is effective, based on if, or how quickly the nausea and vomiting stops.
Probiotics frequently also help improve or resolve problems that exist outside the intestinal tract such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. However, these conditions are much slower to respond. Also, probiotics are usually not used alone to treat these conditions, but are part of a larger integrated protocol that might include omega-3 fish oils, vitamin D along with dietary improvements and an attempt to identify and eliminate foods or other thinks in the person’s environment that are causing or contributing to these conditions.
Probiotics also play key roles in detoxification and regulation of the immune system. However, it is hard to accurately determine how well a probiotic is working to support detoxification and immune health. However, at Essential Formulas, we believe that taking high-quality probiotics regularly is an important proactive step that people can take to promote good health. So, if you are taking probiotics and you feel energetic and healthy….maybe the probiotics are helping.