The Ins and Outs of Probiotic Supplements

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The Ins and Outs of Probiotic Supplements
October 7, 2022
RxLocal Team

Learn How You Can Get the Most Out of Probiotic Supplements

This isn’t some food trend that’ll give you empty results.

Probiotic supplements are a time-honored superpower that can enhance your health, namely your digestive tract.

As defined by the Cleveland Clinic, a probiotic is a “combination of beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body.”

That’s right — there is such a thing as good bacteria, just like there is a good kind of cholesterol and healthy fats. Probiotic supplements are widely popular and are a staple of the modern-day independent pharmacy.

Probiotics are chock full of some truly stellar health benefits (more on that later). To truly get the most out of these supplements, it’s important to what they are, what they do, how they do it, and how to effectively use them in your diet.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are your body’s good bacteria, which keep you up and running healthily. The good bacteria serve to combat the bad ones when there’s too much of them.

Also known as “live microorganisms,” probiotics can be found in yogurt, dietary supplements, and beauty products, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Probiotic-rich foods include:

  • Yogurt
  • Sourdough bread
  • Kombucha
  • Cottage cheese
  • Kimchi
  • Miso soup

Probiotics function to help digest food, produce vitamins, and destroy disease-causing cells. In short, they regulate your body’s digestive system to stya healthy.

They are mainly served as dietary supplements, so they’re usually not too far from the pharmacy counter. You’ve probably heard of names like acidophilus or lactobacillus, both among the most popular and best-selling probiotic supplements in the market today.

Get to Know the “Biotic” Family

As with anything medicine-related, it’s important to know exactly what you’re putting in your body. Probiotic supplements have two sibling “biotics:” prebiotics and antibiotics.

Mayo Clinic defines prebiotics as specialized plant fibers that “act like fertilizers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.”

Prebiotic-rich foods include:

  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Apples

The difference between probiotics and prebiotics is that probiotics are live beneficial organisms, and prebiotics are the food that those organisms need to survive.

That’s not to say there’s something alive and moving in your yogurt, even though that’s somewhat true.

Both probiotics and prebiotics yield health benefits, so you can’t go wrong with either biotic. They both serve to promote a healthy digestive system for your body, just in different ways.

And then we have antibiotics.

Amoxicillin, cefdinir, cephalexin — all a doctor’s go-to. As you may have figured out in the name, antibiotics do a great job in killing bad bacteria in your body… and getting rid of some of the good ones, too.

Think of antibiotics as spring cleaners for your body. They get the job done, but they can get a little carried away and throw out some super valuable picture frames or plates.

Taking probiotic supplements in conjunction with its anti-sibling can help regulate your body’s healthy bacteria and prevent diarrhea, one of the most common side effects when taking antibiotics.

The Most Popular Probiotic Supplements

Just like superfoods, choosing the “best” or most effective probiotic supplement is a very subjective matter. It all depends on you and your specific health needs. Talk to your pharmacist about how to best navigate your health journey so you can pick the right probiotic supplement.

Ask your pharmacist about the following probiotic supplements, as listed by Forbes Health (with expert advice of course):

How You Can Get the Best of Probiotic Supplements

Just like any other food or medication, there is an optimal time and place for taking probiotic supplements.

It’s widely recommended to take probiotic supplements on an empty stomach or at least 30 minutes before a meal. That way your stomach is naturally open to the additional good bacteria coming its way. Also, a little bit of fasting never hurt anyone.

Keep in mind that probiotic supplements primarily contain bacteria that reside in the body. Having a large meal beforehand will prolong your body’s digestive cycle, lessening its impact once it finally does reach your stomach.

What to Look Out For in Probiotic Supplements

Because the FDA classifies them as dietary supplements, probiotic supplements aren’t as regulated as other supplements. As a result, manufacturers of these supplements can make false claims about their supposed safety or effectiveness. That’s why it’s important to know what you're getting.

Consult with your pharmacist about a probiotic supplement that you’re interested in before diving in head first. This especially applies if you take several medications, so you don’t want to risk any adverse drug reactions.

Can Children Take Probiotic Supplements?

The Cleveland Clinic recommends introducing your child to probiotics through food. Yogurt and cottage cheese are two foods that can help you do it. They’re delicious and nutritious ways to promote good health.

Not surprisingly, there are many independent pharmacies that sell probiotic supplements that are tailored for children.

Always speak with a pediatrician about probiotic supplement use so you’re not adversely affecting your child’s diet and health.

Use Probiotic Supplements the Right Way

The best way to get the most out of probiotic supplements is to be consistent with it. Your body will not begin to feel better if you only take it on occasion. Set a daily reminder on your phone to take one before a meal (next to the other reminder to water your office plant).

Speak with your doctor and local pharmacist about which probiotic supplements are best for you. When in doubt, just get some key-lime pie-flavored yogurt. Your taste buds and general health will be all the more grateful.

Don’t have a home pharmacy, or looking to find a new one? Consult our RxLocal Pharmacy Finder to find the best pharmacy near you.