There's a lot of buzz these days about probiotics and what they can do for the human body: improved gut health, prevention and/or treatment of some diseases, prevention of allergies and colds, and helping keep the body's bacteria content in a better balance. Okay, well that all sounds great, but does it actually work? My friends at Swanson Vitamins hooked me up with some cranberry probiotic supplements so I could give these "good" bacteria a try.
Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed herein are, as always, my own.
Probiotics are live bacteria cultures that exist in symbiosis with the human body; that is, their presence in our digestive system is actually beneficial to us, as these "good" bacteria cultures help to balance out the "bad" bacteria that can cause inflammation, infection, and other health issues. Many foods, such as yogurt, contain probiotics, but if your diet doesn't contain these foods (and mine sure doesn't, usually) supplemental probiotics are an alternative. The bacteria cultures help food travel through your digestive system properly, and can play a part in the actual act of digestion, helping the body process food items for maximum nutrition.
I've been taking the Swanson cranberry probiotic for almost two months now, and I have definitely noticed some major changes in my digestion. The supplement capsules are smallish and easy to swallow; unlike some of the other supplements I have taken, I have yet to encounter any problems with the probiotic capsules sticking in my throat. I don't typically notice anything in the morning after taking the supplement, but by mid-afternoon, I'm feeling what I can only assume is an effect of the probiotics: I have to POOP. A lot. Sorry that's gross, but it's true. I have stopped taking the supplement on weekends just to verify that it is the probiotics that are making me run the the bathroom more often, and sure enough, weekends are much less bowel-ful than weekdays. While it's not necessarily uncomfortable (the bowel movements are normal and not so much more frequent that I would be concerned), I've never pooped so much in my life.
Besides the pooping, I'm not sure I notice anything else happening due to the probiotic. Of course, I don't have irritable bowel syndrome or any other bowel-related disease, so for me the most likely benefit from the probiotic list would be a generic "healthier gut" - a poorly defined condition, but I would assume since these bacteria are supposed to help food move through your system, the increased excretion is a sign that this is indeed happening inside me. Taking probiotics has not yet had a noticeable effect on my weight, nor has it caused any issues with gas, but I did expect to feel less bloated while taking probiotics and that hasn't really happened either.
Overall, I plan to continue taking my probiotics because I have yet to experience any negative side effects, and I believe the increase in bowel movements indicates that some of the bacterial functions are actually occurring. If claims about this good bacteria situation are true, cultivating a better digestive environment over the long run can only be beneficial!
Have you tried probiotics? What experiences have you had?