Ever thought about taking probiotics, but not sure where to start? Pact blog writer Nancy shares a ton of information on prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and how they may be beneficial to those of us with gastroparesis.
Probiotics are bacteria that live in your gut. Don’t worry; they’re actually good for you. Probiotics keep your gut healthy by keeping your digestive track working the way it should. Of course, we have gastroparesis (GP) and our guts are a mess.
How can probiotics help someone who has GP? Probiotics may help to alleviate a variety of digestive symptoms, including diarrhea and bloating and promote digestion. There is limited data on probiotics and GP; however, a 2011 study published in the “American Journal of Gastroenterology” reported that probiotics may aid in reducing some GP symptoms (like bloating). In general, it is believed that probiotics improve GI health. Studies have been conducted on other GI issues – Irritable Bowel Syndrome, CDiff, Ulcerative Colitis to name a few – and probiotics have shown improvements in symptoms related to those conditions.
Probiotics can be found in food, such as yogurt or smoothie drinks like Kefir or in supplements. There are many different types of probiotics, so check with your gastroenterologist or primary care doctor to identify which one is right for you. Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic. It’s found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Bifidobacterium is another probiotic that is primarily found in dairy products. Streptococcus Thermophilus is found in yogurt and mozzarella cheese and is also effective in treating GI disorders.
The bacteria in probiotics is designed to survive in the stomach. The specific effect of the probiotic varies by type, but they modify your acidic stomach environment so that bad bacteria is unable to survive. Probiotics break down toxins and increase the number of infection fighting cells in the GI tract.
Although not regulated by the FDA, probiotics are generally safe and do not cause complications. Picking one that is right for you can be confusing. Its best to discuss your specific symptoms with your doctor and identify the right product for your specific symptoms. If convenience is important, you may want to request a probiotic that does not require refrigeration.
Prebiotics are found in fruits and vegetables and are complex carbohydrates. Prebiotic foods include whole grains, bananas, berries, onions, soybeans and artichokes and are available in dietary supplements. Prebiotics become food that is consumed by the good bacteria in our guts and stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut. The combination of prebiotics and prebiotics is beneficial to gut health. Be sure to discuss adding prebiotics to your GP diet with your doctor.
Digestive enzymes are another over the counter product that aids digestion. These are natural ingredients that help to break down and digest food in the gut. The FDA has not reviewed and approved digestive enzymes, so its best to discuss using them with your doctor.
Probiotics and prebiotics supplements and digestive enzymes are taken with meals. Make sure to drink plenty of water with supplement as most are swallowed and should not chewed. Discuss supplement product options with your doctor if you have issues with swallowing. Probiotics and prebiotic supplements and digestive enzymes are available on-line, grocery and drug stores, and large wholesalers (like Costco). Since there is such a variety of options, its best to discuss which supplement(s) to take with your doctor.
About Nancy: Nancy Brown lives in Viriginia with her husband of 39 years, Ed. They’re empty nesters, and are enjoying retirement. She was diagnosed with Gastroparesis in 2012.