NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Since the 1970s, digestive problems, food allergies and gastrointestinal diseases have been on the rise.
Is it coincidence or is it our guts' way of telling us something is wrong? CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez takes a look at the pros and cons of taking probiotics.
Imagine never being able to eat at a restaurant.
"People take for granted just being able to order takeout," Jerry Vasilatos said.
For Vasilatos, eating out was not only out of the question, it was quite possibly deadly because of his severe food allergies. But now, Vasilatos is able to eat whatever and wherever he wants.
"I started on the probiotic and everything changed," he said.
Probiotics work by restoring the good bacteria in our guts and controlling the bad bacteria that grow in our digestive tracts and cause inflammation. But only now are doctors truly beginning to understand just how important these live bacteria are for our overall health, Gomez reported.
"With reflux and with bloating, diarrhea, constipation, a lot of GI symptoms that people have, we're noticing by having them start on a probiotic, a lot of their symptoms are getting better," Dr. Lisa Ganjhu said.
And it's not just digestive issues; some studies show introducing more "good bacteria" into our diets can help with skin problems, controlling weight and even stabilizing moods.
"There have been studies showing that people with depression might benefit from probiotic therapies," Ganjhu said.
Nutritionist Andrea Beaman said if after a meal you become bloated and distended, that could be a sign your gut bacteria is out of balance.
"You're holding on literally to everything," she said.
"There's lots and lots of food that contain all kinds of strains of bacteria," dietician Nicolette Pace said.
As Pace said, you can pay to take a probiotic supplement or you can incorporate a number of foods that naturally contain probiotics into your diet. Foods include sauerkraut, sour pickles, yogurt, miso soup, sourdough bread and even dark chocolate.
"All kinds of things -- things we know already is good to eat. But now on a much deeper level is that it can improve your health and improve your life," Pace said.
But like most medicines, too much of a good thing can be harmful, leading to many of the same problems you're trying to treat.
Talk to your pharmacist for dose recommendations and look for USP certification to make sure you're actually getting what's on the label.
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