In the past years we've all heard about probiotics and how good they are for our health. But, this may be especially true for those of us who live with gut diseases such as Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, and Celiac disease.
I've been reading about and taking and eating foods that contain natural probiotics for more than 15 years now. And my own personal experience seems to be that the probiotics are helpful to my gut.
And according to an article that was recently pulsihed in The New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/opinion/sunday/what-really-causes-celiac-disease.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 - making sure our guts are populated with the right balance of good and bad bacteria is paramount to not only helping keep our gut healthy, but may actually help to treat people who have Celiac disease and possibly IBD.
From my own experience, the best way to get your probiotics is by eating properly fermented yogurt and vegetables and taking a quality probiotic pill with as many bacteria strains as your gut can handle. For yogurt, it should be fermented for at least 24 hours, even longer is a bit better. Long fermentation allows the sugars in the milk to break down and by the time you eat the yogurt you're eating only a monosaccharide, which means one sugar, which is easier for the gut to break down and absorb.
Homemade, properly fermented vegeatables that have not been pasteurized or heated provide a great amount of probiotics as well, especially in sauerkarut, kimchi, and carrots. I teach classes about how to ferment foods in your home in canning jars. And each workshop I teach has more-and-more people who want to learn to make their own fermented foods. The thing is, when you've made your own and the quality is good you only need to eat a couple tablespoons of sauerkraut or kimchi each day to benenfit from its natural probiotic goodness. When I first started eating homemade ferments I did so in very small amounts, just a small forkful at first, then over time two forkfuls, and now about three. Heat kills probiotics so if you plan to buy sauerkraut or kimchi you're probably going to have to go to your local health food store and look for ones that are not pasteurized or heat treated.
I'm pretty sure that you can't OD on probiotics, but your gut might not be used to certain strains of probiotics and whether you're taking a probiotic pill or eating fermented foods you might find that you feel a bit bloated or gassy for a few days when first starting a probiotic regimen. This feeling should go away in a few days as your system gets used to the new strains of good bacteria in your gut. But, if after a week you still feel uncomfortable you might want to change to a different probiotic with different bacteria strains to see if that helps.
One of the most important things to know about probiotics is that they are bacteria, good bacteria that your gut needs to be healthy and strong. A healthy gut has about a 50/50 ratio of good:bad bacteria in it. So, if you take a course of antibiotics, which can kill some or much of the good bacteria in your gut, you will want to take a probiotic bill to help build up the good bacteria in your gut. BUT, be careful when you take a probiotic pill or eat probiotic packed foods. Take or eat probiotics at least 2-3 hours after or 2-3 hours before you taken an antibiotic. If you take probiotics too close to the antibiotic, the antibiotic will kill off the probiotics you just took and it's simply a waste of time and money.