What are probiotics?
Probiotics promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system and conversely, probiotic contrasts with antibiotics, that are designed to kill bacteria (both good and bad). Probiotics help to maintain good levels of the good bacteria in the gut; and moreover, this also helps to keep the bad bacteria at bay, or below their disease causing threshold, thus maintaining a healthy balance of all organisms in the gut.
There are live bacteria and yeast that naturally colonize the gut and they have many health benefits that start with healthy digestion for easy nutrient assimilation in the body. For optimal health, adequate amounts of these beneficial microorganisms must be maintained. Unfortunately, due to many factors these good bacterial organisms are likely to be reduced in your body. However, there are nutritional supplements and certain foods that can be taken to boost their numbers. A healthy gut plays a big role in promoting a healthy body.
Types of probiotics
There are two main types of probiotics.
1. Lactobacillus ‑ Mostly found in fermented foods and yogurt. This is a good type for people who have problems digesting raw milk (lactose intolerance).
2. Bifidobacterium ‑ Commonly found in dairy products. Most are anaerobic, meaning they cannot tolerate oxygen-rich environments.
Foods with probiotic properties
These include fermented food such as:
• Apple cider vinegar
• Traditional buttermilk (grandma’s probiotic!)
• Cheeses such as cottage cheese, cheddar and mozzarella
Benefits of probiotics
• Helps with lactose intolerance
• Help to replenish good bacteria in the gut after a course of antibiotics
• Helps to reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease
• Helps in the management of diarrhea due to bacteria, fungi or viruses
• Helps with many other problems in other parts of the body such as cardiovascular health and chronic sinusitis
How to choose a probiotic
According to consumerlab.com, a provider of independent test results, the first thing to consider is your reason for taking the probiotic. Your nutrition specialist should be able to help you on the best strains to take according to your specific needs.
The next thing to take into account is the dosage. A good probiotic should have the beneficial organisms in the billions. It is also important to find out about storage needs as many probiotics need refrigeration while others do not.
A good probiotic should also contain a range of strains such as lactobacillus acidophiphilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum. These are usually the minimum three strains found in most probiotics. Others may include lactobacillus rhamnosus, streptococcus thermophillus, Bifidobacterium infantis, and lactobacillus fermentum. Your doctor may have reasons to recommend particular strains in case you have a specific health issue.
If you are experiencing sluggish digestion or other digestive issues, then help might be in that probiotic product you have been thinking about.
Hemarajata, P., & Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 6(1), 39–51. http://doi.org/10.1177/1756283X12459294
Efficacy of an Encapsulated Probiotic Bifidobacterium Infantis 35624 in Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jul;101(7):1581-90.