There’s a lot of chatter about probiotics and how they can help our bodies function properly. You’re probably familiar with the commercials for certain brands of yogurt that claim to contain probiotics that will benefit the digestive system and promote improved immune health. It’s important to understand how probiotics work in the body, and who should—and shouldn’t—use them.
What are they?
A probiotic is “a preparation of or a product containing viable, defined micro-organisms in sufficient numbers, which alter the microflora of the host and by that, exert beneficial health effects in this host.”-(Colonic flora, probiotics, obesity and diabetes) In order for a probiotic to have the most benefit however, it should be used in conjunction with prebiotics. A prebiotic—introduced by Gibson and Roberfroid in the mid-1990s—is “a non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon.” -(Colonic flora, probiotics, obesity and diabetes)
Do I need a Prebiotic?
Prebiotic agents act like fertilizers for colonic microbiota and enhance the growth of beneficial organisms. Fructooligosaccharides are prebiotic agents that are fermented by a number of colonic bacteria to modulate the growth of the beneficial bacteria, called bifidobacteria. Without a supply of prebiotics, the levels of bifidobacteria—which take a couple of days to reach optimal levels—will drop quickly. Use of a probiotic with prebiotics increases the ability of the body to absorb the supplements.
It’s usually only when you start getting sick or when weight gain creeps up that you start to make a changes to your standard processed, high fat diet. But by that point, your gut is a shell of its idyllic self and can’t even absorb the nutrients found in your new healthy diet. Sure, your body may look different after changing caloric intake and caloric quality, but if the gut doesn’t enough good bacteria to absorb the nutrients then it’s missing out on the healing effects of the vitamin and mineral rich foods. Bottom line, if the nutrients can’t be absorbed you will still have deficiencies and other health issues, it doesn’t matter if you’re eating good food in the long run.
Probiotics are a recommended for:
- Gut healing (healthy bacteria builds up intestinal barriers and strengthens digestion)
- Bowel regularity
- Proper digestion of foods
- Improved thyroid function
- Reduced inflammation in the bowels
- Strong gut flora (for increased immunity and halted yeast production)
- Ease of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, colitis, acne and eczema
- Use after taking antibiotics
Are all Probiotics the same?
Different strains of probiotics are used to treat different conditions. While probiotics are often spoken of in very general terms, not all probiotics are the same. The potency, as well as the methods used to ensure the “bio-availability” of the bacteria will impact the effectiveness. Only some of the products on the market meet the definition of “probiotics” with regard to containing viable, defined micro-organisms in sufficient numbers. Probiotics that are sold for medicinal purposes (meaning, with “drug status”) are more reliable because they are of higher quality than those used in dairy foods, or other “food status” probiotics.
Can anyone take Probiotics?
It’s important to know that there are some situations in which probiotics should not be taken. Use of probiotics is not recommended for people who are acutely ill and/or have a compromised immune system. For example, terminally ill cancer patients, people with the potential for leaky bowels or excessive bacteria in the intestines, and sufferers of acute pancreatitis should be cautious of using probiotics.
Where can I get Probiotics I can trust?
If you think you could benefit from using probiotics, choose a version from a manufacturer who has regulated quality control that includes the composition and content of the probiotic agent. Because standards aren’t yet officially regulated, the safety and effectiveness should be confirmed in well-conducted, controlled and randomized trials.
I’m a supporter of Shaklee products because of their strict quality control and pharmaceutical grade supplements, their products work and work well. If you’ve never tried a Probiotic I would recommend you trying theirs.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments below. Do you know of another brand that is reliable? Please share.