Probiotics have become very popular, yet as with every other healthy trend, there are questions and many confused consumers concerning their use. Probiotics contain healthy microbes or “good bacteria” and they are useful in keeping your gut flora balanced and preventing overgrowth of the “bad” gut bacteria or yeast. Our bodies actually contain more bacteria than cells so it makes sense that we should keep the infectious forms at bay and probiotics can help to do that. Because most of your immune system is housed in your gut, probiotics increase immunity. They aid in digestion and the synthesis of vitamin K, some B vitamins and short-chain fatty acids that protect the colon. They also help the body absorb certain minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron and reduce absorption of cholesterol. Probiotics are also beneficial in preventing gut permeability, reducing food sensitivities (especially to dairy), and reducing inflammation.
Certain conditions diminish good bacteria and make probiotic use more important. These include:
> Inflammatory or irritable bowel conditions
> Caesarian birth
> Having been bottle fed
> Antibiotic use
> High carbohydrate or sugar intake
> Low fiber intake
> The use of oral contraceptives and other prescription medicines
> The use of artificial sweeteners
> High caffeine intake
> Poor immunity
> STRESS! Yes, stress wrecks your gut!
Probiotics can be helpful in regulating bowel movements, detoxifying the body, preventing yeast infections, relieving gas and bloating, diminishing sugar cravings, increasing food tolerance, maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing inflammatory symptoms including asthma.
Because gut bacteria die off regularly, therefore continued use is recommended though a healthy individual can survive periods without replenishment. Or, they can rely on fermented foods such as kefir and a diet high in prebiotic fibers to keep their gut in top condition. Different strains flourish in the intestines and others in the colon. They also perform differently, benefiting the body in various ways from allergies to immunity to bowel function. Therefore it is a good idea to rotate products and vary the types of bacteria consumed. You should not use a probiotic without consulting your physician if you believe you have any type of bacterial infection. In these cases, your doctor may need to treat the infection before administering probiotics.
Because different bacteria have different benefits, I recommend a broad spectrum product containing 7 or more strains, and a high count of at least 25 billion and up to 100 billion cfu though a lower count can still be beneficial with a good quality product. Certain bowel conditions may require higher dose treatments but these should be reserved for clinical use. I have listed good consumer brands below. Some are sold refrigerated and others are shelf stable. Both are acceptable as long as you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. These products are available at local health food and healthy grocery stores. There are many other good practitioner brands; however these are available to consumers. If you have gluten, dairy, soy or corn allergies, make sure all of your supplements are free of these proteins.
- Prescript Assist (By mail)
- VSL#3 (your local pharmacy)
- Garden of Life Primal Defense
- Garden of Life Dr. Formulated
- Dr. Ohhira’s
Here’s to good flora, a happy gut, and a healthy life!