What are probiotics?
The word "probiotic" is a compound of two Greek words: "pro," to signify promotion of and "biotic," which means life.
Probiotics are bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Probiotics line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Your lower digestive tract alone has a complex and diverse community of these bacteria. There are actually more bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your body. Unfortunately though, due to diets, lifestyle and environmental factors a lot of us are over run by the bad bacteria! This imbalance can lead to weight gain, skin conditions, constipation or diarrhea, and various chronic health conditions.
Did you know, there is 70-80% of your immune system int he tissue in your gut?! Which means, that if you have an unhealthy gut you are more than likely not going to be in the good health that you should be.
ALSO, did you know that 90% of the serotonin (our happy hormones) are located in your gut?! Which mean, happy gut, happy mind!
Your gut bacteria is also responsible for:
Enhanced immune system response
Balancing out the adverse effects of antibiotics, including occasional diarrhea
Combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Assists with kidney stones
Healthier looking skin and improved complexion
Enhanced ability to digest food/digestive function
Therapeutic effects for upper respiratory health
Promotes healthy yeast balance
Support for vaginal health
Increased nutrient absorption from food
Encourages normal digestive health, including promoting normal bowel movements.
Promotes oral health and acts as a remedy for bad bread (halitosis)
Increased ability to synthesize B vitamins
Heightened ability to absorb calcium
Supports vitamin K production
Prevents and fights cancer
Assists with liver disease
Increase bioavailability and production of minerals, neuro chemicals, and fatty acids.
They produce methylfolate, an activated form of folate required for the brain to complete methylation, a process that allows the brain to synthesize chemicals, detox, and express genes.
Improve glycemic control.
Stimulate bowel movements.
Limit small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Reduce toxic burden.
Have analgesic properties.
Activate neural pathways between the gut and brain.
Prevents and treats urinary tract infections
Healing inflammatory bowel conditions such as: IBS, colitis & Crohn’s disease
Managing and preventing eczema in children
Fights food-borne illnesses
Improves acne and skin
Assist in weight loss
Fights bacterial that causes ulcers
Top Probiotic (Gut Bacteria) Killers:
Tap Water/ Poor Quality Water
Grains- especially gluten
Excessive motional stress
Certain chemicals and medications
How to Pick the Best Probiotic Supplements
A colony forming unit (CFU) is a measurement used to describe the number of available bacteria in a product. Look for a high CFU count of 25 to 50 billion. Sounds like a big number, but remember this is a small percentage compared to existing cultures already living in your body. High CFUs are critical to giving the bacteria the best chance of surviving the journey through the digestive tract. If the product has no CFU information, be cautious. There is no way to tell how many probiotics you are really getting without this value.
Your digestive system is a harsh environment that is designed to fight off foreign intruders. This presents an obstacle to the good bacteria you want in your gut. Good probiotic supplements will take this into consideration and provide specific strains that have an established record of surviving the digestive process. The best surviving strains are the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains we discussed earlier.
A well-balanced gut requires species and strain diversity. Some probiotics help digest fats and sugars, while others alleviate digestive concerns. Providing a diverse selection will help create balance and stability.
How your supplements are manufactured matters immensely. Always look for probiotics that are produced in the Australia (or where you are from/one you can rely on), that use high-quality sources and ingredients, and abide by strict FDA manufacturing guidelines.
Probiotics are living organisms and are prone to outside stressors. Research is ongoing to identify the best practices to limit stress on the probiotics during the manufacturing process. Certain species and strains are more resistant to stress and have a more stable shelf life. Once they are packaged, it’s difficult and expensive to verify potency. You are better off sticking with a brand you trust to ensure a high quality, stable product.
6. Living vs. Dead
Always give preference to products that have live probiotic cultures. For the best results, only take live, active forms of probiotics.
With all supplements, the expiration date matters, and this is especially true with probiotics. From the second they are bottled those live cultures will slowly start to die off. The closer a product is to its expiration date, the higher incidence of inactive probiotics.
One of the biggest mitigating factors to preserving probiotics is how they are stored. Heat is the enemy. Instead, probiotics do better in cold temperatures. Look for probiotics that are stored and shipped in a way that keeps them cold and out of direct sunlight.
Pay close attention to the bottle. A proper container should help block out light, which can cause deterioration of the probiotics, and should be made of nontoxic materials. Glass bottles are optimal for probiotic storage. Unlike plastic bottles, glass will not leach out toxic chemicals into the probiotics when exposed to heat or light.
10. Other Ingredients
Nearly all probiotic supplements contain some other ingredients and filler agents. Do your research and read the ingredient label carefully to make sure you are not consuming questionable and dangerous fillers. Additionally, more comprehensive probiotic formulas will also contain prebiotics as a filler agent, a substance that acts as food and nourishment for the living probiotic cultures. Be sure to avoid probiotic supplements that have sugar or glucose in the ingredient list. Sugar slows the growth of healthy lactobacilli.
Beneficial Probiotic Strains
Bifidobacterium bifidum — the most dominant probiotic in infants and in the large intestine, supports production of vitamins in gut, inhibits harmful bacteria, supports immune system response and prevents diarrhea.
Bifidobacterium longum — supports liver function, reduces inflammation, removes lead and heavy metals.
Bifidobacterium breve — helps colonize healthy gut community and crowd out bad bacteria.
Bifidobacterium infantis — alleviates IBS symptoms, diarrhea and constipation.
Lactobacillus casei — supports immunity, inhibits h. pylori and helps fight infections.
Lactobacillus acidophilus — relieves gas, bloating, improves lactose intolerence. Shown to help with a 61 percent reduction in E. coli, lower cholesterol levels and creation of vitamin K. Also, important in GALT immune strength.
Lactobacillus bulgaricus — a powerful probiotic strain that has been shown to fight harmful bacteria that invades your digestive system and is stable enough to withstand the acidic digestive juices of the stomach. It also neutralizes toxins and naturally produces its own antibiotics.
Lactobacillus brevis — shown to survive the GI tract, boost cellular immunity, enhanced natural T-killer cells and kill h. pylori bacteria.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus — supports bacterial balance and supports healthy skin, helps fight urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and reduce anxiety by reducing stress hormones and GABA neurotransmitter receptors. Also, survives GI tract.
Bacillus subtilis — an endospore probiotic that’s heat-resistant. Elicits a potent immune response and supports GALT. Suppresses growth of bad bacteria like salmonella and other pathogens.
Bacillus coagulans — an endospore probiotic that’s heat-resistant and improves nutrient absorption. Also has been shown to reduce inflammation and symptoms of arthritis.
Saccharomyces boulardii — a yeast probiotic strain that restores natural flora in the large and small intestine and improves intestinal cell growth. It’s proved effective in treating inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's disease. It’s been shown to have anti-toxin effects, be antimicrobial and reduce inflammation.
Tips for helping your gut health:
Eat More Sour Foods
Consume More Probiotic-Rich Foods
Feed the Probiotics in Your System with More Fibre in Your Diet (prebiotic foods)
Take a Quality Probiotic Supplement
Probiotic Rich Foods:
Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother
Eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans
Consume more probiotic foods
Drink clean, filtered water
Eat processed foods
Eat excess sugars
Drink excessive alcohol (or any at all)
Expose yourself to environmental, household, and dietary toxins
Drink water that contains fluoride or chlorine
The Importance of Prebiotics
Prebiotics are different from probiotics. Probiotics are living, and need food and nourishment to survive and multiply. Probiotics consume substances called prebiotics as their food. Many foods that are high in fiber are good sources of prebiotics. Here are some of the best vegan foods with a high prebiotic content.
Always consult your health care provider before starting any new supplements or herbs