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How To Choose The Best Probiotic Supplement: A Buyers Guide
Probiotics aren’t new but are gradually receiving a lot of attention in the health and wellness community.
Humans have long discovered several living organisms that offer many health benefits, especially when it comes to the functioning of the gut. But it doesn’t stop there. Taking the right probiotic is very important if you are considering using them to improve your health.
If you are looking to buy probiotic supplements, but you just don’t know where to start, you have come to the right place. This article will guide you through all the information you need to make the best decision when shopping for probiotic supplements. This article will explore how probiotics work, and the numerous health benefits that they offer.
What Are Probiotics?
We acquire several strains of bacteria at birth, which continue to live and thrive in our gut in a process that is referred to as colonisation. So it is safe to say that there is not a single living human without a variety of strains of bacteria living right in their guts.
The thought of bacteria living in your gut might sound really disturbing, but the thing is these bacteria are generally considered friendly or beneficial to the human body. They perform several functions from food conversions such as fibers to fatty acids, also some specific vitamins are being synthesized by these bacteria; they also give your immune system the support that it might need to perform at optimum.
With the above explanation, it becomes clear why probiotics are great- they help to increase the number of healthy bacteria living in your gut. While your gut may have the right conditions for these friendly bacteria to thrive, probiotics come in handy when there is a slight change in the balance.
Definition of probiotics – According to the FAO/WHO “probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. With this definition in mind, we can basically say that probiotics have the capacity to provide your body with benefits if they are administered in the right amount.
There are several ways by which probiotics can be consumed -either as supplements or as fermented foods like yogurt (yes, that yummy refreshing yogurt). It is important to note that prebiotics is a different thing- they are certain fibers that are considered a source of food for many bacteria thriving in your colon.
There is a wide variety of probiotics that are readily available on the market, the two main types/groups are Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus. Each group has a wide variety of strains that are thought to have different effects when used.
You might be wondering why probiotics are currently generating so many interests and buzz since humans already survived thousands of years without probiotic supplements- why are they so important today? Well, while there might not be a definitive answer to this question, one can consider the many lifestyle changes that humans have gone through, which have in turn affected the Flora (population of bacteria living our gut). The use of antibiotics, sterilization, and refrigeration of foods, and consumption of foods that are lacking in fiber or plant foods that are beneficial to the bacteria in our guts.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria thriving in a healthy balance (all things being equal). However, the population of gut microbes is slightly different from one person to another, which may be regarded as some sort of unique characteristic of every individual’s gut, in other words, no two guts are the same. This phenomenon can also be called the intestinal ecosystem. There are several research projects that have showed that this gut-dwelling (both good and bad), play a very important role in the digestive system and immune health.
An individual’s intestinal ecosystem contains a very diverse array of gut microbes, which have the capacity to improve the digestive and immune health but are also quite prone to disruption by external factors including stress, change in diet, medications like antibiotics, etc.
There is still so much ground to cover with regards to how gut bacteria operate, as of today there is only so much known about how they thrive and influence the health and well being of an individual. Researchers are gradually expanding their knowledge about gut bacteria and how the environment within the gut affects them as well as how they interact with each other. Also, these studies have also gained some ground in understanding how consuming the right probiotic, in the right amount, can offer great health benefits.
There are several theories about probiotics having the following benefits:
-Thicken and strengthen the mucous lining of the intestines.
-Improve the production of B vitamins.
-Boost the immune system.
-Reduce the population of harmful bacteria.
-Fighting off infections
Let’s move on to understanding some of these health benefits that probiotics offer.
Potential Benefits of Taking Probiotics
Probiotics check the growth of harmful bacteria- There are super strains of friendly gut bacteria that are known to make it very difficult for infection-causing bacteria to thrive and gain a strong footing in your gut. Because all bacteria need nutrients to survive and thrive in your digestive system, having a healthy and thriving population of the good bacteria will ensure that the bad strains of bacteria have a hard time competing, hence keeping their population at a minimum. The logic of how this works is quite straightforward and easy to understand – a gut saturated with beneficial bacteria will make it difficult for new harmful ones to grow. Some super strains of bacteria have been found to produce chemical compounds such as bacteriocins and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) that help in keeping the growth of bad bacteria at Bay. So have a gut filled with good bacteria is great for your health and general well being.
Probiotics help to keep the intestinal lining healthy- the lining of the intestinal tract is made up of cells, which need a constant supply of energy in order for them to function at a maximal level. Every time you consume foods that are rich in indigestible fibre, it is the probiotics in your gut that help to convert these fibres into fatty acids, rather than simply pass right through your gut just as they were consumed. It is the fatty acids that the cells that make up the lining of your intestine use as an energy source needed to help keep your intestinal lining healthy. Also, the short-chain fatty acid produced increases the acidity of the colon, which in turn reduces the population of bad bacteria by making it harder for them to thrive.
Factors To Consider When Purchasing
Before purchasing that probiotic, it is important to understand a few factors that will enable you to make the best choice. It is one thing to purchase a probiotic and another to purchase the right type of probiotic. In this section, we will guide through a few factors that you need to keep an eye out for.
Balanced Formula: Ensure that the probiotic you want to purchase has a good balance of bacteria strains. There are some probiotic formulas that only have two strains i.e L.rhamnoaua and L.acidophilus), where a good quality probiotic should contain up to 15 strains. More strains appear to be better.
Know What Bacteria Strains You Need: It is advised that you consult your doctor before selecting a probiotic. This is to help you narrow down your search so that you end up with an effective solution. There are specific bacteria that are best suited for different purposes, for example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG can be used to treat acute infectious diarrhoea and other diarrhoea associated with antibiotics. In other cases, a combination of species will be more effective.
Check the Number of Bacteria/ Colony Forming Units (CFUs): The CFU refers to the number of bacteria contained in each dose of probiotic formulas. There are specific rules regarding this. Usually, you can expect a dose to contain from 1 to 10 billion CFUs. If you do not get the needed amount of CFU, you are not likely going to get the result that you expect. Ask your doctor if you need to know what CFU you should look out for.
Take a Good Look at the Label: reading the labels of the probiotic formulas will help you make sense of the information in this article. The labels usually contain information such as CFU, strains, and other important stuff. The labels will tell you how much you need to take to get the desired result. You will also get information about the best way to store the probiotic. Ensure that you buy it from the store in the specific conditions that it should be stored. Also, check the label for other ingredients to make sure that there are no ingredients that you are allergic to.
Check The Expiration Date: Always check the bottle for the expiration date. The potency of the probiotic is dependent on the expiration date. As with everything that you purchase, check the bottle for vital information about the product.