When I talk about bacteria most of my clients cringe and immediately want to get out the hand sanitizer, but it’s not all bacteria is bad.
In fact, some types of bacteria are crucial to your health and serve important functions within the body. Collectively, the community of bacteria in your body is called the microbiome and is now considered an organ. It’s THAT key to your health. Amongst other activities, the microbiome:
▪ Aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients
▪ Creates a defensive barriers against harmful pathogens, viruses and parasites
▪ Helps the detoxification process by neutralize toxins in the body
▪ Controls immune response and prevent autoimmunity
▪ Produces and releases vitamins and neurotransmitters for the brain
▪ Helps dealing with stress by communicating with the hormones (the endocrine system)
▪ Helps control the body’s inflammatory pathways.
So, basically everything.
Bacterial microorganisms outnumber human cells by about 10 to 1; however, due to their small size, they only make up about 1 to 3 % of your body mass.
When the good and bad bacteria are balanced in your body, you experience an overall healthy state of being. However, illness, medication use, stress, and many other things can allow this balance within your body's bacteria to become disrupted. When this occurs, you may find yourself suffering from many bothersome symptoms such as constipation, a lowered immune system, or indigestion.
There is a lot information (ahem, marketing) in the media about the health benefits that can be achieved by taking probiotic supplements, but how do you navigate through all those ads and labels without a degree in microbiology?
Well, I’ve compiled some information below to answer some common questions as well as provide you was a knowledge base required to choose the right probiotic supplement for your specific needs.
What are Probiotics?
Put it simply, probiotic supplements contain beneficial strains of bacteria that are similar to those within your own body. We require the beneficial (‘good’) bacteria to outweigh the toxic or harmful (‘bad’) for optimal health and the proper functioning of our immune system; however, many things can bring about an imbalance that allows bad bacteria to take over (stress, illness, medication, poor diet) and create uncomfortable side effects in the process.
Probiotic supplements are designed to bring the microbiome back into proper balance, thus helping to eliminate the symptoms caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria. (Relief!) By consuming these beneficial bacteria strains in supplement form, you give the friendly bacteria in your gut the upper hand to keep you healthy and promote a state of wellness.
What Health Benefits Do Probiotics Offer?
Different strains of bacteria perform different tasks within the body and your best bet to navigate which is right for you is to work with a health practitioner, but here are a few things you can take into consideration on your own:
Sub-par Immune Function?
Always catching that cold “going around”? Scientists believe that as much as 80% of our immune system lies within our intestinal tract, partly including the microbiome. An unhealthy gut can increase our likelihood of suffering from all types of illnesses. Even common cold and flu bugs are linked an unhealthy microbiome.
Bothersome, Chronic Skin Conditions?
Do you have Eczema? Acne? Dark under-eye circles? Skin conditions indicate systemic inflammation elsewhere in the body - it just presents on the skins surface. Think of it as your body’s way of showing you it needs support. Because probiotics help reduce systemic inflammation and promote a healthier immune system, I’ve seen many clients skin condition improve dramatically, as well as my own eczema.
Difficulty Managing Your Weight?
You are NOT ALONE if you’re struggling to reach your weight loss and fitness goals. A well-functioning digestive tract is often overlooked in relation to weight management, but a healthy digestive tract results in better nutrient absorption from food, less boating, and an easier time losing weight in those trying to shed excess pounds. In one clinical study, the gut bacteria of a lean mouse was transplanted into that of an obese mouse and the obese mouse lost weight. Convinced now?
Bowel Movement Troubles?
There’s no glamorous way to talk about poo, but it gives me the best insight into the health of someone’s digestion. Many people suffer from irritable bowel conditions that result in constipation, diarrhea, or alternative bouts of both. Cramping, bloating, nausea, and other signs of a struggling digestive system also need to be considered.
3 Things to Look For In A Probiotic Supplement:
CFU stands for colony forming units, and this number refers to the number of active organisms in each dosage of the product. Each probiotic supplement will have a listing for CFUs on the product label. When I’m researching probiotics I call the manufacturer to check the guarantee of these counts. Many companies measure the viable only at the date of manufacture, with the bacterial counts declining every day until expiration. Other companies ensure that the CFUs are good until expiration so you know you are getting at least what the label states. One company that does this is Bio-K Plus and I often recommend these probiotics.
2. Number & Type of Bacteria Strains
Probiotic supplements vary both in the number of bacterial strains and specific types they include. Again, it may be important to work with a health care practitioner in navigating products for your particular needs. It can get a bit complicated and overwhelming for most people and you may even feel like you need to purchase multiple products to target all of your symptoms. With proper assistance, you can choose a product that will effectively target multiple health issues all with the same supplement.
Viability refers to the fact that the live organisms present in the supplement need to remain alive in order to maintain their intrinsic ability to resist gastric acidity and bile salts reach your intestinal tract and provide health benefits. Choose a product that has a clearly marked expiration date and that lists how long the supplement will be viable. The label may read “enteric-coated,” meaning the capsule has a protective coating to help with the product’s delivery. Avoid supplements that do not have a clearly marked expiration date, as that likely means you won't have any way to know when the product was actually manufactured.
I believe everyone should be taking a probiotic of some sort. Problems with excess weight, constipation, indigestion, skin conditions, and lowered immunity are very common in our stressful, toxic world and adding a probiotic to their daily regime is a simple way to support your health. reviews.com has a great review of some widely available, high quality probiotic supplements.