What Are Probiotics?
There are literally trillions of microorganisms in the human digestive tract. Some are beneficial, some are harmful, and some are neutral. Probiotics are the good type of bacteria that help crowd out the harmful bacteria in order to keep you healthy. This is important because more than 70 percent of your immune defenses can be found in your digestive tract.
Ideally, there should be about 80 percent good/neutral bacteria to about 20 percent harmful bacteria in your gut. However, everyday factors such as diet, stress, travel, exposure to illness and even the use of certain medications can diminish the number of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract and upset an otherwise balanced intestinal environment. This allows unhealthy microbes to flourish and may lead to intestinal issues such as diarrhea and constipation, as well as a decline in healthy immune function. Taking a daily probiotic supplement can help replenish good bacteria and restore a healthy bacterial balance.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?
Probiotics provide a multitude of benefits for the whole body. By helping to maintain a balanced intestinal environment, they enhance digestion and help prevent occasional irritable bowel, diarrhea, constipation and other digestive issues. They also help to ferment soluble fiber in the gut, which in turn produces a short-chain fatty acid called butyric acid that helps to nourish healthy colon cells and promote bowel regularity.
Vital to a healthy immune system, probiotics produce antibacterial compounds and acids that help support the growth of good bacteria in the gut and inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. As a result, they help to improve overall immune function.
Probiotics also help your body absorb valuable nutrients from food during the digestive process. In addition, they play a key role in the manufacturing of needed vitamins (including B12 and K) and provide nourishment for healthy intestinal cells.
Can I Get Enough Good Bacteria Just by Eating Yogurt?
Well, you would have to eat a lot of yogurt. In truth, you would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a high-potency probiotics supplement.
What Should I Look for in an Effective Probiotic Supplement?
One of the most important things to look for is high culture count (i.e. the number of “active” or “live” cultures in a formula). Choose a supplement with at least 6 billion active cultures (per single serving) for daily maintenance, and on up to 200 billion cultures per serving for advanced digestive and immune support.
It is also important that your supplement contain multiple strains of probiotic bacteria, as this will provide a wide range of benefits throughout the entire digestive system. For example, for those with frequent digestive troubles such as irritable bowel, constipation or diarrhea, a probiotic with high levels of Bifidobacteria is recommended, as Bifidobacteria is the most prevalent good bacteria in the large intestine (or colon).
Finally, your probiotic supplement should have an effective delivery system. This refers to how effectively the capsule or caplet is protected as it travels through the digestive system. Capsules may be enteric-protected, for example, to shield the probiotics from harsh stomach acid and help deliver them safely to the intestines where they are needed most.
Are Probiotics Safe for Children?
Yes. Infants actually receive their first beneficial bacteria during the birthing process, and supplying additional probiotics throughout the early years has been shown to provide significant benefits for overall digestive and immune health. Powdered formulas and chewable tablets are available for infants and toddlers.
Why Do I Hear So Much about Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria?
In a healthy intestinal tract, Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli make up the majority of the healthy bacterial cells residing there. Bifidobacteria are the most prevalent good bacteria in the large intestine (colon), and they account for up to 25 percent of the total probiotics in your body. Lactobacilli are the most prevalent good bacteria in the small intestine as well as the vaginal tract. They are especially important for women because they produce beneficial compounds that help fight the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast.
The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this website is intended as, or should be construed as, medical advice. Consumers should consult with their own health care practitioners for individual, medical recommendations. The information in this website concerns dietary supplements, over-the-counter products that are not drugs. Our dietary supplement products are not intended for use as a means to cure, treat, prevent, diagnose, or mitigate any disease or other medical or abnormal condition.