How beneficial are probiotics and should you be supplementing with a probiotic supplement? Read on before purchasing anything…
A very large amount of bacteria inhabit the colon. The exact number of bacteria living your digestive tract is still not known, but estimates put the number of bacteria at ten times the number of cells in the body. If these estimates are correct you may be more bacteria than human! I’m slightly joking here but you get the point – we are coexisting with a very large number of organisms that provide us numerous benefits.
We typically live in symbiosis with these live organisms. In this mutually beneficial relationship, we provide a perfect living environment for the bacteria and copious amounts of food. In return, the organisms aid with digestion, the break down of fiber, synthesis of nutrients, and immune system support and regulation. These organisms also help maintain a protective layer called the gut barrier, which helps keep toxins out and allows nutrients to pass through.
The colony of bacteria in our colon is typically referred to as gut microbiota or gut flora. It is important to note that very small amounts of harmful bacteria make up our microbiota as well. If these harmful organisms get a chance to grow and establish a stronger foothold in the colon, sickness and digestive issues can ensue. Below are some common signs that your gut flora may not be flourishing and things could be out of whack.
- Abdominal Discomfort
- Irregular Bowel Habit (Constipation or Diarrhea)
- Gas and flatulence
- Weak or Sluggish Immune System
If you do not have any of the symptoms listed above don’t consider yourself off the hook just yet. Sometimes symptoms are subtle and easily missed. Even with a healthy immune system and colon, most can benefit from a high quality probiotic.
With new studies showing the extreme importance of a healthy and balanced gut microbiota, the new probiotic craze may hold some validity. Your questions may be, how do I strengthen my microbiota, and what are the best supplements to help?
Choosing the Right Probiotic Supplement
Realizing there are upwards of 5,600 strains of bacteria inhabiting your colon at any giving time, it can be daunting to choose a correct probiotic supplement. While supplement companies continue to add more species and more to the organism count in their supplements, the market continues to saturate with new products often leaving the buyer confused.
While choosing a supplement, keep three things in mind:
- The number of species
- The type of species
- The supplement guarantee
Number of species
The most important factor to consider when purchasing a new probiotic supplement is the number of species included in the supplement. Studies have shown a correlation between a diverse gut microbiota and a strong healthy immune system. With that in mind, probiotic supplements with a wider variety of strains tend to perform better. For example, a great supplement is Garden of Life’s Men’s or Women’s Raw Probiotics containing 31 probiotic strains.
Type of Species
Although the Microbiota is made up of an extensive range of bacteria, certain strains tend to be more prominent and beneficial. There are specific strains that should be sought after by consumers and are typically included in the best probiotic supplements. It is a great idea to check the label prior to purchase to ensure the supplement is everything it claims! The most beneficial strains of bacteria will be different for everyone, but strains that consistently provide great results are listed below.
- L. acidophilus
- B. longum
- B. bifidum
Making sure the bacteria inside the probiotic supplement is alive and will reach your colon alive is essential! Eating dead bacteria will give you no benefits at all. The best brands will include an alive guarantee and an expiration date on their supplements. The best brands will also design their supplements to withstand the harsh environment of the stomach so that the bacteria doesn’t die off before reaching the colon. This is also known as the delivery system and it is crucial! Make sure to look for guarantees and tested delivery methods such as time release on probiotic supplements prior to purchase.