The Whole Intent Guide to Probiotics
What Is A Probiotic?
Probiotics are strains of good bacteria that support the health of the host. They are ingested and help colonize the gut with health-boosting microorganisms that are necessary for performing basic metabolic functions. You may or may not know that your body contains more bacteria than anything else. While bacteria are often stigmatized, not all bacteria is bad. Actually, many strains of bacteria help the body function properly and support the immune system in fighting bad strains. These different strains of good bacteria can be obtained through supplements or food that is made through bacterial fermentation.
The Importance Of Good Bacteria
A large percentage of the bacteria in your body exists in your gut, more specifically in your colon, or the last part of your digestive tract. This community of bacteria in your gut is called microflora, or gut flora and is responsible for a number of basic functions in the body. This includes manufacturing vitamins, such as vitamin K and B12, turning fiber into short-chain fats which perform metabolic functions, stimulate your immune system, regulate digestion, and much more. The influence of good bacteria in the body is so powerful that many health and wellness professionals refer to gut flora as an additional organ in the body.
Having the right balance of gut flora can support weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, better skin, and reduced risk of disease. Alternatively, unbalanced gut flora is linked to many diseases, including type II diabetes and heart disease.
The reason probiotics are being recommended more and more often is that things we do on a daily basis, as well as unchangeable factors in our environment, accelerate the rate at which our good bacteria die off. Probiotics help to maintain the ideal balance of good bacteria in the body and counteract the negative impact our diet, lifestyle, and the environment has on them.
So, How Do You Choose The Right Probiotic?
There are a couple of elements that make a probiotic effective and these elements are directly related to the key reasons why many probiotics on the market don't work. The most common reasons a probiotic is ineffective include:
- the bacteria don't survive the manufacturing process or the product's shelf life, so it is dead before you even take the probiotic
- the bacteria does not survive your stomach acids or the process of digestion
- the bacteria in the probiotic are not natural residents to your gut
- there is not enough variety in the strains of bacteria included in the probiotic
Taking all that into account, here are the hallmarks of an effective probiotic.
More Is Not Necessarily More
Don't get caught up in a probiotic that has millions or hundreds of millions of bacteria in it, which has become a popular marketing tactic in the industry. The research on the exact number of bacteria needed to be effective is inconclusive, thus far. However, research does indicate that a higher variety of unique strains of bacteria is more effective. Each strain of good bacteria performs a different function and they often work synergistically to provide benefit to the host. You want to look for a probiotic that contains multiple strains of bacteria. The following four strains of good bacteria are arguably the most important and most effective in probiotics:
- L. acidophilus, which supports nutrient absorption and digestion of dairy*
- B. longum helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall and actively scavenges toxins
- B. bifidum supports the break down of complex carbohydrates, fats, and protein, as well as playing a critical role in the digestion of dairy*
- L. fermentum, which help neutralize the byproducts of digestion and promote a healthy level of gut flora
The Packaging Doesn't Lie
Well, that's not always the case. However, when looking for an effective probiotic, packaging that is forthcoming and transparent with information regarding the manufacturing of the product and how it works indicate that the company has done its research to create a high-quality product that doesn't succumb to the shortcomings that make many other probiotics ineffective.
An Expiration Date Is A Positive Sign
Often, foods that don't expire are created with a plethora of chemicals that extend the lifespan of the product. The same can be said for probiotics. A probiotic with an expiration date is an indication that the manufacturers have done extensive testing to confirm an accurate time frame of potency.
Get Your Money Back
A company with products that work stand by them. A money-back guarantee is a sign that the company is confident in the probiotic they are manufacturing.
Should You Be Taking A Probiotic?
To put it simply, yes. Our daily habits and our environment hinder good bacteria's ability to thrive in the body, which, in turn, comprises our immune systems. A daily probiotic supports the body's effort to colonize immune-boosting microorganisms, helping enhance your basic metabolic functions and improve your ability to fight disease. This addition to your daily regimen is essential to leading a healthy lifestyle.
Do you need help leading the healthy lifestyle you want to live? Contact our expert at Whole Intent today to set up a consultation and take the next step towards a happier, healthier life.
*A little-known fact is that the tolerance of dairy is a human adaptation, commonly found in the western culture.