The human digestive tract contains more live bacteria than your body has cells. These bacteria can almost be thought of as a borrowed organ given how essential they are to human health.
To help the health of this “organ system” we can take what are called “probiotics”. These are bacteria we swallow in the foods we eat (fermented foods) or take as supplements. Before the advent of refrigeration and food sterilization, humans ingested a wide range of bacterial probiotics daily.
The change in our food preparation, sterilization and storage as well as the wide use of antibiotics has had profound and unforeseen consequences on our health. Only very recently have we realized how important these compounds are for human health.
Probiotics are not the same as prebiotics. Prebiotics are fiber like compounds such as inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and others. Prebiotics can act as food for bacteria already living in the digestive tract. Prebiotics are often found packaged along with probiotics.
What They Do?
The digestive tract contains hundreds if not thousands of different bacterial species. This reservoir of intestinal bacteria is often called the “intestinal flora”.
Probiotics are used when the natural intestinal flora is disrupted by poor diet, illness, or antibiotic use. Probiotics work be re-colonizing the intestine and “crowding out” more harmful bacteria.
These probiotic species living in our intestines produce vitamins for us and help regulate proper immune function. They can even change the efficiency of the calories we consume.
How to Choose a Probiotic:
There is tremendous variation in types of probiotics on the market. This makes choosing the correct ones difficult. There are 3 steps to follow when looking at probiotics:
- Purchase products that contain the species of probiotic proven to work for your complaint or issue.
- Make sure the product you buy has an adequate number bacteria.
- Get the good stuff. Analysis by independent sources shows that the more expensive products tend to provide more live, viable bacteria. When it comes to probiotics, you get what you pay for.
Some decent general probitoics based on price and potency are listed below. However, remember when dealing with specific conditions, you will need specific species. This is often the reason people do not notice improvement in symptoms when taking probiotics.
- Enzymatic Therapy brand. Acidophilus Pearls
- Garden of Life brand. Raw Probiotics
- Jarrow brand. Jarrow-Dophilus
- Sedona Labs. iFlora Multiprobiotics
- Solgar brand. Advance Multi-billion Dophilus
Now brand. Gr8-Dophilus
Also, If you have milk allergy, realize that many probiotics will contain trace amounts of milk proteins. You should assume any probiotic made with Lactobacilli or Bifidobacterium will contain trace milk proteins.