TAG | Lactobacilli
If you watched ReNew Life Founder Brenda Watson’s latest PBS television special, The Road to Perfect Health, you’ll know all about the incredible effects of probiotics on the body. But with so many products to choose from, many wonder what factors to consider when choosing an effective probiotic supplement. Let’s cover the basics to help you make the most of these health-promoting bacteria.
First, to determine the strength or potency of a probiotic, look at the culture count. The culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacterial cultures in a single serving. You need at least 15 billion cultures to begin to make an impact on your health—often more, depending upon your age or health-related concern. Research is showing that more is better, so keep an eye on the number of cultures or CFUs (colony forming units) for best results. Total CFUs or culture count will often be determined at time of manufacture, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date. Look for a high quality probiotic that displays potency on the label at time of expiration, not manufacture.
When choosing a probiotic it’s also important to pay attention to the number of strains. The strains, or specific types of bacteria, plus the culture count of each should be listed on the label. Over 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria can be found in the human gut, so it makes sense to choose a probiotic supplement that reflects this natural diversity.
When you scan the label of a good probiotic you’ll see strains that begin with Ls and Bs, like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. A good trick to differentiate these is that the L strains are more native to the little (small) intestine and the B strains are generally found in the big (large) intestine or colon. Look for lots of Ls and Bs because each person’s body utilizes certain bacterial strains better than others.
While probiotics are also utilized in the upper digestive tract, the majority of bacterial populations exist in the lower small and large intestines. So how do the good bacteria get all the way down there? Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to colonize. Delayed-release capsules are engineered to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestine, where they are needed most.
A probiotic supplement, when delivered to the right place, with the right amount of cultures and strains, can help promote digestive health, bowel regularity and strengthen the body’s natural immune defenses. Be sure to read the label, so you’ll know you’re giving your body the probiotic it needs.
Still confused on which specific supplement to take for your individual needs? Take our interactive quiz for our recommendation.
By now many of you have heard about the remarkable health benefits of probiotics. In fact, the good-for-you bacteria seem to be making headlines everywhere these days—especially as we head into another cold and flu season. And as awareness increases about just how good probiotics are for optimal digestion and immunity, there’s another “p” word you might be wondering about: prebiotics.
In technical terms, prebiotics are often defined as “non-digestible food ingredients” that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. So what does that mean? Quite simply, prebiotics are a food source for probiotics. So as they travel through the digestive system, they nourish all those good bacteria along the way and help them grow and multiply. The result? More good bacteria in the gut, which means better digestion and a stronger natural defense system.
So where do prebiotics come from? Well, mostly from soluble fiber sources such as oats, legumes, flax and almonds—and that’s where the “non-digestible” part comes into play. Dietary fiber—including both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber—really just refers to the parts of plant foods that our bodies are unable to digest and absorb, which is why it’s sometimes called “roughage”. Because prebiotics are not digested, they remain in the digestive tract where they can do their job of feeding their probiotic partners.
In addition to obtaining prebiotics through the diet, nowadays many probiotic supplements will actually include prebiotics to help you get the benefit of this dynamic duo (i.e. probiotics and prebiotics). For example, you may see something called FOS on the label. Short for fructooligosaccharide, FOS is extracted from soluble fiber foods such as chicory root and will help to feed and stimulate the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
So there you have it! Two powerful “p” words that can go a long way toward better digestion and a stronger natural immune system—talk about a winning combination!
Prebiotic Food Sources:
- Chicory Root
- Whole Grains