TAG | probiotics
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.
Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, are probably best known for colon health, but recent research is showing that probiotics may also be helpful for stomach conditions. The vast majority of peptic, intestinal ulcers and gastritis cases are caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori.
About half of all humans carry this potentially harmful bacterium and up to 15% of those infected will develop an ulcer. Since H. pylori was identified as the ulcer-causing culprit, the challenge has been to identify the best possible treatments and prevent relapse. Typical ulcer treatments of acid blockers and antibiotics have had some success, but natural health advocates warn against using such drugs long term. Scientists now agree the standard protocol for H. pylori infection needs work and they’re hopeful about the potential of probiotics.
An article published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology identified a specific strain of probiotic bacteria called Bifidobacterium bifidum that may help treat ulcers. Scientists isolated the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium bifidum from breast-fed infant fecal matter and tested it against H. pylori. Researchers noticed that the bacterium inhibited H. Pylori up to 95% in vitro. In further testing, mice infected with H. pylori and given Bifidobacterium bifidum developed considerably fewer ulcers and had less overall damage in the stomach from the H. Pylori than the control group.
These results are very encouraging for those looking for natural and complementary approaches for ulcers and other stomach issues. There are two primary methods to increase your intake of probiotic bacteria such as Bifidobacterium bifidum: food and supplements. Various probiotic strains can be found in fermented foods and some dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir. However, the quantity of these beneficial bacteria in these foods can be low and the variety of strains is often limited.
To achieve higher intake of probiotics, as well as more varied strains, probiotic supplements are a great option. Though, it should be noted that not all probiotic supplements are created equal. The best probiotic formulas have high amounts of bifidobacteria and consist of various strains of probiotic bacteria to provide support to the largest number of people.