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Probiotics – Are the Health Benefits Real or Hype?

Posted By By Rechà Bullock, Friday, October 20, 2017

Most people do not realize the importance of gut health. However, when you learn that 80 percent of our immune system relies on our gut health, then we can put the importance of gut health into perspective. As an example, if you catch a cold very easily or have bouts of tummy aches with diarrhea, have consistent eczema, psoriasis, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may really benefit from taking a daily probiotic.

Learning which probiotic is best for you is important, as is understanding the important ingredients to look for in a probiotic due to the number of products on the market. I have provided a list below of what to look for when purchasing a probiotic.

Probiotics offer some really good health benefits that many of us should take advantage of to help us boost our immune system. Daily consumption of probiotic supplements or fermented foods allows for balancing good and bad bacteria which helps us digest our food and keep our gut healthy and strong.

Fermented foods are probiotic sources that you can eat if you want to avoid the expense associated with taking a daily probiotic supplement. However, the problem with eating fermented foods is most people do not eat enough fermented foods regularly to receive the beneficial gut health protections needed to keep our gut healthy. 

Fermentation is simply a process used to break down the enzymes in foods to allow for live cultures or organisms to thrive and support our gut flora or bacteria and immune system. If you would like to consume foods that support your gut health without taking a probiotic supplement look for fermented foods with “live” cultures like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchee, pickled vegetables, salsa, miso (only unpasteurized), kombucha tea, kefir, and yogurt with live cultures (that has less than 16 grams of sugar). In order to reap the benefits of fermented foods, you must make certain you carefully read the word “live” cultures or “live” food on the label. Also, you should try to aim to eat a variety fermented foods, so that you can get a variety of different strains to support your gut health and immune system. 

If all of this sounds way too complicated for you to add to the mix of your life, I hear you. That’s why I like to take a daily probiotic pill to help make certain I am consistently providing my gut with healthy bacteria to support my immune system. Since there are so many probiotics on the market, let’s get straight to what ingredients are needed in a probiotic to make it a worthwhile investment. As mentioned above, consuming a variety of strains is the best option for promoting a healthy gut. A probiotic in a pill form is no different. 

A great probiotic should contain at least 10 different strains, with the most important ingredients being Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Lactis, Bifidobacterium Longum, Bifidobacterium Infantis, Bifidobacterium Bifudum, Lactobacillus Helveticus, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Streptococcus Thermophilus, and Enterococcus Faecium. When shopping for a probiotic, you will most likely find them in a health food store in the refrigerated section due to the live cultures which need to be kept cool. However, there are some probiotics that work well that do not require refrigeration.

When purchasing a probiotic aim for a formula that allows for a slow or delayed release into your small intestine and one that has 5 to 50 billion microorganisms or cells, which will be clearly presented on the box or bottle. Since live cultures do not live long, make certain you pay attention to the best by date prior to purchasing a probiotic.

Finally, make certain you purchase a brand that does not add unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients like food coloring or chemical fillers. I like to purchase vegetarian-based probiotics. If you decide to take a probiotic and also have chronic health conditions, make certain you talk to your doctor. Especially, since supplements are not regulated by the FDA and some supplements can cause adverse reactions with some medications. 

Be well. 

Disclosure Statement
*Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 
**If you take medication for chronic conditions, you should consult your doctor prior to taking any supplements. 

PubMed.gov, Gut Microbiota and Bacterial Translocation in Digestive Surgery: The Impact of Probiotics.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28321508, Retrieved on July 17, 2017.

PubMed.gov, Probiotics in Digestive Diseases: Focus on Lactobacillus GG.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26657927, Retrieved on July 17, 2017. 

ConsumerAdvisoryGuide.org, It’s More Than a Gut Feeling. http://www.consumeradvisorguide.org/probiotics-supplement-review/index4.html

Rechà Bullock is a Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher (200-RYT), public health professional, and plant-based foodie. Her passion for health and wellness comes from a lifelong love of fitness, health, nutrition, yoga, and a desire to help people transform their health by eating foods that are nutrient rich.

Rechà's goal is to provide information to help people make food choices that are healthier for them and their families. "We cannot afford to continue to purchase and consume foods that are at odds with our health, such as genetically modified foods, steroids, antibiotics, artificial ingredients, and processed sugars." 

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