Probiotics...what are they and what do they do for me?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria. The word probiotic means "for life" and they are an essential part of bodily functions. We have some microbiota (bacteria) that are unique to each one of us; these are the bacteria that stay in our bodies for a long time. They need help surviving; you can do this either by feeding the bacteria with healthy fruits and vegetables, making fermented vegetables or taking a supplement. The additional bacteria fill in the gaps of your personal bacteria to help support your immune system.
What do they do?:
· They help white blood cells fight disease
· Control putrefactive bacteria in the intestines
· Provide important nutrients for building the blood
· Assist in digestion
· Protect the intestinal mucosa
· Prevent diarrhea and constipation
· Help with bowel elimination
· Manufacture B vitamins and Vitamin K
· Inhibits pathogens
How do I take them?
You can either supplement with a probiotic or eat fermented foods which contain live cultures. The benefit to eating fermented foods over supplements is that fermented foods are a whole food that is teaming with wonderful bacteria. It can be economical if you make the fermented foods yourself because the base is usually cabbage and you can make a lot at one time and refrigerate them to slow down the procreation of bacteria. I love these, I make them all the time and each time they come out tasting a little different.
With a supplement it is pretty easy, you take the pill one time per day (unless otherwise instructed by your practitioner) usually with vitamins so you don’t forget and they go to work. Be careful when supplementing. Make sure your probiotic is from a reliable source. Many of the probiotics tested in supermarkets contain dead bacteria. That is not going to help you populate your GI tract and may hurt your wallet because they are not cheap! Look on the product for cGMP (certified good manufacturing practice), this means that they are certified by a third party and what is on the label is in your product until the expiration date as long as it is properly stored. These manufacturers tend to take extra steps to assure quality products.
You may have seen probiotics that are “enteric coated” with the claim that the bacteria will survive the digestive processes. This is not necessary because probiotics are acid loving and thrive in a more acidic environment. The enteric coating just gives your body something else to metabolize that it may not know what to do with it.
Why do I need probiotics?
Antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, processed foods and stress all contribute to depleting our natural microbiota.
Regardless of how you feed your friendly flora, it needs to be done to keep you healthy.