Choosing the Right Probiotic Supplement

by Southwest Nutraceuticals

One of the most common topics of research in the health and nutrition world is the importance of probiotics and the benefits they provide us. Probiotics, which are naturally found in the body, are the positive variants, or “good” bacteria, which help our body in many processes…most notably with digestive issues. Probiotics reside predominantly in the lower GI tract, helping to break down and move food through the gut, prevent harmful bacteria from flourishing, and working to provide an overall balance to our digestive system.

Probiotic Deficiency

The important point to remember is that our digestive system is not the only thing affected by the lack of good bacteria in our bodies. This deficiency can lead to problems in many other organs as well, and the resulting effect is often both physiological and psychological.

According to one study, nearly 95% of the serotonin in our body is produced by the bacteria in our gut. That is important because serotonin belongs to a class of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which help one part of the brain in communicating with other parts. As we get older, the gut becomes less and less efficient, so increasing probiotic consumption can become even more important for our overall health.

When a probiotic deficiency develops, candida yeast thrives as well. Candida is a harmful fungus that can take over the intestines, preventing probiotics from flourishing and providing any type of health benefit. You must appreciate the important role these bacteria play in our body, but the scary thing is that often we lose probiotic bacteria without even knowing that we’re doing so. These “good” bacteria are destroyed by things like antibiotics, medications and even stress…so replacing them to keep your body working the way it should, is essential.

When a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, he or she will often tell you to eat yogurt during and after you’re taking the antibiotic. This is for the purpose of replenishing the probiotic bacteria in your body because an antibiotic doesn’t discriminate…it will kill ALL bacteria. While it’s true that you can obtain probiotics like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium from some dairy products, yogurt and other fermented foods, probiotic supplements are also available to take in several different forms.

How to Choose a Probiotic Supplement?

In the United States, probiotics are regulated more like foods, rather than medications, by the FDA. Consumption of probiotic foods and supplements is generally safe for most people, but it’s still important to talk to your doctor first to make sure that they are right for you.

The two most important criteria when choosing a probiotic supplement are the number of different strains of bacteria that are present, as well as the delivery system that is used to introduce these strains into the body. Different strains have different purposes in the digestive tract, so probiotic supplements that contain several different strains (preferably 5 or more), are typically more effective than those with a high amount of merely one or two strains.

Improved delivery systems, including the packaging and encapsulation of a probiotic supplement, allow it be more efficient and effective when entering the body. One such delivery system, called spore germination, makes the probiotic more acid-resistant, delivering nearly all of its strains to the intestine in a time-release manner without being compromised. Spore germination also allows the probiotic supplement to be stored without the need for refrigeration to keep the strains alive and active. It essentially keeps them dormant until being introduced to the extreme temperatures of the intestine.

It is also important to make sure that an expiration date (or manufacturing date) is clearly displayed on the packaging. These dates are not required by the supplement industry, so a manufacturer that does mark these dates has probably taken the extra steps to do some product stability testing, which can provide a basis for expiration dates, essentially promising the quality and potency until that date…as long as they are properly stored. Some probiotics require refrigeration, while others simply need to be stored in a cool, dry place away from heat or sunlight. Probiotic supplements that use opaque bottles for their packaging ensures that these elements have little effect on the bacterial strains.

When taking a probiotic supplement, mild side effects, including stomach upset, gas and bloating, or even diarrhea can occur during the first week. Discontinue use if symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, or if any allergic reactions occur.

Submitted by Southwest Nutraceuticals