Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
There’s a lot that we don’t know about probiotic foods, but experts report they can boost health in several ways. They can:
- regulate the organisms in the digestive system
- reduce cholesterol
- reduce symptoms in people who cannot digest milk
- lower the risk of colon cancer
- increase the effectiveness of vitamins
- lower the risk of allergies in some people
- boost the immune system
- help the body use calcium
Foods can contain different probiotic microorganisms. The most common are bacteria that belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each group contains several different kinds of bacteria. Other bacteria and some yeasts also are considered probiotics.
Each type of bacterial strain can have different effects. A single strain might have a different effect on healthy people than it does on those with compromised immune systems.
Food sources of probiotics: Kifir milk, yogurt, kombucha, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, dark chocolate, soy, sourdough, and pickles.
If clients cannot get enough probiotics through food (which is recommended), then it may be okay to take a supplement. Usually I recommend supplements for people under a lot of stress, if they have an illness, taking antibiotics, or have a history of antibiotic use. Look for products that contain a variety of bacteria with a CFU in the billions.
Strains of bacteria/supplements;
Align brand probiotic supplement contains Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, which has been shown to reduce symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and stool frequency in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Containing both Lactobacillus acidophilus CL 1285 and L casei, Bio-K+ has been clinically shown to lower the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).
Perhaps the most familiar probiotic on the market, Culturelle contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG ATCC 53103. According to the World Gastroenterology Organisation, in multiple studies, L rhamnosus GG has been shown to reduce severity and duration of acute infectious diarrhea and AAD in both children and adults.
Florastor contains a yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii. According to a 2010 meta-analysis, S boulardii is effective in preventing AAD and traveler’s diarrhea in both children and adults.
Available for purchase in Canada but not in the United States, Mutaflor is a probiotic that contains the bacteria E coli Nissle 1917, which may be as effective as mesalazine, a potent anti-inflammatory drug, in sustaining remission of ulcerative colitis.
VSL#3 is a probiotic medical food that contains eight different strains of bacteria: Lactobacillus paracasei, L plantarum, L acidophilus, L delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium longum, B breve, B infantis, and Streptococcus thermophilus. It’s available in pediatric and adult powder packets, double-strength powder packets (available only by prescription), and adult capsules. In multiple studies, VSL#3 has been shown to be effective in alleviating symptoms of IBS, ulcerative colitis, and pouchitis.
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