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Probiotics: The Gateway Supplement to Optimal Health

Spring has sprung, the birds are singing, and Mother’s Day is upon us. This month, the Wellness department is featuring probiotics. As our largest department staple, probiotics play a vital role in the human microbiome. Read on to learn more about this amazing supplement and how it aids everything in the body!

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are living healthy bacteria that reside in the human digestive tract. They are essential to gut health, digestion, nutrient absorption, and the immune system. The gut contains several hundreds of microbial species. While the FDA still has ongoing clinical studies on probiotics to verify their efficacy, the World Health Organization recognizes their benefits and defines them as "live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host". Supplements which are labelled as 'probiotics' must have viability and reproducibility in a large number of human hosts, viability and stability in storage, and the ability to survive stomach acid and the intestinal ecosystem. This means that anything labelled as a ‘probiotic’ must be alive when taken, survive stomach acid, and be able to activate in the intestines.

What do they do?

Probiotics replenish the flora of the intestinal tract, there by insuring proper nutrient absorption, digestion, overall gut health, and immune health, as your gut is one of your first lines of defense against infection. The original purpose for taking probiotics was to decrease the amount of harmful microbes in the gut by fighting them with helpful microbes. Though research is ongoing all over the world it has been shown that probiotics have numerous other benefits. The 2015 Cochrane review showed that the use of strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Saccharomyces boulardii significantly lessened or prevented Antibiotic associated diarrhea when taken in 5-40 billion live culture doses. A 2013 study showed that hydrogen peroxide producing probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus alleviated bacterial vaginosis by normalizing pH and rebalancing vaginal flora. Studies have shown that some strains have a noticeable effect on immune function, infections, inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and even lactose intolerances. A major cause of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease called Heliobacter pylori or H. pylori, which is normally treated with aggressive antibiotics, has had success with probiotic treatments with preventing, getting rid of, and rebuilding the gut using a blend of Zinc, L-Carnosine, and Lactobacillus reuteri, a study by Life Extension showed. More research is coming out consistently enough that we now know multi-strain probiotic supplements are essential for maintaining optimal health.

How are they made?

Probiotics are made 3 principle ways. The most common is dairy cultured, we find this most abundantly in kefir and yogurt, which must say live or active cultures. Another process is food cultures or fermented foods and beverages. The rising star of this form is the fermented kombucha drinks. These also include sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and soy drinks. Then there is human mimicked. These are probiotics created from reverse engineering human strains. The newest form arising are those strains found in natural environments, such as spores. Probiotic supplements themselves are made either one of these ways or all of them. This allows for multiple live strains and several billion of live cultures per serving. The studies show that taking multiple strains have the greatest effect on the gut as our intestinal system houses several hundred species of healthy bacteria.

Why should I take them?

Due to a market saturated in processed foods, humans are getting less and less naturally occurring probiotics in their diets. Taking a probiotic supplement or supplementing your diet with probiotic rich foods is an amazing way to boost and maintain your health. Compromised digestive tracts also benefit greatly from probiotics. Another reason to take probiotics would be antibiotics. Persons who have had to or are currently taking antibiotics should know that they do not differentiate between good bacteria and bad in our systems. Often people on antibiotics get diarrhea or severe constipation, this is due to antibiotics killing our gut flora, probiotic supplements replenish this loss and help the body recover faster.

However, no matter your age, health, or lifestyle, probiotics are always a good idea to maintain optimal health

When should I take them?

For those on antibiotics, you should wait 3 to 4 hours after having your antibiotic to have your probiotic. This ensures the antibiotic doesn’t immediately kill the probiotic. Probiotics are always a good idea to take when you are sick, on prescription medication (where allowed), whenever you have a digestive or gut health problem, or just for everyday health.

What should I expect?

Most people start to notice easier bowel movements, easier digestion and an overall increase in everyday wellness. Some people can experience diarrhea for the first 1 to 3 days, this is most common when you are new to taking probiotics or are on any prescription that may have affected your gut. The result of loose stool is due to healthy bacteria cleaning out putrefaction in the intestines. Very few people may have upset stomach when taking probiotics, first try taking it with food and if it continues we will try another product or consult a professional.

What products are available to me?

Probiotics come in all shapes and sizes. Probiotics become active in heat. The two most common are the refrigerated versus the shelf stable probiotics. Refrigerated probiotics must always be kept in the fridge so the cultures to not activate. Shelf-stable probiotics are stable at room temperature and are enterically coated so that they pass through to the intestines without activating. There are of course, liquid probiotic supplements, gummies, fizzy drinks, powders and capsules.

This month we are featuring some of our Women’s probiotics as well as the wonderful companies that create them. Among our top sellers is the Eureka Natural Foods brand Suprema Dophilus. This 8 strain blend includes a prebiotic fiber blend and a balanced Lacto- to Bifido- ratio of strains. This blend makes a wonderful daily maintenance. The Jarro-Dophilus Women by Jarrow are both amazing probiotic blends that feature their 4 clinically documented probiotic strains specific to women's health. Blue Bonnet also makes a wonderful women's everyday probiotic that aids in digestive support, immune protection, and vaginal and urinary tract support. Renew Life is one of our best-selling probiotic companies. Among their selection is the Shelf-Stable Ultimate Flora Women's Care and as always, they are gluten, dairy, and soy free. Lastly, is our big up and comer in our probiotic selection, Genuine Health. While we have been selling their fermented protein bars for some time, we now carry their two amazing 15 billion and 50 billion probiotics and recently introduced their women’s probiotic line.

*Come one in to speak to a Wellness Clerk and find the right probiotic for you!

A word about prebiotics…

Prebiotic fibers, like dietary fiber, is a non-digestible food that passes through the digestive tract which feed the growth of probiotic bacteria in the gut by providing an environment in which the good bacteria can flourish. Due to the importance of fiber in the diet and now prebiotic fibers, many probiotic supplements contain a prebiotic blend. Prebiotic fibers that can be found on their own are Acacia fiber, Inulin, and FOS or Fructooligosaccharides, a type of inulin. There are also several foods which provide prebiotics to the gut, most of these come in the raw or dried forms: raw chicory root, raw Jerusalem artichoke, raw dandelion greens, raw garlic, raw leeks, raw onion, raw asparagus, banana, barley, oats, dried Konjac root (Glucomannan), Cocoa, dried Burdock Root, Flaxseeds, raw Yacon root, raw Jicama root, and seaweed.

*A note about how probiotics benefit heart health: has been shown to lower LDL and lower blood pressure. Also, lactic acid producing probiotics can reduce cholesterol by breaking down bile in the gut. Since much of heart health issues can be linked to inflammation in the body, probiotics reduce gut inflammation.

Disclaimer: We are not doctors. We cannot diagnose, prescribe, or treat any illnesses. If you are thinking of making any lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor or natural health practitioner. These statements have not been verified by the FDA.

~ Make sure to keep and eye out for our next podcast episode! ~

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