Bacteria is everywhere, including within your entire body. While some bacteria works against us, creating disease and illness, other bacteria works within the human body to keep it healthy and happy. The bacteria in our digestive system, or our gut, acts as a protective bacteria army, acting as a first line defense against foreign pathogens and invaders that lead to infection, sickness, and other biological issues. Within each human’s personal gut microbiome, there are probiotics. If you’re wondering what are probiotics, if probiotics are right for you, and how to choose a probiotic supplement, then this article is for you.
What Are Probiotics?
A probiotic is a microorganism, a type of healthy bacteria, that grows in food and within your gut (intestinal flora). They not only operate within that first defense army we talked about, they but also help break down carbohydrates (sugars), help us absorb the fatty acids from our diet to fuel cell growth within the body, as well as break down toxins before they get into the bloodstream.
The word “Probiotics” literally means ‘for life’. Pro is a Latin preposition meaning “for” and biotikos is a Greek word meaning “life”. Often probiotics are referred to as a plural because there are so many that make up our systems.
Are Probiotics Good For You?
Probiotics definitely aren’t bad for you and the chances of getting too many from your diet or supplementation doesn’t actually happen that often. So, what are probiotics good for? A lot! Probiotics regulate countless functions within the human body, mainly within the digestive system and the immune system. They help reduce the presence of pathogens that manifest disease while regulating the removal of wastes from the body. There’s a variety of ways to both lose and replenish the probiotics or the good bacteria, within our system, including food and supplements. In short, yes, probiotics are really good for you.
Do I Need Probiotics?
Your body is often going to tell you what is happening on the inside by reflecting it on the outside. Gut imbalances happen for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons include chronic stress, eating a diet lacking in fresh vegetables and high in processed, simple carbohydrate foods, extreme dieting or not eating enough, to name a few. These lifestyle choices can result in an imbalance of healthy bacteria within the gut, resulting in allergies, weight gain, acne, rashes on your skin, hormonal imbalances, even depression and fatigue. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, or uncomfortable GI symptoms and bloating, then chances are you are deficient in good bacteria.
Foods High In Probiotics
What do probiotics do for your body? A lot! But where do probiotics come from? Probiotics come from both food and supplements. We always recommend trying to get nutrients from food before taking a supplement.
Common foods that are high in probiotics naturally include:
- Soft Aged Cheese
- Dark Chocolate
- Green Olives
- Sourdough Bread
- Cottage Cheese
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Greek Yogurt
If you’re like the rest of us and don’t have a perfect nutritional lifestyle, this is where supplements come to play. Most individuals should aim for 2-3 servings of probiotic-rich foods a day, but in general, 1-2 servings of probiotic-rich foods a day and a single probiotic capsule is a more attainable goal. A quality probiotic supplement is intended to bridge the gaps in your diet to provide your body with the best chance of functioning at optimum levels.
Who Needs Probiotics?
Pretty much anyone can become deficient in good bacteria, and as mentioned above, there’s a lot of things within our lifestyle that can depress the GI, resulting in a poor-performing gut microbiome. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, some of the other ways you can become deficient in probiotics are from taking antibiotics, steroid medications, ingesting harmful pesticides and toxins from food, being ill, ingesting antibiotics from animal products, or even formula fed when we were babies. If your digestion is off, you don’t have healthy poops, you can't eat 2-3 servings of probiotic-rich foods a day, or you have experienced any of the indications previously mentioned, then maybe it’s time you consider regularly taking a probiotic supplement.
How Do I Choose A Probiotic?
Shopping for a probiotic supplement isn’t the most exciting thing to do at the end of a long day. You know you have some digestion issues, whether it’s bloating, acne or you just got done with the seasonal cold and antibiotics. What are probiotics supplements going to do for you? They’ll help you improve your digestive health while bridging the gaps in your nutrition. The following information will walk you through the probiotic supplement buying process so that you can ask yourself what are probiotics supplements going to do for me, and have a solid answer.
Sure, most people won’t have any issues taking a probiotic supplement, but if you have a serious health condition or a weak immune system, the best way to know if a probiotic supplement is right for you is to simply ask your physician.
How Do I Choose A Probiotic? Read The Nutrition Label
What are probiotics good for if they don’t have enough of the right stuff? The CFU isn’t the only thing a nutrition label on a probiotic supplement is going to tell you. While you’re at it, figure out if you need to store it in the fridge or at room temperature. Just because it needs to be refrigerated and comes at a more expensive price, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any better than freeze-dried capsules that can be stored at room temperature. Take a look at the other ingredients section - does it have anything else that you’re allergic to, like soy or dairy? And see if there’s an expiration date, just to be on the safe side.
How Do I Choose A Probiotic? Choose A Probiotic With Strong Strains
The specific types of probiotic strains provide different benefits and quality results for your health. This is where marketing comes into play. If a company is boasting 100 billion probiotics in a product, it’s worth your time to question the product, look at the nutrition label, and find out which strains are actually in the product in high amounts. Anyone can stuff cheap, poor quality probiotic strains into a bottle and boast the amount of CFUs, but when it comes to a probiotic supplement, more isn’t always better and not all strains are created equal.
What Are The Best Strains Of Probiotics For Overall Health
The best 5 probiotic strains are:
How Do I Choose A Probiotic? Count The Colony Forming Units (CFUs)
Colony Forming Units is going to be the number on the front of the bottle of probiotics you’re looking at. This tells you how much, of each bacteria, is in the product. For general health and wellness, anything over 10 billion CFUs isn’t worth the money or time. On the flip side, if you don’t get enough CFUs, you’re not going to get the results you necessarily want and they could just be a waste of money. We recommend purchasing a bottle of probiotics with a CFU range of 3-5 billion for general health and wellness. If you're looking to alleviate the negative symptoms associated with a health concern, we recommend 5-10 billion CFUs in a probiotic.
How Many CFUs Do I Need In A Probiotic?
Supplements don’t have to be tricky to navigate if you know what you’re looking for. First, CFU stands for Colony Forming Unit. It is a unit used to estimate the number of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a sample, which is also used to describe the units in a probiotic supplement.
While we’ve already established 3-5 billion CFU is great for a probiotic supplement for overall health, where 5-10 billion CFU is a great probiotic for address specific health concerns. A higher CFU count in a probiotic capsule is marketed to lead you to believe that more is better, which isn’t necessarily the case with probiotics.
Yes, initially it makes sense that supplementing higher CFU counts of healthy bacteria is better, but our bodies don’t necessarily need an onslaught of healthy bacteria every day. When we consistently introduce adequate levels of healthy bacteria into our gut, say 3-6 billion CFUs, we give our bodies and the bacteria the ability to colonize, to create more numbers of healthy bacteria, naturally.
**Remember – probiotic supplements (and any supplement) is meant to bridge the gaps in our diet, not replace it altogether.**
How Do I Choose The Right Probiotic For Me?
You came to this article wondering, what are probiotics, and hopefully, you’ve been able to answer that question in more. In regards to taking a supplement, our best advice is this – find a company that you can trust and find a daily suggested capsule intake that you can consistently ingest. That means, if you don’t take capsules/pills and you don’t remember to and you’re not willing to make that adjustment in your daily routine, chances are you’re not going to be successful or consistent with taking a probiotic supplement. By using the knowledge you’ve gained in this article, you now have the information you need to choose probiotic-rich foods and a quality probiotic supplement to bridge the gaps in your nutrition, to attain a happier, healthier lifestyle.
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