Why Your Gut Will Love a Probiotic Supplement!

If you’re struggling with abdominal discomfort, a probiotic supplement can markedly improve how you feel. Even if you’re blessed with no digestive problems, a probiotic can upgrade your health in other ways. With so many supplement brands available, shopping can be a daunting task. Here’s why your body will love a probiotic, and how to choose the best product.

DIGESTIVE ALLIES

Probiotics are favorable microbes native to our large intestine, also termed our “gut” and “colon.” A healthy digestive tract is host to 100 trillion beneficial microbes! Regarded as “good flora,” these bacteria are vital for digestive health.

Good flora help our bodies break down food and assimilate nutrients. Probiotics deter gas and constipation by ushering food through the colon. Studies show that certain bacterial strains ease symptoms of diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease.

Surprisingly, probiotics avert depression and anxiety by sparking production of feel-good brain chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin. Good flora also subdue cortisol, a hormone that surges when we’re stressed.

Additionally, probiotics aid tissue repair, cardiovascular health, and weight management. They boost immunity by releasing natural peroxides and raising antibody levels. In women, probiotics help prevent urinary and vaginal infections. In children, good flora ward off eczema and allergies.

MICROBIAL FOES

Probiotics are fragile beings, easily depleted. They quickly diminish when our diets are high in refined sugar. They also dwindle when we don’t eat enough fiber, present in fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Good flora need fiber to survive.

Conversely, harmful bacteria thrive on sugar. Therefore, a high-sugar, low-fiber diet helps bad bacteria flourish. Some people trade sugar for artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, neotame, acesulfame K, sucralose, and saccharin. However, artificial sweeteners discourage good flora from colonizing. Also distasteful for probiotics are white flour, hydrogenated oils, and saturated fat.

Good flora are killed by pesticides, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and proton pump inhibitor medicines for heartburn. Other factors that cause probiotic decline are poor sleep, smoking, alcoholic drinks, and stress.

BALANCING ACT

When good bacteria outweigh the bad, we’re less prone to illness and disease. On the other hand, when harmful microbes predominate, we’re more likely to have bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramping, and excessive gas. Digestive disease symptoms can worsen, as with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. We may be subject to more frequent acid reflux and flares of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Additionally, bacterial imbalance can spawn conditions unrelated to digestion. Among them are blue moods, colds and flu, weight gain, slow tissue healing, diabetes, achy joints, sore muscles, acne breakouts, and low energy. For optimal health, our microbial population should be 85 percent good flora.

PROBIOTIC FOODS

photo of yogurt with fresh blueberries in glassOne way to increase probiotic levels is eating cultured foods. Excellent sources are yogurt and kefir, labeled with “live active cultures.” You can also drink kombucha, a type of fermented black tea. Other options are unpasteurized sauerkraut and soy-based products, such as miso, tempeh, and natto. A cousin to sauerkraut is kimchi, a Korean dish featuring Chinese cabbage.

Probiotic diversity results from eating a variety of cultured foods. However, this can be difficult for people with certain medical conditions. Patients with irritable bowel syndrome may have trouble digesting dairy. People with high blood pressure shouldn’t eat sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso, as these foods are high in sodium. The spices in kimchi can irritate sensitive stomachs.

SUPPLEMENT EDGE

Taking a probiotic supplement has distinct advantages. A quality product fosters both diversity and high microbial counts. Some digestive problems respond best to certain bacterial strains, ensured by choosing an ideal formula. To treat severe symptoms, you may need the potent doses only a supplement can provide.

Freeze-dried formulas work fast! Those containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains can begin colonizing within three hours, quickly doubling their numbers. Probiotics in food can take two weeks to get established. In the throes of digestive distress, prompt relief is crucial.

Regular supplementation helps to maintain colonization. Otherwise, probiotic levels can fluctuate with environmental factors, such as stress.

PRODUCT CONSIDERATIONS

CFUs

The term CFUs refers to colony-forming units, the number of bacteria capable of dividing and producing identical groups. For immune strength and digestive ease, buy a supplement that delivers 10 billion CFUs daily. For gastrointestinal illness, aim for a daily dose of 15 to 45 billion cultures.

High doses are preferable for treating ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Also, choose a potent product if you’re subject to severe stress, poor sleep, frequent infections, and antibiotic use.

General Wellness

phoo of a food label showing live active cultures | L. acidophilusIf your goal in taking a supplement is overall health, choose a product having these six strains:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • L. brevis
  • L. plantarum
  • L. rhamnosus
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • B. longum

Gastrointestinal Illness

For a specific diagnosis, buy a product with the bacterial strains that address it. Below are guidelines.

Acid Reflux – L. reuteri colonizes both the large intestine and oral cavity.

Celiac Disease – B. lactis decreases the damaging effects of gluten on the intestinal lining.

Constipation – Promote regularity with L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. reuteri, B. animalis, B. lactis, and B. longum.

Diarrhea – Choose a probiotic with L. rhamnosus, L. casei, L. acidophilus, and L. bulgaricus.

IBS – Improve symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain with B. infantis, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, and B. bifidum strains. B. longum and L. casei reduce the anxiety and tension that foster IBS episodes. For diarrhea-predominant IBS, take a supplement that includes B. coagulans.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease – B. lactis and B. bifidum assist gut healing. Strains that help control inflammation are L. gasseri, L. plantarum, B. bifidum, and B. longum.

Potency Guarantee

Only buy a supplement that guarantees viability through the expiration date or shelf life. Otherwise, probiotics active at the time of manufacture can be dead when you ingest them. Look for a potency guarantee on packaging.

Also, choose a product with delayed-rupture technology, such as pill encapsulation, coating, or a time-release feature. For probiotics to survive the trip to your colon, they must be shielded from bile and stomach acids. Time-release probiotics arrive at the colon intact, remaining viable for at least eight hours.

Handling

When shopping, check to see if product refrigeration is required to maintain potency. Many bacterial strains need cool temperatures to remain viable. However, refrigeration may not be necessary for freeze-dried probiotics in moisture-proof packaging, such as blister packs.

Still, at heat above room temperature, probiotics are killed. For this reason, buy a product from a storefront retailer who handles supplements properly. Otherwise, you can’t be sure the bacteria are safe from heat after leaving a manufacturing facility. Generally, it’s risky to buy from an online retailer unless shipping is done overnight in a cold pack.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for storage. If nothing is specified, refrigerate the product. Once you take a pill from its packaging, use it immediately versus transfer to a pill holder.

TIMING

Take your supplement 30 minutes before breakfast, expediting transit to your large intestine. If you take a probiotic with food, digestion by stomach acids will kill the bacteria en route to your colon.

BEST DEFENSE

Probiotics are favorable bacteria we require for well-being. Daily intake of a probiotic supplement can help relieve diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and excessive gas. Probiotics also reduce the symptoms of celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

That’s not all! Good flora help to ward off colds and flu. Through their effect on hormones, probiotics foster equanimity. Certain strains both treat and prevent urinary tract and vaginal infections.

Choose a product with 10 to 45 billion CFUs, the number depending on symptom severity. Take your supplement daily, 30 minutes before breakfast. Additionally, if possible, consume two servings of probiotic foods each day. Be sure to sustain your good flora with adequate fiber from whole foods. Here are fun fiber options.

CUSTOMIZED CARE

A gastroenterologist can give you specific supplement advice, tailored to your digestive concerns. Make an appointment with Digestive Care Physicians at any of our North Atlanta offices, in Cumming, Johns Creek, Alpharetta, and Lawrenceville, GA. We also care for residents from surrounding towns, including Duluth, Suwanee, Canton, Marietta, Milton, Roswell, and Sandy Springs. We welcome your call at (770) 227-2222, and in Lawrenceville, at (470) 210-7766.

Protect your gut with a probiotic supplement!

Note – The information shared here cannot replace professional medical advice. For personalized guidance on choosing a probiotic supplement, contact Digestive Care Physicians.

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