i hope you guys are enjoying the supplements 101 series as much as i am! i’ve been doing a lot of research into them lately & i enjoy sharing what i’m learning.
the topic for today is probiotics!
i’m sure you are all aware that our intestines are filled with billions of bacteria – both good and bad. the good and bad guys are always in a race to come out on top. things like disease, antibiotics, and other environmental factors can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut and tip the balance in the bad bacteria’s favor.
the word probiotics comes from greek and means “for life”. they help the good bacteria to overtake the bad bacteria and to restore gut health. probiotics are often helpful for improving digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, crohn’s, i.b.s. and more.
digestive issues are epidemic in the united states. a lot of this is due to diet, lifestyle, and environmental issues, but is also likely linked with over-prescription of antibiotics, which kill off the good bacteria along with the bad.
even more interesting, did you know that much of our immune health is tied to our digestive system? when our digestive system is over-taken by bad bacteria, our immune system can’t properly fight off disease. probiotics can help to sway the gut bacteria population in favor of the good guys.
keep in mind…
there are some important factors to keep in mind when choosing a probiotic supplement. first, you want to look at the strains of bacteria in the supplement. make sure that it contains both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains. lactobacillus are important for the health of the small intestine, while bifidobacterium are important for large intestine health. second, pay attention to the number of live cultures per capsule. 15 billion cultures is a good place to start to impact your health, but more can be helpful.
if you have specific digestive health concerns, a much higher culture count is often recommended. for example, i’ve been taking a supplement with 80 billion cultures and 14 different strains (containing both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium) to try to help with some chronic gut health issues.
again, supplements are generally considered safe. however, it is very important to keep a couple things in mind.
- supplements will not take the place of a good diet. think of them as something additional you do to full the gaps in your healthy diet.
- always discuss your supplement use with your doctor.
- don’t overdose on your supplements! do your research and find out what the upper limit is for your nutrient of interest. if you take your supplements as directed on the label, you should not overdose.
- when it comes to supplements, you get what you pay for. please choose a good-quality brand from a health-foods store or other specialty store. those options that are 2 for $6 at target/walgreens/etc., while tempting and budget-friendly, are likely not manufactured well, absorbed well, or providing any health benefits.
all information presented here is what i have learned in my own research. i am not a licensed health professional and this information is not meant to take the place of medical advice. always speak with your doctor before taking any supplements.
next up in the series: probiotics, antioxidants, and finally – what i take!
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do you take probiotics?
they’re very important!