This past week I had a few inquiries regarding whether I recommend probiotics.
I always call myself the undecided voter. I weigh the pros and cons of information as democratically as I can before coming to a conclusion.
My upfront disclosure is I have not been persuaded that probiotics are a necessity to most individuals. However, let’s look here at some facts regarding probiotics and the science behind taking them.?
The gut is our biggest organ – hence being dubbed the “second brain” because it contains a separate nervous system with 500 million neurons and is 9 meters long.
Many factors affect the gut including the diet, stress, travel, aging, medical illness, and medication. Since we absorb the nutrients required for health via the gut keeping it in optimal health is key for wellness and health.
Probiotics are defined as good or friendly bacteria that help support a healthy gut, specifically if something goes amiss.? Poor gut health can lead to multiple medical illnesses.
The use of probiotics is advocated for antibiotic-associated diarrhea and clostridium difficile. Other various gastrointestinal conditions may be helped by probiotics.
Foods that contain natural sources of probiotics include plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, soured pickles and miso. If you consume one or two of these foods on a regular basis a probiotic may not be necessary, unless you have a complex medical issue that requires extra support.
If you do not consume any of the above foods and feel a probiotic might benefit you, how do you select the right one for your needs?
Look for names of common probiotic organisms such as Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacterium species and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.
When selecting a probiotic look to see if it has at least 25 billion cells per gram (check the label to see what the amounts add up to) This number can increase to 100 billion per gram, which some clinicians advocate for more severe gastrointestinal issues.
Look for the CFU (colon-forming units). CFU’s represent the ability of the bacteria to survive the acidity of the stomach and should be provided at the time of manufacture and the time of consumption (opening the package). Recommendations are for 1-10 billion CFU’s per day depending on the severity of gastrointestinal symptoms.
Probiotics are considered safe for most people and complications are rare.
The possible downsides are inaccurate labels, which may not deliver what the product promises. Potential health risks are for those with compromised immune systems so make sure to check with your physician if you think you may be at risk.
Currently there is no standardization of probiotics and concern has been raised about quality and reliability of labels.
A good website to check is consumerlab.com which has an excellent review on probiotic products and which products met their standards.
What do I recommend? If you have no intestinal issues consider consuming a food with built-in probiotics.
If you already have a gastrointestinal issue that does not seem to be improving and do not have a compromised immune system, taking a probiotic may be of benefit and is quite safe.