Probiotics 101 Avoiding Hype
Probiotics 101 Avoiding Hype – As you might know, your gut is home to a tiny galaxy of miracle organisms called microflora that help you digest the food you eat, produce vitamins and strengthen your immune system. Unfortunately, everything from antibiotics to processed, preservative-laden food (and even stress) can seriously deplete your reserve of good, healthy microflora. This lets bad bacteria run wild, hampering your digestion and leaving you vulnerable to infection and disease.
Probiotic foods are those that contain strains of helpful bacteria that promote balance in your gut, strengthening your digestion and your immune system. As such, their recent popularity comes from claims that they will do everything from making you more “regular” to fighting off disease. Unfortunately, quite a few of these new foods containing probiotics just don’t deliver the goods… literally.
So What’s Wrong With My Yogurt?
- Pasteurization – Many of the more popular probiotics foods flooding the market now are pasteurized, meaning they are lightly heated to destroy any harmful bacteria that may have taken up residence under the lid. Why is this a problem? Unfortunately, this process also kills off much of the good, strong probiotic bacteria that your body wants. There’s certainly still some left by the time the product makes the journey from the supermarket to your fridge, but it often isn’t enough to get the strong benefits you’re looking for. If this is the case, what’s the point of buying it in the first place?
- Wishy-washy labeling – Many companies simply slap the word probiotic on their labels and think that’s good enough. It really isn’t. You could devote an entire encyclopedia to different strains of healthy bacteria, but there are some superstar strains in the world of probiotics that are known to work wonders in your gut. The label of any quality probiotic should list more than a couple of these strains. We’ll list a few you should look out for later in this article.
- Extra-sweet – Sugar is a crucial ingredient in the fermentation process, which ends up creating all of those wonderful probiotic bacteria that are so good for you.
The problem with many commercial probiotic foods is that even after they’ve been prepared, an extra wallop of sugar or artificial sweetener is added to create a more “desirable” product. It means that even if you do get the bacteria your gut is craving, you’re also getting much more sugar than you really need.
- Potency – Anything you eat has to make a long, winding journey through your stomach before reaching your gut. In the process, stomach acid breaks down much of what you’ve eaten, including those healthy bacteria. A good probiotic will list its bacteria count, and the very best will have a count in the billions. Anything in the millions – or worse yet, a product that doesn’t list a bacteria count at all – can only do so much, if anything at all.
Ignore the hype and get the good stuff
So what’s left? At the end of the day, what you want is a probiotic product that has been thoroughly researched by its manufacturer. You can tell which ones respect their customers simply by studying the label. As promised, here are a few strains you should keep an eye out for. All of them promote the growth of healthy microflora and carry specific benefits of their own.
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus – L.Acidophilus prevents diarrhea, prevents the growth of harmful pathogenic bacteria such as E.coli, and generally strengthens your immune system.
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum – B.bifidum helps in the synthesis of the B vitamins and Vitamin K in your gut. Vitamin K is an important player in bone and blood health, while the B vitamins are key for brain and heart health, and support healthy growth.
- Lactobacillus Casei – L.casei helps to relieve constipation and diarrhea, and is also known to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- Streptococcus Thermophilus – Helps eliminate symptoms associated with lactose intolerance and reduce in the impact of carcinogens.
- Lactobacillus Reuteri – L.reuteri is effective in the prevention of various intestinal disorders such as colitis.
Perhaps the easiest way to ensure you’re eating quality probiotics is to create your own cultured, fermented foods at home. In the meantime, pay attention to the labels of the probiotics you buy, as well as any foods you eat. That’s how you’ll be able to separate the good stuff from the bad.
Having healthy gut flora is very important. Research now indicates that the immune system is linked to the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics may be a valuable option. Having your doctor evaluate your individual case could be helpful. We prefer to make our own homemade fermented vegetables for probiotic support.
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