The human microbiome is a tiny world of living bacteria, mostly housed in the gastrointestinal tract, numbering in the trillions. A healthy microbiome protects us from infection, maintains a healthy immune response, plays a vital role in digestive health, and is integral to mental health and cognitive function. Our microbiome is populated in utero by our mother and is further influenced during the birth process and by the quality of nourishment in infancy. With a healthy number of “good” bacteria, pathogenic bacteria that can cause illness are out-numbered and easily combated. Healthy bacteria also contribute to assimilation and absorption of nutrients during digestion. Finally, science is beginning to shed light on the role of microbiome health with regards to mental and cognitive function.
The more we understand the importance of the inflammatory response and immune system function in a wide variety of diseases, the more we understand the importance of healthy gut flora. Nutritional and lifestyle strategies can improve the health of our intestinal bacteria. As we transition to healthier choices to repair any damage, a quality probiotic supplement may support our efforts to restore health to our microbiome, ultimately improving digestion, immunity, and overall wellness. *
Probiotics are the “good” living bacteria found in the intestinal flora of the gut. These microorganisms assist the digestive process; because a very large portion of the immune system resides in the digestive tract, probiotics contribute to stronger immunity and overall health. The term probiotic most commonly refers to the foods, capsules, powders, and liquids developed to supplement these naturally existing bacteria. Most notably, scientists working on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations refined the definition of probiotics as follows: “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”
Yogurts Advertising Live Bacteria Cultures
Commercially sold yogurts commonly contain two probiotics - Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles. These are known to help lactose-intolerant people digest dairy products. However, many experts agree that these bacteria do not survive the sweltering environment of the digestive tract. The probiotic cultures resilient enough to survive the journey through the intestinal tract are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Note this when choosing yogurts in order to get the benefit of bacteria that are indeed “active live cultures.”
Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are integral in the manufacture of vitamin K2 (essential for blood clotting), B complex vitamins like biotin (assists enzymes in metabolizing fat and carbohydrates), folic acid (formation of red blood cells, RNA and DNA), and vitamin B12 (brings red blood cells to maturity). Probiotics also replace non-useful and pathogenic bacteria to protect against illness as well as aid digestion. Researchers develop certain strains of bacteria for certain needs. For example, antibiotics can cause discomfort and trigger diarrhea because they are killing the “good” bacteria as they target the problematic bacteria. A probiotic with the proper bacteria may prevent and clear up these tough conditions, with different strains used for children and adults.
Characteristics of a quality probiotic
1. The addition of prebiotics
If a probiotic capsule advertises “no refrigeration needed,” look for natural prebiotics like Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root in the ingredient list. These are added to enhance shelf life of the probiotics so that the bacteria are still living at the time of purchase and beyond.
2. Delayed release of active cultures
It is imperative that a probiotic supplement be formulated to ensure that the live cultures remain intact and in large enough quantities by the time they reach the intestinal tract. Delayed release of active cultures is necessary to protect the bacteria as it travels through the upper digestive tract on the way to its final destination.
3. Clinically researched bacteria strains
Because different parts of the body respond in unique ways to bacteria, choose a probiotic that targets both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract. Probiotic 10/50 by Vitälzȳm™ contains 10 of the most clinically researched probiotic bacteria strains known to promote a healthier digestive tract and immune system.
4. High potency of live bacteria for maximum effectiveness
It may be difficult to conceptualize millions of living microorganisms being unleashed to help our internal systems, but that is exactly what probiotic supplements do. High potency formulas safeguard the survival rate of the cultures for carrying out their intended purposes. When choosing a probiotic, look for labels that include at least 50 billion CFU (colony forming units).
5. Store them at safe temperatures
Heat damages, even kills, living microorganisms. Though many probiotics do not require refrigeration, be sure to store them in cool locations to promote a long shelf life.
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