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How Probiotics Can Make a Huge Difference to Your Health

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Probiotics are seemingly everywhere, being touted for their health benefits. It’s almost as if you can’t turn on a television or open up a magazine without seeing some sort of ad. But do probiotics live up to the hype? In many instances, the answer is a resounding “yes.” 


What Are Probiotics? 
 
In a nutshell, probiotics are beneficial bacteria and yeasts that reside inside the “gut” – a general term used to describe the gastrointestinal tract. There are “good” microbes and “bad” microbes, and they are constantly doing battle inside of your body. If the good ones outnumber the bad ones, then you will usually enjoy good digestive health. But if the reverse is the case, you’ll be susceptible to a lot of different kinds of gastrointestinal issues. 


Probiotics can be found in many foods and in supplement form. It’s important that you get plenty of them into your system so they can balance out the bad yeast and bacteria that are trying to take over your gut. You can find probiotics in sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdough bread, and other types of foods, but it can be hard to get enough of them through diet alone. That’s why so many people turn to supplements that they either purchase online or at their local grocery or health food store. 


How They Help 
 
The main health benefits derived from taking probiotics involve the digestive system. For example, beneficial microbes can help relieve the pain and pressure of bloating due to gas, can improve the regularity of your bowel movements, and may also help to reduce some of the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.1,2 


There are several other health benefits associated with probiotics that have nothing to do with the gut. For example, the Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain has been shown to help promote the production of other beneficial strains, and, as a result, it may also help to strengthen the body’s immune system.3 

The Bifidobacterium lactis strain is also associated with boosting the immune system as well as lowering cholesterol.4 This strain, which is usually found in the lower portion of the gastrointestinal tract (the colon and intestines), not only aids in the absorption of minerals and vitamins, but also helps process and break down waste. 


Another important strain, Lactobacillus helveticus, has been scientifically shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the loss of bone, and increase calcium in the blood.5,6,7 The Lactobacillus acidophilus strain helps the body do a better job of fighting infections, and it may also help to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels.8,9 


How to Buy Probiotics 


The benefits of probiotics have been well documented, but it can still be incredibly confusing to ensure the supplement you’re buying will work. There are thousands of products available online and in stores, and trying to find the right one can seem overwhelming. But if you keep just a few things in mind while doing your research, you’ll find the decision-making process will be a great deal easier. 
For example, the labels on the different products you’re considering will give you vital clues regarding their quality. Be on the lookout for the following pieces of important information: 


·      The strains of beneficial microbes contained in the product – Check to make sure the products you are considering contain the following strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium longum. 
·      The viability of the microbes – There should be information on the label that will let you know whether or not there’s a good chance the bacteria in the product will be alive when you take them. For example, if the label reads something along the lines of “viable until expiration date,” the microbes should be alive and able to deliver on the manufacturer’s promise. If, on the other hand, the label reads “viable at time of manufacture,” that’s not a good sign – the microbes were likely alive when the product was made, but that doesn’t mean they’ll still be viable when you take them. 
·      The number of Colony Forming Units (CFUs) – The CFU number indicates the number of beneficial microbes in each serving. Look for products with CFUs between 10-30 billion. Some products claim to contain hundreds of millions of CFUs, but they are extremely expensive – and there is very little scientific proof that they are any more effective. 


While there is ample proof that probiotic products can deliver major health benefits, you should always talk to your doctor first to make sure you can safely take them. If you get the OK, take some time to research – that will help ensure you’ll be getting your money’s worth. 


Sources: 
1http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/09/25/natural-relief-from-digestive-gas.html 
2http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics 
3http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10713750 
4http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/775157 
5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16364832 
6http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmicb.2013.00030/full 
7https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-004-0441-y 
8https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/790.html 
9http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769158/ 



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