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Why You Need a Probiotic Supplement and What to Look For

Cup of yogurt

Taking a probiotic supplement offers many health benefits such as improved digestion, immunity and elimination. Below are some of the benefits I have found in my research:

Digestion – Probiotics produce enzymes such as protease, lipase, and lactase to further assist with protein and fat digestion as well as reduce problems associated with lactose intolerance. Probiotics also produce B vitamins, particularly folic acid and B12, which are biocatalysts in food digestion.

Immunity – Intestinal microbes are a key factor in the development of the post-natal immune system and in acquired immune response and inflammation. Probiotics produce the natural antibiotic-like substance acidophilin and inhibit the growth of opportunistic microorganisms.

Elimination – Probiotics act as natural stool softeners and facilitate the healthy and timely elimination of waste.

Here’s what to look for when selecting a probiotic:

The best general-purpose probiotic supplements combine several species of beneficial bacteria with a competitive yeast strain. Look for supplements that contain bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species such as L. acidophilus in the billions. The number of colony-forming units (CFU’s) your probiotic should contain is 25+ billion species.

Look for inclusion of a prebiotic, such as FOS or inulin. We prefer inulin because it may have a less “sugary” effect on women who are prone to yeast infections. For those with more serious digestive issues, start with a probiotic that doesn’t include prebiotics or yeast.

If there are no prebiotics included, you may wish to select an enteric-coated probiotic, as this enhances its ability to pass through the acidic environment of the stomach and small bowel to dissolve in the large intestines. (Many species of lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and streptococci reportedly survive this passage intact, however.)

To ensure product purity, safety and quality, look for a supplement made in a GMP-compliant facility that is certified by the NSF. These acronyms should also appear on the packaging.

Ideally, we’d be getting all the prebiotics and probiotics we need from our diet, but this is not always possible.

What are Prebiotics?

Certain foods are rich in fiber molecules called prebiotics, factors which nourish friendly GI flora and set the stage for probiotic survival. Prebiotics help probiotics survive passage through the acidity of the stomach and small intestine, and foster their growth in the intestines and colon.

These are natural sugar molecules found primarily in all kinds of plant foods (bananas, artichoke, chicory root, burdock, onions, leeks, fruit, soybeans, sweet potatoes, asparagus, green tea); but also honey and cultured foods (kefir, cottage cheese, sauer kraut, yogurt).