What are Probiotics?
You are aware that bacteria surround you on a daily basis. Your body is even made up of ninety percent bacteria cells and only ten percent human cells. However, there is no need to worry; many of these bacteria are beneficial to you and are necessary for your optimal health.
At any given time, you have around 160 bacterial species (types) in your gut out of over 1000 species of bacteria identified in the guts of over 100 individuals. The digestive tract is one of the most complex eco systems to understand and study. The individualized bacteria composition found in each body play a vital role in keeping us healthy. Therefore reinforcing the numbers of the beneficial bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria becomes an essential daily health objective. The largest groups of probiotic bacteria found in our body are bifidobacteria and the second group is lactobacilli. The lactic acid bacteria found in yogurt make milk into yogurt thereby elevating its status into a functional food. It is not the most effective source of probiotic bacteria because the yogurt makers do not guarantee the potency of each strain of probiotic beneficial bacteria. Scientific criteria mandate that you know the strain and the potency of each serving of a probiotic product in order to anticipate a health benefit.
The idea of beneficial bacteria to preserve foods has been around for centuries. Even the ancient Sumerians painted about the use of fermented cheese in 2500 B.C. However, the idea of beneficial bacteria aiding us in life wasn’t created until the early 1900s when Dr. Elie Metchnikoff traveled to Eastern Europe. He was surprised to find many people living to be 100 years of age or older and concluded that this was due to the large quantities of yogurt they consumed.
Metchnikoff investigated the benefits of lactic acid bacteria, which flourish in milk. He found that many disease-producing organisms died or could not develop in milk containing these powerful bacteria. This, along with his other research on the immune system, led Metchnikoff to connect lactic acid bacteria to improved immune function, which relates to optimal health and vitality.
Probiotics, according to the World Health Organization, are “live organisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics literally mean “for life” and are coming to the forefront of medicine as beneficial bacteria supplements to help restore our vital microflora.
But consumers need to be wary; not all probiotics are created equal. Just how can you tell if a probiotic will beneficial to your health? First, you need to know if the strain is beneficial for you. Within each family, or genus, of bacteria, there are many species and each of those species has hundreds of strains. Lactobacillus is the family (genus), acidophilus is the species, and NAS or DDS-1 are strains.
Not all strains provide health benefits. This is why you must rely on a reputable probiotics manufacturer to research and formulate its probiotics with the best and most beneficial bacteria available.
The following tips are the most important things you need to look for when purchasing a probiotic supplement:
Look for the International Good Manufacturing Practice certification (cGMP), which will ensure that you are receiving the highest quality probiotic that meets unequaled standards. This also guarantees that the product has been tested for potency and safety in all stages from the culturing of the bacteria through the printed expiration date. You must also look for a potency guarantee for each strain listed on the bottle label through the printed expiration date. The listing must include the strain, not just the genus and species. Without the strain listed, you may be getting a worthless bacteria. Probiotics must be stored and shipped refrigerated for the bacteria to live. Several probiotic companies claim that they have shelf-stable products but these have never been proven effective. Purchase only a probiotic with its supernatant (culturing medium). This provides nourishment for the probiotic and has been found to increase the benefits of the probiotic by up to 50 percent. The packaging is an important way to keep the bacteria protected. Dark glass bottles and tin lids protect the probiotics from the damaging effects of light and moisture.