Probiotics are beneficial, friendly bacteria that reside in our intestinal tract. There are approximately 500 different strains of these bacteria. In fact, there are several times more bacteria in our intestinal tract than there are cells in our entire body. In all, there are three to four pounds of bacteria growing in our intestinal tract daily. Probiotic bacteria, the “for life bacteria”, are essential for healthy living and they are the core of our total wellness.
Lactobacillus bacteria are the primary bacterial strain living in our small intestine, while the Bifidobacterium are the main bacteria in residence in our large intestine. Whatever the appropriate strain, gut bacteria and probiotics perform many important functions inside our bodies besides digestive health. Probiotics and bacteria are an essential part of our immune system and work to increase the production of immune cells in the intestinal tract. It has been stated that 70% of our immune system and immune function lies within the gut. The gut flora also serves another function by helping to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Probiotics have been shown to assist in helping to lower cholesterol. We would expect that the major role of gut flora would be to assist in the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients, such as calcium and other minerals. But researchers are also finding a role for bacterial flora in depression, autism, cognitive diseases, and even weight loss.
A healthy bacterial flora is essential for good health. However, there are several ways in which the population of these friendly, essential bacteria can be diminished. Taking an antibiotic will eliminate good, friendly bacteria, as well as the bacteria causing an infection. Intestinal bacterial flora can be thrown into a state of imbalance by extended periods of stress, drinking chlorinated water, and prolonged episodes of diarrhea. In this last situation, a yeast product, Saccharomyces Boulardi has been found to be invaluable in rebalancing gut flora and promoting intestinal health.
Probiotics have been shown to be helpful for a wide range of health issues including:
- Using probiotics while on antibiotics to reduce diarrhea and prevent yeast infections
- Relieving diarrhea with probiotics and/or Saccharomyces Boulardi to help re-establish normal gut flora
- Using probiotics to improve digestion and minimize acid reflux
- Using probiotics to manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Enhancing the recovery of compromised immune systems with probiotics
With all of the many probiotic formulas in the market, how does one choose? We normally look at the strength of the probiotic, listed as Colony Forming Units (CFUs) and the number of bacterial species featured in the product. Probiotics Daily Support with 5 billion CFUs is a good daily supplement for anyone with an existing healthy gut flora or for children. Individuals with a compromised gut flora, or individuals who are having gut issues that would be benefited by re-establishing gut flora, should consider Probiotic Mega Blend DF with 15 billion CFUs, or Extra Strength Probiotic with 35 billion CFUs, or finally, Probiotic Extra Strength DF with 52 billion CFUs per capsule. Keep in mind that Fructooligosaccharide Powder or FOS Powder, when given with any probiotic, will significantly enhance the growth and proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria.