Probiotics 101 with Dr. Sara Celik

Monday September 19, 2016

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Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard of probiotics. While it may seem that they are “on-trend” right now, the truth is that probiotics have been around for over 100 years. There are over 500 types of bacteria in the digestive system; some are good and some are bad. Taking probiotics (“good” bacteria) helps to keep the gut balanced and improve our health in many ways.

Just like we all have a unique set of fingerprints, we all have a unique bacterial make up in our body. The bacterium that is established in your intestinal tract within the first two years of life is what you will have into adulthood. This microbial “fingerprint” may dictate the difference between someone who has strong digestive health and someone who does not.

What do these bacteria do? 

  • Synthesize vitamins such as thiamine (B1), folic acid (B9), pyridoxine (B6) and vitamin K.
  • Produce digestive enzymes and aid in the absorption of calcium, magnesium and iron.
  • Improve the strength and function of the lining of our colon. This mucosal barrier helps to prevent harmful organisms and toxins in the intestinal tract from passing into the bloodstream.
  • Help to control inflammation in the body.
  • Stimulate and support the immune system.
  • Maintain regularity and health of the bowel.

Many things can upset the balance of good bacteria in our bodies such as certain medications (birth control pills, steroids and anti-biotics to name a few), stress, hormonal changes, poor diet and nutrient deficiencies. Thankfully, taking a probiotic supplement can help!

One of the most common questions I encounter is “My whole family eats yogurt daily. Is that enough?” and it is a great question. Many yogurt companies have very cleverly marketed yogurt for your gut but not all yogurt is created equal! Bacteria are negatively affected by heat and exposure to other ingredients such as flavors and sugars so a lot of products have no active bacteria at all. On the other hand, probiotic supplements contain high doses of multiple strains of bacteria and clearly list the specific strains on the label and are guaranteed until date of expiry.

With so many probiotic supplements on the market, finding one that is right for you can be confusing. Here are 3 things to look for when choosing a probiotic supplement:

1. Look for high culture count. 
The culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacterial cultures in a single serving.  With the state of our diets, most people would benefit from a probiotic that delivers 50 billion beneficial bacteria in every dose.

2. Check out the number of strains.
You want to choose a multiple strain probiotic that include strains that begin with L’s and B’s, like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. 

3. Make sure the probiotic capsule is enteric coated.  
Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to be effective.  Probiotics with an enteric coating remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the small intestine where they are needed most.

If you are like many Canadians, you support your health by taking a daily multivitamin. Consider adding a daily probiotic to your regime and you will be amazed at the difference you will feel. Your gut will thank you!

Dr. Sara Celik is a Naturopathic Doctor and Homeopathic Master Clinician with over 15 years of experience. With her extensive clinical and educational background, she is a sought-after national authority on natural health.


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