Probiotics: Bacteria for Life

Friday December 18, 2015

If you’ve eaten any yogurt lately or darkened the doors of a health food store, you’ve probably heard of acidophilus (Lactobacillus acidophilus). Most consumers even check dairy labels for it, but many don’t really know exactly what it is. Acidophilus is a bacteria that is naturally found in the human intestinal tract and is part of a bacterial group known as probiotics (substances that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines).  Our bodies require a certain quantity of probiotics for the digestion of food and the suppression of undesirable bacteria. Many alternative health researchers believe that our ingestion of processed foods, alcoholic beverages, antibiotics and some other prescription drugs. Antibiotics kill all of our "good" bacteria as well as the bad so dramatically that supplementation is a necessity.

The reported benefits of probiotic supplements include the reduction of intestinal gas, cholesterol control, control candidasis, improved lactose digestion, allergy reduction and the elimination of constipation, diarrhoea and acne.  Because probiotics like acidophilus helps the body to digest foods more thoroughly, most individuals find that probiotics boost energy levels and balance body weight as well. The wide-ranging and lasting benefits that these “good” bacteria provide make them an ideal companion for a daily multivitamin, mineral supplement and daily fiber.

Sour foods like cultured buttermilk and yogurt were the original source of probiotics, but the majority of these commercially manufactured products no longer contain high enough levels of living bacteria because they are pasturized. The best way to realize therapeutic benefit from bacteria is to purchase a probiotic supplement. One capsule of New Roots Acidophilus Ultra, for example, provides the same quantity of probiotics as 18 servings of a 50 billion strength yogurt (more yogurt than an individual could possibly eat on a daily basis).

Several supplement manufacturers combine groups of probiotics (up to 10 in some products). Each probiotic strain in the formula has individual characteristics and a specific action within the intestine. They also offer different health benefits that include protein digestion, vitamin synthesis, the lowering of serum cholesterol and the dissolution of bile salts. Manufacturers that include a larger variety of strains aim to provide their customers of any age with the best benefits that probiotic can offer.

Some experts suggest that the best quality supplements have an enteric coating so that the bacteria are protected from stomach acid and can move undamaged into the intestinal tract. Look for a product that guarantees a minimum number of live bacteria per dosage and displays a clear expiration date.  Most probiotics are measured in billions per gram, but range in potency from 2.5million per capsule to 9 billion! Speak with a naturopath if you are unsure which potency meets your needs. 

Consult your natural health practitioner if you have any outstanding medical conditions, prescription or concerns before taking probiotics.