Some General Info About Probiotics

Probiotic supplements have become relatively popular in recent years and I find that I continue to run into people with questions about them.  In my opinion, I find the science behind probiotics to make a lot of sense and I can absolutely see the health benefits behind them.  At the same time, if you’re going to consider taking them, you should know the reasons for supplementing in the first place.  Here’s a short explanation of the benefits of probiotics.

You probably already know that there are a lot of bacteria in your intestines.  Though there are some bacteria that are potentially harmful, a large majority are healthy bacterial strains such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.  These strains of bacteria are necessary for healthy digestion as the bacteria help break down food in order for nutrients to be absorbed through the intestinal wall. Without this help, human digestion wouldn’t be nearly as efficient.  In addition to aiding in digestion, healthy bacterial flora will also produce B vitamins!  Here you have two benefits already, more vitamins and better digestion.

A very important benefit to healthy bacterial is protection.  There is a constant battle between good and bad bacteria in the intestines as they are both constantly growing with only so much space to expand.  Fortunately, in most people the good bacteria wins and keeps the bad bacteria in check.  However, in cases of disease or many specific bowel issues, the bad bacteria can take over. Suddenly, there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria inside of you producing toxins.  This is absolutely a situation you want to avoid.  Think of taking a probiotic as sending reinforcements into the fight.

In addition to protection from bad bacteria, healthy bacteria also form a protective layer for the intestinal lining.  Did you know that 50-70% of you immune system is located within your intestines?  This is because the food moving through your intestinal tract is potentially harmful and so the intestines are a first line of defense.  However, over time the intestines can become damaged and micro-tears can develop.  Luckily, as these tears occur, the healthy bacteria produce a patchwork that allows for a safety layer to protect the damaged tissue.  As a result, the intestinal lining is allowed to heal and no further damage may occur. There have been recent theories behind this process and a possible connection with autoimmune disease.  As so much of the immune system is located within the gut, there may be a link between an overreaction of immune function and intestinal damage. Though more research does need to take place, the preliminary philosophy does hold water.

One last point to mention antibiotic medications.  When taking an antibiotic, there is a danger in developing an intestinal infection as a side effect.  This is because the antibiotic in use will kill every bacteria in the body, even that good bacteria in your gut.  As your healthy bacteria die off, space develops for the bad bacteria to fill in and this can lead to bigger issues.  Therefore, if you are on antibiotic therapy, supplementing with a probiotic should be your first priority.

If you do decide to supplement with a probiotic, look for a product that sells a quantity of colony units in the billions.  For example, the product that I recommend contains 15 billion units.  And don’t be fooled by yogurt.  Though they claim to have probiotic qualities, the numbers are much too low to make any difference.

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