Surely by now you’ve all heard of probiotic supplements. For many years we’ve been hearing about how important it is to eat our yogurt as well as other fermented dairy products. But probiotic supplements were largely unheard of. Today, you can’t turn on the TV for more than 5 minutes without seeing the Phillips “Colon Health Lady” touting a seemingly endless list of probiotics benefits.
So how much of this information is legitimate, and how much of it is just hype? To understand the answer it is important that we understand the fundamentals of probiotic bacteria and how they work in the human body.
The Healthy Bacteria
At the present time it is thought that over 10,000 different species of bacteria inhabit the human digestive tract. These bacteria make up a significant portion of the weight of human stool. While most of these species are harmless, many have proven to be extremely beneficial.
The first of these bacteria to be discovered was lactobacillus acidophilus. It was first identified in the late 19th century, and was proven in the early 20th century to posses many benefits including increased immunity, increased tolerance of lactose, and relief from mild to moderate digestive distress.
But in modern times, many more species of bacteria have been discovered and researched. There are too many to be mentioned here. But they confirm the research done over a century ago, and several other health benefits are being studied as well.
- Enhanced immune function
- Increased absorption of vitamins and minerals
- Increases tolerance to lactose
- Better digestive function
- A natural deterrent to Candida and other harmful organisms such as C. diff
Probiotic bacteria is currently being studied for the treatment of many other conditions such as diabetes, allergies, and high cholesterol. While this research is in it’s infancy, there are some clear and consistent indications that probiotics may be beneficial for these conditions.
Probiotics Side Effects
Probiotics side effects are usually not severe and could include gas, rash, headache, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. There is also the possibility of a life threatening allergic reaction. But this is just as likely to occur from filler ingredients as with the actual live bugs themselves. People with allergies should pay careful attention to the ingredients and allergy warnings supplied on the packaging.
Sources of Probiotics
Probiotics can come from 2 main sources – a supplement or food. Food sources of probiotics come in many different forms which include live culture yogurt, enriched cheeses, probiotic drinks, and all other manner of delivery systems. You can also stick to the tried and true favorites such yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, and cream cheese. There are also some excellent non-dairy sources of natural probiotic bacteria such as raw sauerkraut, soy bean curd, and raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (with mother).
A probiotic supplement can be a good source for somebody who is worried about getting a larger quantity or larger variety of these live bugs. There are other advantages as well. Many of these quality probiotic supplements are protected from stomach acid so that they release in the intestines. There is also some speculation that the probiotic bacteria is in a better environment and will stay alive longer than in for example a yogurt of liquid source.
So in this article I have done my best to give you an idea of the benefits and some possible downfalls of probiotics. You might be wondering which is the best source for you to get your live probiotic bacteria. The answer as to which is best depends on what you believe to be the best for you.
If you like to eat your yogurt everyday, then a food source may be best. If like me you’re on the run and busy, a supplement may be a better choice. Just take an honest look at yourself and decide what is best for you. Good luck my friends…To your health!