What are the Best Probiotic Supplements to Improve Your Health?
Which probiotics should I take?
The incredible complexity of the gut and its importance to our overall health is a topic of increasing medical research. In the last twenty years, many studies have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer. Therefore, when considering what the best probiotics are or which one to take, it is first important to determine whether a probiotic supplement is needed for your specific health needs in consultation with your health care provider.
Definition – Probiotics
Before deciding on which probiotic to take, a definition first. Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, will benefit health. Probiotics occur naturally in the intestinal tract and certain foods. These beneficial bacteria, or gut microbiome, participate in various critical bodily processes, like vitamin production, mood regulation, digestion and immune function. In addition, probiotics can be taken in supplement form to boost depleted levels of the natural microbes.
Probiotics should not be confused with Prebiotics.
The latter is food (typically high fibre foods) that act as food for the above-mentioned natural microflora in the intestinal tract.
When should probiotics be taken?
The incredible complexity of the gut and its importance to our overall health is a topic of increasing medical research. In the last twenty years, many studies have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer.
Although medical research into the efficacy of probiotics is ongoing, the following symptoms may indicate a lack, or unbalance, of the natural gut microbiome. Taking the best probiotic suited to the specific condition may help clear it up or lessen its intensity.
- Stomach disturbances like diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and heartburn
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Yeast infections
- Gum disease
- Food intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Urinary tract infections
- Skin conditions like eczema
- Autoimmune conditions
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Unintentional weight changes
- Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
Here is another great article from the DHC Team
Which probiotics are best?
Probiotics in supplement form can contain high doses of a single or multiple probiotic strain. The specific health concern will determine which probiotic is best.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most used in probiotic supplements among all species of probiotics. These species are also the dominant strains in the human intestinal tract.
The following list highlights some of the best probiotic strains found in supplements and their specific benefits:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – Lactobacillus acidophilus balances potentially harmful bacteria that can otherwise grow in your gut due to illness or antibiotics.
- Lactobacillus fermentum – Lactobacillus fermentum strengthens your immune system and prevents gastrointestinal and upper respiratory infections.
- Lactobacillus casei/paracasei – Lactobacillus casei/paracasei can ease inflammatory bowel disease – a common disorder that causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation).
- Lactobacillus plantarum – Lactobacillus plantarum stimulates your digestive system, fights disease-causing bacteria, and helps your body produce vitamins.
- Lactobacillus reuteri – Lactobacillus reuteri supports heart health by balancing cholesterol levels. It also reduces ulcer-causing bacteria and supports female urinary tract and vaginal health.
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus – A common bacteria used in the production of yogurt. It supports good digestion, prevents diarrhea, and helps relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus – This bacteria is naturally found in your gut, although you can eat foods or take supplements to increase its benefits. It helps relieve IBS symptoms, treats diarrhea, strengthens your gut health, and protects against cavities.
- Bifidobacterium longum ssp. longum – This strain of bacteria can help prevent inflammation and provide some protection from colon cancer, intestinal infections, inflammatory bowel diseases, and even depression.
- Bifidobacterium longum ssp. Infantis – This strain of bacteria is commonly used to treat bowel problems, eczema, vaginal yeast infections, lactose intolerance, and urinary tract infections.
- Bifidobacterium bifidum – Bifidobacterium bifidum can help manage your digestive system, improve IBS, and boost your immune system.
- Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis – This strain of bacteria helps prevent infection. It also produces vitamins and other essential chemicals in your body.
Other strains like Bacillus Indicus, Bacillus Coagulans, Bacillus Clausii and Bacillus Subtlis are also in use.
Just Thrive has a specific strain of probiotic, Bacillus Indicus HU36™. Their Probiotic is the only retail-available probiotic that’s both a “Probiotic & Antioxidant.”
Check out their range of supplements – HERE
What probiotic should I take?
It is essential to speak to your health care advisor to determine whether a probiotic will alleviate the specific health concerns you have. Following are a few factors to consider when deciding what probiotic to take.
- Brand – Manufacturing processes, the shelf life, and the formulation type can significantly affect a probiotic supplement’s effectiveness. As such, purchasing probiotics from established manufacturers is essential.
- Probiotic strains – Probiotics are not one-size-fits-all remedies, and certain probiotic strains are much more effective for specific medical conditions and symptoms than others. Look for supplements with specific strains based on the advice of your health care professional.
- Intended use – The effectiveness of probiotic supplements is not only strain-specific but also disease-specific, meaning the correct strain and dose must be appropriate for the condition or symptom intended to be treated.
- CFUs – The product quality matters. Probiotics are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs). These units represent the number of viable bacteria per dose. It’s important to look for probiotics that contain at least 106 (1 million) CFUs per gram, as research suggests that this is the minimum amount needed to exert positive effects in the body.
- Storage requirements – Some probiotics require refrigeration. Check the product label for proper storage instructions. In general, probiotics are sensitive to heat. Thus, if they don’t require refrigeration, you’ll want to store them in a cool, dry area
The influence stomach acid has on probiotics.
The stomach’s acidic environment plays a vital role in the body’s digestion process. Stomach acid helps break down carbohydrates and proteins and kills germs that enter the body through the mouth.
The pH value of the stomach is between 1.7 to 2.0. The pH value increases and turns alkaline throughout the small intestine, up to a pH of 7.0 in some parts of the large intestine. Most of the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system live in the small and large intestines because they need a higher pH value to survive and thrive. Thriving armies of gut-friendly bacteria are required to strengthen the immune system and aid digestion.
To get the most benefit from the best probiotic you can buy, choosing a brand resistant to stomach acid is imperative.
The quality of the probiotic supplement is one of the most important factors to consider. High-quality probiotic supplement manufacturers prioritise gastric acid resistance and survivability when formulating the probiotic.
Many probiotic bacteria are freeze-dried and then filled into capsules. Freeze-drying is an excellent mechanism for preserving probiotic bacteria. However, the challenge is that freeze-dried bacteria will soak up any liquid they meet to rehydrate and re-awaken themselves. If stomach acid is the first liquid they encounter, many probiotic bacteria die due to the high exposure to stomach acid. The relatively few bacteria surviving the stomach acid will not be enough to help cure the ailment for which it is taken.
Prolonged exposure to the acidic environment in the stomach can kill the beneficial bacteria, which is why timing probiotic use is so important.
Check out acid-proof probiotic supplements from JUST THRIVE!
When to take probiotics?
The ideal time to take probiotics is before bed because the gut is relatively inactive at night. Suppose you ingest a probiotic at night when your bowel isn’t moving. In that case, there’s a better chance of prolonging the bacteria’s time in the digestive tract, giving them time to divide and potentially get integrated into your gut.
For this, it is recommended to take probiotics on an empty stomach so the probiotic bacteria can move through the stomach as fast as possible. However, when probiotics are taken with food, or less than 30 minutes before a meal, high levels of acid in the stomach, triggered in response to the food being eaten, will kill the probiotic bacteria.
To answer the questions: What are the best probiotics? And; Which probiotics should I take?
The sensible takeaway is the one best suited to specific needs after careful personal research and discussion with or recommendation by your dedicated, trusted health care provider. It is always advisable to get the best within the available budget when taking supplements. Choose a probiotic that fits your health needs – each probiotic strain performs different functions. Furthermore, probiotics work better in teams, so if strains are combined effectively, they can achieve additional benefits. Next, choose a probiotic supplement tailored to your specific health needs, substantiated by clinical studies using the final product. This will ensure that you buy a product whose effects have been studied.
Sometimes it takes a while to find a probiotic that is right for you. If you don’t experience any benefits from using one product after a few weeks, try something different after discussing it with your health care provider. Different probiotic products will carry different strains of bacteria, and they’ll interact with your body differently. It’s about finding what’s best for you.
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