Probiotics are live microorganisms present in our bodies that keep our digestive systems healthy. These friendly bacteria help digest food, destroy harmful pathogen and promote nutrient absorption within the digestive tract.
Some good bacteria is found in fermented foods like tempeh, kimchi and sauerkraut, but people who are serious about gut health can also take probiotics in supplement form. These come in a powder, capsules or tablets; and is a concentrated dose with better therapeutic effects.
There are many types of probiotics on the market that come in different forms, varying doses and contain different strains of bacteria. What should you be looking out for when choosing which probiotic to consume?
There should be at least three strains of bacteria
Your colon contains billions of bacteria from over 500 different species. Due to these high figures, it’s hard to identify which exact strain is needed for general digestion support. Therefore, it’s advisable to take a probiotic supplement with at least three strains of bacteria to target different disorders. Research has shown that some strains are more effective than others for treating specific conditions, so check that specific bacteria are present in the formula for the best results.
There are two main types of bacteria - Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
- L. acidophilus – This is the most widely recognised probiotics that has been consumed since the 1920s when doctors would recommend acidophilus milk to treat constipation and diarrhea. Supports nutrient absorption and helps with the digestion of dairy foods.
- L. Rhamnosus – Thought to be the most extensively studied in adults and children, strong evidence shows that it colonises the intestine. This bacteria supports various digestive disorders. There is evidence showing that this bacteria can potentially prevent and treat eczema.
- L. Plantarum – In the gastrointestinal tract L. Plantarum can help regulate immunity and control inflammation. A 2007 study found that this probiotic could suppress inflammatory responses in the gut and control digestive symptoms like bloating.
- L. Casei – Studies show promising results for digestive support, regulating diarrhea and even decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Bifidobacterium are present in the intestines as lactic acid bacteria, and are also found in fermented foods.
- B. longum – One of the first types of bacteria to colonise our bodies at birth and is a particularly active scavenger of toxins.
- B. bifidum – Time, stress and poor diet can significantly deplete the body’s supply of B.bifidum. This strain is critical for the healthy digestion of dairy products, and is especially important as you grow older and your natural ability to digest dairy decreases. B. bifidum also breaks down complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently.
Consume the right amount of Colony Forming Units (CFUs)
Probiotics are measured in Colony Forming Units (CFUs), which is based on the amount of bacteria in each dose. It’s important to consume the correct amount and most doses contain between 1 and 10 billion CFUs taken once or twice daily. Generally the higher doses have been found to produce better results, and in my opinion it’s advisable to take at least 5 billion for the following reasons:
- Insufficient CFUs can lead to not getting the full benefits of the probiotic
- Be aware that the amount of CFUs may decrease as the product gets older. Probiotic supplements contain live strains of the bacteria that are guaranteed at the time of use, not at the time of manufacture so you may not be getting the exact amount of CFUs by the time you buy it