The Importance of Probiotics

by Sue Taggart

Probiotics have been all over the media the past year or so. Dannon, the makers of Activia have spent millions of dollars convincing us via their TV ads featuring Jamie-Lee Curtis that a tiny carton of Activia can take care of all our digestive ills. Now, an expensive lawsuit with the FTC has made them adjust their claims and be more truthful in their labeling. In fact, three cartons of Activia a day are necessary to have any effect at all according to their own data. Not everyone wants to eat that amount of yogurt every day. Probiotics are not an exact science, so it’s no wonder the average consumer is confused. But, the right kind of probiotic product with the right level of CFUs (colony forming units) can be very beneficial to your digestive system and overall immune health.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can help improve your health.  You can find them yogurts, nutrition bars, cereals, beverages and special supplements. Because you need a certain level of CFUs for a probiotic to be effective, the best way to achieve this is usually with a probiotic supplement.

What makes a probiotic effective?

An effective probiotic supplement will have at least 1-5 billion CFUs in each serving. If a supplement does not list the quantity of each strain per dosage, you may wind up getting bacteria, but not in large enough numbers to actually make a difference. Also, it’s best to look for products with proven clinical research on both the product and the strains used. Some of the most researched and effective strains for most health issues include L. acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, S. thermophilus, L. rhamnosus and B. coagulans. There are various types of probiotic supplements available, some need to be refrigerated, others don’t. Make sure to choose a probiotic that best fits your lifestyle.

Who should take probiotics?

Anyone wanting to improve his or her digestive health and function should take probiotics. Antibiotics and stress can disrupt the balance of helpful mircoflora in the gut. Taking probiotics can help restore the balance. Probiotics are especially helpful when traveling; many unfortunate tummy troubles can be avoided by taking probiotics several weeks before you travel as well as during and after your trip. A non-refrigerated chewable probiotic is a perfect travel companion!

What will happen when you begin to take probiotics?

Results will vary for each person, but people have reported some general effects. Also, you may notice a temporary increase in gas or bloating that will decrease as the body gets used to the new balance of healthy bacteria. As the proper balance is restored, people mention improvements related to regular bowel movements, a lessening of food allergies and healthier looking skin. Often, people take an effective probiotic supplement and their digestive issues clear up. It’s not until they stop taking them that they realize how effective they really are.


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