3 things to know before buying probiotics
Did you know that much of your immune system is actually within your GI tract? That’s why it’s so important to keep your intestinal system healthy to help you stay healthy and fight off colds, flu and even cancer.
Within your intestinal system, there’s a mixture of good bacteria and bad bacteria. In fact, scientists estimate there are three pounds of microbes inside the human digestive system — some 40 trillion organisms.
And it’s a delicate balance. When there’s more good bacteria than bad, things go well. When the bad bacteria have the upper hand, that’s when you can get not only gas, diarrhea or constipation — but your ability to fight off diseases may decrease, too.
So how can you ensure you keep the right gut balance? Some studies suggest taking probiotics helps digestive health. Some evidence, though, shows probiotics may not be beneficial for healthy people. Probiotics are live beneficial microbials, and come in all kinds of forms, from capsules to tablets and even added into foods.
If you decide to take a probiotic, how do you pick the right one? Dr. Jeffrey Katt, an internal medicine physician who works at Aurora Health Care, advises to look for these three things if you’re buying a probiotic supplement:
- Look for products that contain a specific strain: Not all strains are alike. Simply listing Lactobacillus acidophilus on the label may not be good enough, but listing a strain designation like Lactobacillus acidophilus 123 can help you find more solid information to help in your buying decision.
- Be sure there’s research: Check online for studies that have been done on the specific microbial strain.
- Look at the count: Check the label for the number of live organisms you’re getting when you use the probiotic before it expires, not just at the time of manufacturing. Because the organisms are live, the live count – or Colony Forming Units (CFUs) – can go down quickly if the manufacturer doesn’t use good stabilizing techniques.
There are also fermented foods that naturally contain good bacteria. Consider adding these powerhouses to your diet:
- Sauerkraut (the unpasteurized kind)
- Tempeh (fermented soybean product)
- Acidophilus milk
- Gouda, mozzarella and cheddar cheese
About the Author
Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.