Did you eat your bacteria today? The lowdown on Probiotics.

Did you eat your bacteria today? The lowdown on Probiotics.

Most of the time, we try not to eat bacteria; but this is one type of “good” bacteria you’ll want to load up on- probiotics. What exactly are probiotics? They are a live organism which, when eaten, have many benefits to your overall health. They can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, special cheeses, cottage cheese, kefir (a yogurt like drink), buttermilk and soy sauce. Today, many foods have been supplemented with probiotics i.e. granola bars, cereal, dairy drinks, in addition to the many over-the-counter supplements available.

A diet high in sugar, meat, fat and alcohol, and low in fiber, may cause the “bad” bacteria in your gut to overmultiply and cause bloating, cramps and alternating constipation/diarrhea. High levels of stress and the use of oral contraceptives can also wreak havoc on your digestive system. Have you ever taken antibiotics and then suffered abdominal cramps/diarrhea? Are you lactose intolerant? Do you have irritable bowel disease? Do you suffer from a poor immune system? Ever had a nasty case of Montezuma’s Revenge? Do you have allergies? What about urinary tract or vaginal infections? We’ve all suffered from these maladies at one time or another and probiotics can help prevent and remedy these ailments.

There are up to 20 different strains of probiotics, how do you know which one to take? Some strains work for irritable bowel disease, while others only work for traveler’s diarrhea. See the list below, of all the funny and strange probiotic names that will help you determine which strain will work for you. A typical daily dose is 3-5 billion live organisms, most over-the-counter supplements and some yogurts will list the organism count and type of probiotic.

Antibiotic related stomach upset: Bifidobacterium regularis (this is what Align and Activa contain), Bifidobacterium lactis, Saccharomyces Boulardii (Florastor supplement), Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (Culturelle supplement), Bacillus coagulans (Digestive Advantage supplements).

Urinary and Vaginal infections: Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 (Fem-Dophilus supplements), Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1Immune System: Lactobacillus casei (DanActive dairy drink and Attune bars), Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium regularis

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Bifidobacterium infantis (Align supplement), Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium lactis (Good Belly fruit drink).

Food Allergies: Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus (can be found in most yogurts).

Traveler’s Diarrhea: Saccharomyces Boulardii

The challenges in using probiotics include: lack of standardization and guarantee of product, which can result in the product not containing what is stated on the label. The National Yogurt Association now has a seal that appears on food labels promising “Live Active Cultures”, this seal indicates that at the time of manufacturing, there were a minimum number of Lactobacillus bacteria. At this time, there are still a lot of questions regarding the use of probiotics including the dosage, frequency, form and whether the bacteria(s) act best alone or in conjunction with other bacteria. In the future, I think we will find that probiotics do a lot more fantastic things for our bodies than we previously thought. So for now, I recommend eating a good healthy dose of probiotics daily, it’s not harmful, inexpensive and it can only do great things for your body.