Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Benefits of Probiotics & How to Choose a Probiotic

The human digestive system relies on a series of beneficial microorganisms and digestive enzymes in order to properly digest and support the immune system. These human-friendly microbes are often referred to as beneficial bacteria or "probiotics" and are a critical component of healthy digestion. A growing body of scientific research supports regularly introducing live beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract in order to aid digestion, enhance the immune system, and prevent chronic illness. These tiny creatures aid in breaking down food matter and keep some harmful pathogens at bay.

One method for introducing these organisms is regularly ingesting foods fermented with beneficial bacteria, such as probiotic yogurt, kimchee and various fermented beverages. Many of these foods contain some variety, or strain, of beneficial microbes. They are normally from one or two different genus and, therefore, not very diverse in species makeup. Diverse species is important because one species or one genus of microbe only produces one set of metabolites. More metabolites (enzymes, vitamins, trace minerals, bacteriocins, etc.) mean more dietary and immune support. Metabolites are only produced during metabolic activity. So, if there is no activity, the metabolites are not being produced. Metabolic activity takes place during active fermentation and maturing.

We would like to make a note on yogurt. Most yogurts on the market are not fermented. The milk is often thickened with some type of acid (acetic acid, vinegar, citric acid, etc.) and are inoculated with freeze dried cultures at some point during the processing of the food and then refrigerated to keep the cultures from growing while in storage (no metabolic activity). This means the milk base is not properly pre-digested by the live microbes and you do not get all the benefits of the metabolites that would have been produced by the microbes during an actual fermentation process. There are some yogurts on the market that are fermented. Make sure they are clearly marked on the label. Kefir is another fermented milk product that uses multiple species of microbes and is fermented.

For many, however, these "fermented foods" are not readily available, inconvenient or not compatible with their dietary requirements. Some people may wish to use non-soy, non-dairy, or wheat-free probiotics. For these individuals, a more efficient and reliable solution would be finding the right probiotic supplement to fit their dietary needs. And, since many fermented foods are made with low diversity, getting all you need from food sources becomes very difficult.

Benefits of Probiotic Supplements

  • Allows you to efficiently deliver an appropriate amount of beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes to your digestive tract on a regular basis.
  • Improves digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Aids in the expulsion of toxins from the digestive system.
  • Shown to improve immunity and stave off certain illnesses.
  • Proven to be an effective treatment for chronic or intermittent diarrhea.
  • Treats several gastrointestinal conditions that have long mystified conventional medicine, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease.
  • Shown to alleviate allergies in children.
  • Helps to control the yeast that causes yeast infections (Candida albicans).
  • Believed to stave off and treat urinary infections in women.
  • Can be used to support long-term weight loss.

Choosing a Probiotic Supplement

In the US, probiotic products are currently classified and sold as dietary supplements, so they are not subject to the testing and approval process that pharmaceutical drugs would be. For this reason, it is critical that you select a probiotic supplement from a manufacturer like Dr. Higa’s EM Technology® that is respected by both the medical and scientific communities. Look for organizations are based out of first-world countries that culturally value probiotic treatment, such as Japan, Sweden or Norway.

Choose a probiotic supplement that uses raw, fermented beneficial bacteria that uses all-natural and certified organic ingredients. It should contain live (never freeze dried), non-genetically modified microorganisms. You can also find a probiotic that does not contain preservatives, animal products, dairy, wheat and/or soy. There are multiple beneficial bacteria strains, so look for a probiotic that utilizes groups of synergistic naturally-occurring microbes. Also, be sure to choose a probiotic cleanse that is gentle enough for daily use.

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