Allison is a nutritional scientist and one of the most enthusiastic Canadian educators of nutrition and food. She is the author of four books including The 100 Healthiest Foods to Eat During Pregnancy (Fairwinds 2009), Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles (Fairwinds 2009) and Probiotic Rescue (Wiley 2008).
How To Get Probiotics On Your Side
Did you know there are tiny, little microbes crawling all over you? Don’t be grossed out – most of these microbes are keeping you healthy. Helpful microbes are called probiotics. They help your immune system, keep your digestive tract healthy, fight heart disease and much more.
At this very moment, there are over 400 different types of microbes (e.g. bacteria, yeast) living in your intestines – each one fighting to colonize and survive. Some of these microbes are harmful, like E. coli and Salmonella. However, in your body, the majority of the microbes (well, hopefully the majority) are beneficial.
Far Reaching Effects
There are thousands of research papers on probiotics describing their extensive health benefits in the body: regulating your immune system; influencing mood, appetite and weight; fighting off bad microbes that cause heartburn/ulcers, diarrhea and yeast infections; preventing cancer, metabolic syndrome and thyroid disease. The far reaching effects of microbes on your body shouldn’t be surprising since they do out populate our own cells by about ten to one. However, if the bad microbes outnumber the probiotics in your body, dysbiosis has occurred, and with it comes a wide array of problems from bloating, to an overactive immune system, weight gain and worse.
Top 5 Reasons to Take a Probiotic
- Less Bloating and better digestion
- Improved immune response (including preventing colds and flus)
- May help with weight management
- Reduces toxin load (reducing headaches, acne, cancer-risk)
- Anti-inflammatory (joint, ulcers, Crohn’s disease)
What can you do to ensure the microbe populations in your body are made up of healthy and beneficial microbes, versus those that cause disruption, disease and steal nutrients? You can supplement with probiotics. Researchers have been isolating and investigating probiotics to find the most helpful strains, and packaging them into effective dosages and combinations to promote wellness. There are lots of probiotic supplements to choose from. Here are some tips on what to look for in a good everyday probiotic.
Getting Full Coverage
When walking down the aisles of your local health food store, you’ll notice the two most common families of probiotics used in food products are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Lactobacilli bacteria live all over the body, but Bifidobacteria inhabit the lower intestine; hence, the saying “B is for bottom”. A good everyday probiotic supplement will include probiotic species from both the ‘L.’ and ‘B.’ families, ensuring your gut has full probiotic coverage.
Sorting Through Species and Strains
Each family of probiotics has a number of species (e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bifidus). It is important to realize that each species has its own health benefits. As such, a good everyday probiotic supplement will include a combination of a number of species, ensuring your body is getting a wide range of probiotic health benefits. A probiotic’s strain is indicated by a letter-number combination listed after the species name (e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus HA-122). The strain is not terribly important to the everyday probiotic user. It is important however, if you are trying to match what was used in a particular research study because each strain has unique benefits.
Animal, Human or Dairy
Scientists have been conducting research on probiotics found in varying places: farm animals, dairy products and humans. All probiotics have health benefits. However, probiotics that scientists have isolated from humans (called human strain) are thought to offer the added benefit of a proven history of being capable of inhabiting humans; in other words they are more likely to ‘set-up camp’ in your body.
Microbes are living in and on your body, drastically affecting your mood, health and body shape. Are they working for you, or against you? Make sure the good microbes are on your side – add a probiotic supplement to your daily routine and enjoy health.
Some Benefits of Probiotics According to Clinical Trials
• Rebalances gut microflora
• Fights potential pathogens (bad microbes)
• Treats some types of diarrhea
• Relieves symptoms of IBS and IBD
• Improves lactose intolerance
• Prevents colon cancer
• Helps immune function
• Fights H. pylori (bacteria causing ulcers)
• May enhance calcium absorption
• May reduce blood cholesterol
It’s All About Numbers
When it comes to probiotics, the more the merrier. You want a probiotic supplement to offer you a high number of probiotics. Colony forming units (CFU) is a measurement of how many probiotics are available in a supplement. According to current research, the CFU of a probiotic supplement must, at minimum, be one million for sufficient colonization in the intestine to occur. However, scientists are finding that larger dosages (up to 100 billion CFUs) are helpful in serious cases of dysbiosis (lack of healthy microbes), such as with inflammation-based gut disorders. When purchasing an everyday probiotic, something in between these dosages would be what you’re looking for. For example, a probiotic supplement with dosages around 30 billion CFUs would be effective and affordable.
Who and When
Who can benefit from taking probiotics? Everyone. In children, sufficient probiotic levels in the digestive tract can ward off diarrhea and the common cold. For adults, a probiotic supplement can help counteract the natural decline of Bifidobacteria in the colon that coincides with an increase in cancer incidences and immune deficiencies. When should you take a supplement? A probiotic should be taken with food. Researchers have found that the pH of the stomach when food is present is more ideal for probiotics.
Progressive HCP®30 and HCP®70 both feature 6 human probiotic strains, providing 30 billion and 70 billion active cells, respectively. They help to implant healthy flora throughout your entire digestive tract and, because they are human strain, they are able to colonize and multiply for lasting health benefits.
Allison Tannis, BSc MSc RHN
Kang EJ, et al. The effect of probiotics on prevention of common cold: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial studies. Korean J Fam Med. 2013 Jan;34(1):2-10. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.2013.34.1.2. Epub 2013 Jan 28.
Lin, DC. Probiotics as functional foods. Nutr Clin Pract. 2003 Dec;18(6):497-506.
Purchiaroni F, et al. The role of intestinal microbiota and the immune system. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Feb;17(3):323-33.
Tannis, A. Probiotic Rescue: You can use Probiotics to Fight Cholesterol, Cancer, Superbugs, Digestive Complaints and More. Wiley, 2008.