The fermentation of dairy, vegetables, fruit, beans, grains and even fish is an age old concept and has been a part of traditional cultures since time immemorial. This simply reaffirms the benefits of probiotics and why the concept has been passed on from generation to generation.
This timeless concept has now been taken over by science, in the effort to maximize the probiotic properties of foods, and come up with supplements that are vital for our health. Probiotic supplements are fast gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional medicine, and for good reason.
Research shows that ingestion of probiotic supplements with live healthy bacteria in sufficient quantities contribute to a healthier digestive and immune system, aid in treating various infections and disorders and also offer extensive benefits for oral, vaginal and urinary tract heath.
How Do Probiotic Supplements Work?
A majority of health issues stem from the gut, which is where trillions of bacteria reside. Unhealthy eating habits, work-related stress, irregular exercise and other factors tend to disturb the balance of good and bad bacteria in the body, which in turn affects overall health by causing various illness and disease.
Consumption of probiotics helps to bring balance to the gut microflora, but these need to number in the billions for the effects to be noticeable. While you can get probiotics from foods you eat, doctors will often recommend a supplement to treat specific conditions or improve a certain aspect of your health, like better digestion.
There is strong logic behind the saying “you are what you eat.” Healthy eating, coupled with the best probiotic supplements, provides your body with the essential requirements to thrive as well as treat and prevent chronic health problems.
Types of Probiotics Supplements
There are a numerous ways to make probiotics a part of your diet and everyday life. Supplements with probiotics are flooding the market, and it can be overwhelming to distinguish between them. Check out the following ways in which they are typically categorized, before you make your decision:
- By Forms of Intake
Every individual is unique, and so are their preferences. It can be confusing to narrow down the best probiotic supplement that will work out for you, because of the abundance of choice available and the difference ways that they can be consumed. However, the various forms of intake make it easy for everyone to lead a healthy life, no matter their preferences, and are readily available at drug stores, supermarkets and health stores.
To keep the 500-2000 different species of bacteria in the internal ecosystem happy, it’s imperative to choose the right probiotics to work with, and the various forms of intake available today are rather fascinating!
Here are some of the different forms that probiotic supplements may be found in:
- Pills, Tablets and Capsules
Probiotics pills, tablets and capsules, all with varying ingredients and potency, are found either on the shelves or in the refrigerated sections of drug and food stores.Certain supplements contain freeze-dried organisms that don’t require refrigeration and are carefully sealed in insulated bottles or blister packs. These come with an expiration date but may not need to be stored in the refrigerator, while other probiotic pills and capsules may require refrigeration to protect live microorganisms from heat and moisture.These supplements are available from a variety of brands, and contain various strains of probiotic bacteria for dealing with different health issues.
Swallowing pills is not for everyone, especially children and pets. Supplements in the form of chewables are especially engineered to avoid the need for unpleasant swallowing, making this the easiest and most fun way to take in the probiotics that are essential for good health for grownups and kids alike.
Typically, chewable probiotics also come in a variety of options with different microorganisms that offer various health benefits.
- Liquid Probiotics
Probiotic liquids are available in different flavors and a multitude of brands. Some probiotics in liquid form need to be refrigerated as they are prone to heat and moisture which could nullify their beneficial health effects, and can only thrive in cool temperatures. Others can be found on supermarket or drug store shelves and come with a shelf life but no specific storage requirements. Most probiotic juices and health drinks are also delicious, which makes it easy to make them a part of everyday life and with continuous use, enjoy a whole host of benefits!
- Probiotic Powders
Probiotic powders are an ingenious way to incorporate healthy bacteria into almost any food or drink you prefer, from yogurt or smoothies to juices and even plain water. Mixing a probiotic powder into delicious treats is a great way to get fussy children and unwilling grownups to consume the necessary dietary supplements with no qualms.
- Food and Dairy Products
There are plenty of options available to consume probiotic supplements through food, like probiotic yogurt. Fermented food are rich in probiotics, they taste good, are loaded with health benefits and have been around forever. Today, you can buy probiotic supplements in dairy-based products, cheeses, pickles and various other yummy goodies!
By CFUs (Colony Forming Units)
Picking the best probiotics can be especially perplexing when you consider how many bacteria you should be ingesting. Given the various forms available for consumption, it is necessary to consider a few specifications before opting for supplements, as their dosages have various effects on different systems in the body.
Other than specifications such as brand quality, strain diversity, storage instructions and expiration dates, the CFU count must be considered, to better determine which supplements offer the most benefit.
- What are CFUs?
Colony Forming Units (CFUs) define the density of viable bacteria in a given supplement, and this basically highlights the richness of probiotics in the source. The CFU count helps to measure how the bacteria are capable of existing and reproducing to form colonies of the same bacteria. If the bacteria are dividing to form more groups, it proves that there are live bacteria in the supplement.
The labels for probiotic supplements state the number of colony forming units in each serving size and are universally regarded as the standard measure for reporting probiotic strength. Supplements should have a high CFU count, since this shows the number of active cultures and only viable organisms are considered probiotic, i.e. the ones capable of living under given circumstances.
- What is the Importance of CFU Labels?
Live colonies make the development of metabolic and lactic acid possible and prevent pathogens from growing in the intestinal tract.
The reason why active cultures are imperative to determine the quality of a probiotic is very simple. After consumption, it is not enough for the supplement to simply rest in the gut; it needs to reproduce actively, to increase in number of colonies so that the necessary health effects can be initiated.
- How to Determine the Required CFUs
The number of required CFUs really depends on the need for the probiotic itself. When probiotics are being considered for general well-being, 6 – 10 billion CFUs can do the job, when it comes to minor health problems, a 20 – 30 billion CFU dose is recommended, whereas for major health problems it’s best to consult a professional.Ideally only high CFU count probiotic supplements should be purchased, with anywhere from 15 to 100 billion bacteria. To avail the benefits of probiotic supplements a minimum of 10 billion CFU’s or more per serving need to be ingested, so they can produce the required quantities of lactic acid and fulfill other probiotic duties.Measurement regarding optimal serving size is usually mentioned on the labels of probiotics supplements. The information may be presented in grams for solids or millimeters for liquids, to determine CFUs per unit of measure. For attaining specific benefit from the probiotic in question, it’s a good idea to consult a medical practitioner.Overconsumption of probiotics can lead to side effects like pain or tenderness in the abdomen, gas, bloating, etc. The fix for this is to discontinue the intake of the probiotic and steadily reintroduce it in smaller dosage, whereby the supplement and the body can work together for desired results.
By Bacteria Type (Genus, Species and Strain)
As mentioned above, probiotics are live bacteria that are grown with the purpose to emulate the functions of the natural gut flora, which contains up to 5600 separate strains of bacteria. So, consuming probiotic supplements that aid in replicating beneficial bacteria is essential for various health benefits, besides the treatment and prevention of illness and disease.
Probiotics are identified at three different levels depending on their genus, species and strain. Most strains of bacteria have two names, the first is the genus and the second is the species, e.g. lactobacillus acidophilus, where lactobacillus is the genus and acidophilus is the species. These may further be broken into specific strains, usually denoted by an alphanumeric after the species name, e.g. lactobacillus gasseri GG.
Different strains of bacteria offer different health benefits whereas multi-strain probiotics has the capability of colonizing all the niches in the gastrointestinal tract and make for powerful probiotic supplements. Check out some of the most popular sub-species and strains of probiotic bacteria here.
Find answers to all your questions regarding probiotics on our FAQ page that covers everything from proven benefits to side-effects