Unless you are some hermit living in some remote part of the Himalayas who has never seen any hint of civilization for a good century or so, you must already be pretty familiar with the word ‘probiotic’. In fact, almost every other food product, vitamin and mineral supplementation, and even health and wellness products are putting in their labels the term ‘probiotic’.
While the actual origins of the term is largely disputed, its far reaching benefits are nonetheless renowned the world over; a fact that even the World Health Organization made a unifying definition for all products that contain probiotics.
Doctors, health care experts, microbiologists, and scientists have all been working round the clock to ascertain the validity of such probiotic claims as possible adjunct therapy for stomach pain, gas, and bloating as well as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics have also been deemed good against gastroenteritis and ulcerative colitis. Now, many in the health and wellness industry are citing studies that show the effectiveness and efficacy of probiotics in the management of weight issues, certain forms of allergies, a reduction in blood pressure, and the management of acne and other skin conditions. The general consensus is that these probiotics can provide the answer to the growing concern of increasing number of poorly understood and inadequately explained health conditions and illnesses.
The question that most people will be asking, however, is how they can really take advantage of all of these supposed benefits of probiotics in the improvement of their health and wellbeing.
The Need for Credible Sources Of Probiotics
In a world where there is just so much information that sometimes you simply cannot differentiate fact from fiction anymore, with almost everyone saying theirs is the best and that the others are mere knock-offs, it is imperative to obtain the correct information from credible and reputable sources.
As the world of probiotics is not made entirely of a singularly simple concept of useful organisms, you have to get past different concepts such as colony forming units, Bifidobacteium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus casei among others. You will also have to understand that virtually any formulation can come from different preparations such as lozenges, tablets, pills, capsules, syrups, shells, powders, and beads. Simply put, there are a lot of things to know about probiotics that you would be old by then and you are still halfway through.
Good thing, we have a team of experts who have committed their lives to creating a comprehensive knowledge base for the modern probiotic consumer. Using simple yet meticulous documentary analysis applied with the same rigorous testing for validity of search results, our team of probiotic experts have come up with a complete listing of all the probiotic brands there are in the world market. Reviewing the composition of these products and then individually subjecting them to rigorous tests have allowed us to have an idea of which products are highly recommended for human consumption and which ones are best left alone. Each product comes with its active ingredient and its primary indications including its cost. We believe these pieces of information are what you essentially need in order to make that informed decision related to the purchase and consumption of probiotics.
While experts argue as to the etymology of probiotics, they all agree that it stems from two fundamental concepts: ‘pro’ and ‘biotic’. When taken together, it literally translates into something that is ‘for life’ or something that ensures the optimal functioning of a living organism. The World Health Organization finally laid the foundation to how probiotics should be defined in 2001. The world health body defined probiotics as any live microorganism that can provide health benefits to its host, when administered in sufficient amounts. This was further strengthened by the definition provided by the American Gastroenterological Association saying that probiotics are living microorganisms that have been proven by research to be beneficial to human health.
That being said, there are two very important concepts that you need to understand: live microorganisms and host health.
This means that a probiotic product must contain live microorganisms and that these should provide many observable health benefits to its host. The host, in this case, is us, humans.
The microorganisms can be beneficial bacteria as well as fungi that constitute the normal flora of the human digestive tract. This essentially means that these microorganisms are not necessarily harmful inside your digestive tract. In fact, they are deemed necessary for the many functions that your digestive tract performs day in and day out. Primarily, their main role is in keeping the normal balance between beneficial bacteria and harmful microorganisms. The food that you eat can sometimes be full of microorganisms that cannot be killed by ordinary cooking. These harmful bacteria can colonize the digestive tract, especially when the normal bacterial flora is severely limited. Simply put, if the harmful microorganisms far outnumber the beneficial microorganisms, then you will have a problem.
A host of factors can adversely tip the balance in favor of the harmful microorganisms. These can include the following:
• Certain medications that change the natural environment of the human digestive tract such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors, histamine 2 antagonists, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, corticosteroids like hydrocortisone and dexamethasone, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, and naproxen
• Poor eating habits including an unbalanced diet
• Excessive stress as it can severely affect digestive tract secretions
• Poor and inadequate sleep
• Other environmental factors
These are just some of the more common reasons why sometimes the harmful microorganisms overwhelm the protective capacity of beneficial microorganisms. Adding probiotics in your diet as well as taken as supplements can help reestablish the delicate balance between the good and the bad bacteria in your digestive tract.
Beneficial Effects of Probiotics
The main health benefit of probiotics is in the maintenance of a healthy digestive system. As all of the nutrients required by different cells of the body are generally digested and absorbed in the small intestines, a healthy digestive tract is thus an integral part of ensuring the optimum nutrition of all cells. This simply means that a health digestive system will bring about optimum nutrition to every single cell in the body; hence, general health and wellbeing.
Furthermore, by ensuring that nutrients are adequately absorbed and utilized by the body, important substances such as antibodies, immunoglobulins, hormones, and neurotransmitters can be efficiently synthesized to bring about optimum health and wellness. Thus, the immune system functioning is remarkably enhanced and skin conditions put on check.
The Harvard Medical School once cited the growing body of scientific evidence showing the usefulness of certain live bacteria in the prevention and treatment of some forms of illnesses. These live bacteria were obviously in reference to probiotics contained in food and dietary supplements.
Whether the observations at Harvard are true or not, health experts agree that probiotics can be especially beneficial in the management of the following conditions:
• Problems of the digestive tract which can include abdominal pain, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, diverticular diseases, gastroenteritis, ulcerative colitis, constipation, and gastric and duodenal ulcers
• Problems with the immune system such as bacterial infections, common cold, influenza, vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, and allergies
• Skin conditions like eczema and acne
• Oral health conditions such as periodontal diseases and dental carries and cavities
• Other health issues such as sleep disorders and weight loss
While many may find it hard to believe that probiotics can be an effective weight loss product as it is an effective digestive, studies are now showing promising results to that effect. Without a doubt, probiotics’ ability to establish balance in the digestive tract flora ensures adequate nutrition to all the different cells of the body.
Probiotic-rich Foods or Probiotic Supplements?
The question now comes to this: if indeed probiotics are very beneficial to your health, how should you take it? As probiotics are naturally found in food products such as cheeses, yoghurts, and milk as well as other food items, it makes sense to just take daily portions of these food products. However, many of the food production processes involved today are so extensive that there are now questions as to whether there are any viable beneficial microorganisms left in the food item. Highly-intensive food processing technologies inadvertently destroy the colonies of beneficial microorganisms so there simply is nothing left.
Your best recourse, of course, is to consume fresh, unprocessed foods. Or, you can simply take a probiotic supplement.
Are Probiotics Safe?
Some individuals might be put off about the idea of including ‘live microorganisms’ in their diet or taking them as a supplement. However, these are very microscopic organisms that are as harmless as the street food that you are fond of eating.
Scientists and healthcare organizations generally regard probiotics as very safe. While the basis for this statement is not something that has been rigorously tested, the mere fact that man has been consuming products that have been naturally processed using beneficial bacteria and fungi for a long time, should be sufficient grounds for saying that probiotics are safe to consume. Many of these microorganisms have been extensively used in the fermentation and production of dairy products, primarily cheeses, yoghurt, and milk. Perhaps the only associated side effects of these probiotics are bloating and gas, albeit temporary.
Nonetheless, experts in the medical and health care professions are significantly studying any side effects of probiotics when used in the management of certain diseases. The different strains of the beneficial microorganisms as well as the possibility of combining several probiotic agents into a single product are carefully being studied as to their long term effects.
For the highly vulnerable groups of the population, such as children, the elderly, and those with concurrent organic diseases, it is always best to seek medical advice if probiotics can be safely consumed.
How To Take Probiotics
It is generally recommended that a daily dose of 5-15 billion colony forming units (CFU) of probiotics is adequate for general digestive and immune system health. However, if the probiotic is intended as an adjunct to the treatment of a particular health condition, a daily recommended dose of about 15 to 45 billion CFUs should be taken.
Most individuals take probiotics as a daily maintenance and then systematically increase their dosage requirements should they fall ill. When taking probiotics, you need to understand that there are a variety of strains available. As a general rule, you need to consume the entire preparation of a certain type of probiotic first before switching to another.
Choosing the Right Probiotic for You
The mountains of data plus the ocean of products about probiotics make it rather difficult to really narrow down the best and right ones for you. However, as was promised earlier, we will do the nitty-gritty work of having to scour through heaps of product information so that we can give you the world’s best probiotic products.
If you are curious as to how we go through the task of reviewing each and every piece of probiotic, here’s a rundown:
• We purchase ALL the probiotic products we can find
• We subject ALL the products to rigorous testing to include the active ingredient, bacterial counts, and probiotic strain profiling
• We test ALL products for their survivability in the highly acidic environment of the stomach
• We check ALL products for any other ingredients like milk, gluten, wheat, yeast, and/or GMOs
• We run ALL products for cost comparisons
Not content on these measures, we then take each probiotic supplement and try it for a good number of weeks. We know that we have to be credible in our shortlisting of the best probiotics for you. After all of these, we then rate each one before ranking them to give you the 10 best probiotic products ever to grace mankind.
We are keeping our promise of providing you with a credible knowledge base related to probiotics. By subscribing to our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest, we will keep you updated with the latest results of scientific studies as well as current trends in the use of probiotics in the improvement of your health and the maintenance of your wellness.