Wealth of Health

Health Supplements: Probiotics and Prebiotics

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that are considered to be good for the human body functioning and overall health.

How do Probiotcs work?

According to the Harvard Medical School, human bowels host an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms from more than 500 different species. The mix of bacteria of each person is as unique as the fingerprints are. Illness and stress can change the bacterial balance which can lead to digestive disturbance. Probiotics work by changing the composition of the gut bacteria or the metabolic activity of the existing bacteria. Essentially probiotics aim for the good bacteria to crowd out the bad bacteria in the intestine.

What are the benefits of Probiotic ingestion?

–          Probiotics may help with digestion and enable the body to extract nutrients from the food

–          Good bacteria may help to produce enzymes and proteins that inhibit, or even kill, harmful bacteria

–          Boost immune system

–          Some bacteria is necessary for hormone production or vitamin and nutrient absorption

–          Restore gut balance when taking doctor prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off some good bacteria along with the bad which may cause diarrhea or other digestive distress. To avoid the interaction between antibiotics and probiotics, it is suggested to take probiotics 2 hours before or after the ingestion of antibiotics.

What kinds of probiotics there are?

The most commonly consumed probiotics are strains of two main species:

Bifidobacteria Lactobacillus
Benefits –          Immune system support

–          Limit growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine

–          Help break down lactose into nutrients the body can use

–          Helps the body to produce lactic acid which helps to control the population of bad bacteria

–          Helps to produce lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the milk sugar

–          Increases body’s absorption of minerals

Probiotic formulations can be of the following kinds:

–          Monoculture probiotics

–          Multi culture probiotics

–          Synbiotic (products that contain both probiotic and prebiotic)

Once you decide to ingest probiotics, you will notice that probiotics come in a dry or liquid form. In case of dry probiotics (powder, capsules, pills), the good bacteria restore its activity after some time and already in the stomach. For example, the good bacteria will not be released and activated until the outer layer of the capsule is not broken down which does take some time and happens further in the digestive tract. Liquid probiotics, on the other hand, have the good bacteria ready at its full activity value and start working its magic within the first minutes of ingestion.

What are the sources of Probiotics?

We ingest probiotics in the form of:

–          Pharmaceutical products

–          Food supplements

–          Food rich in probiotics (primarily fermented food products like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, etc)

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. Good sources of prebiotics are bananas, legumes, asparagus, etc .

Dynamic of Probiotics nd Prebiotics:



How do I know I need them?

The objective of probiotic ingestion is to restore health of our gut. That being said, if you are concerned about the health of your gut, I would suggest doing comprehensive gut microflora analysis to start with. By doing this non – invasive diagnostic assessment, you will learn about your gut microflora: beneficial and commensal bacteria, pathogenic bacteria, yeast / fungus and parasites. You will know about your digestion and absorption and any possibly present inflammations. Once you know what is present in your gut, you can consult with a doctor and naturopath about your current health needs and the course of the treatment.

Personally, I do not like ingesting prescription medications and do so only when I see fit. That being said, I always welcome medical testing and I always explore alternative treatment options with preference given to natural remedies.

Be aware that:

The concept of ingesting good microbes to aid health is a relatively new. Even though the research has yielded promising results about the health benefits of probiotics, the results are not yet conclusive.  There are many kinds of probiotics commercially available in foods and supplements and yet even experts warn that marketing and use of probiotics have outpaced the scientific research on the benefits and effects.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulation of products containing probiotics is rather complex. Depending on a probiotic product’s intended use, the FDA might regulate it as a dietary supplement, a food ingredient or a drug. Many probiotics are sold as a dietary supplement in which case they do not require FDA approval before they are marketed. Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements have the responsibility of making sure that their products are safe (i.e. do not contain any contaminants and impurities) and are properly labeled before they go to market. The FDA will review the content list especially if any new ingredient is being added; however, dietary supplements are not reviewed in detail unless a serious concern arises and the product needs to be recalled. FDA is said to be looking into ways of accessing the safety of the new ingredients and level of impurities of elements used in probiotics.

My probiotic of choice: Flax Seed Drink


Thanks for reading,

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