You’ve probably heard about probiotics, but do you really know what they are? And how do you know whether you should be taking them, and if so, which ones to take?
I’ve been prescribing probiotics for years to my patients, but until recently, I never truly appreciated the complexity and specialization of this important industry segment. So today I wanted to share a sprinkling of what I have learned with my readers.
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS
For starters, what are they? According to WebMD.com, “probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you.” We usually think of germs as bad, disease-causing things, but the human body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. In fact, the human body contains trillions of microorganisms, outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1. Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about 1 to 3 percent of the body’s mass, the equivalent of 2-6 pounds of bacteria in a 200-pound adult.
The good news is that most of the bacteria are helpful to us rather than harmful. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy. You can find probiotics in supplements and some fermented foods and drinks, like kefir. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems.
GOOD REASONS TO TAKE PROBIOTICS
- GUT HEALTH IS ESSENTIAL. Eighty-five percent of disease begins in the digestion, making the digestive system the first and best place to start when treating any health condition, particularly a digestive disorder. A healthy digestive system supports a strong immune system. A strong, balanced immune system is the best defense against a multitude of inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases and cancer.
- MOST MICROBIOMES ARE DEPLETED. Most Americans don’t have enough healthy bacteria in their digestive tracts to help counter bad bacteria and parasites. Processed food, antibiotics, birth control pills, steroids and many other pharmaceuticals contribute to depleted microbiomes. If you’ve ever gotten a cold or cough that just won’t go away or you have repeatedly come down with symptoms after a series of antibiotics, you were probably suffering from a compromised immune system due to the depletion of good gut microbes. For this reason, Positively Ayurvedic recommends following a probiotic protocol immediately following, and sometimes during, any antibiotic regimen. Note: be sure to consult a practitioner for dosing instructions to ensure maximum efficacy of each.
- PROBIOTICS SUPPORT DIETARY HEALING. Probiotics form a strong foundation for any other herbal or dietary remedy as a healthy gut supports better absorption across the board.
REASONS TO BE CONCERNED
- PROBIOTICS ARE UNREGULATED. Probiotics, like yogurt and other fermented foods with probiotic properties, are not regulated by the FDA as they are considered food. Unfortunately, the lack of regulation means that many probiotic products are not capable of doing what they claim. In 2009 the majority (85%) of probiotics selected for testing by ConsumerLab.com did not contain their listed amounts of organisms and, as ConsumerLab.com later learned, improper shipping and warehousing by distributors and retailers appears to have been at least partly to blame. Often, marketers make promises that they cannot support or promote products that are not even safe. “Even the regions that offer some form of regulation tend to focus on the legitimacy of advertising claims rather than efficacy, safety and quality,” says Science Direct.com.
- MOST STRAINS DIE DURING MANUFACTURING & DISTRIBUTION. We believe that taking probiotics after a bout of antibiotics will balance the scales so we take probiotics afterwards or consume organic yogurt with live probiotic cultures. Unfortunately, most probiotic cultures on the market are ineffective as the cultures are already dead by the time they hit our guts. The live bacterial strains in these products have often been destroyed during the manufacturing process or distribution or in the stomach acid prior to arriving in the intestines. Manufacturing and protecting the bacterial strains are actually complex and challenging processes. And distribution temperatures must be controlled every step of the way—from the plant, to your door and in your home. Note: most probiotics, except for some spore- or yeast-based strains, must be refrigerated at all times.
- DIFFERENT STRAINS TREAT DIFFERENT PAINS. Lastly, different strains of bacteria treat certain conditions better than others, demonstrating that not all bacteria are created equal, and therefore, not all probiotics will be beneficial for all patients. Yet, most patients buy their probiotics at the vitamin store or online with very little knowledge of which strains they are taking or the most efficacious doses or protocols for the probiotics.
3 STEPS TO ENSURE YOU CHOOSE WISELY
- #1 – GET EXPERT RECOMMENDATIONS ON APPROPRIATE STRAINS AND PROTOCOLS. Ask your medical practitioner for recommendations to make sure you reap the biggest gain from the probiotics you take. Working with a medical professional gives you the protocol and dosage insights that result from a wider framework of customer experience. Your practitioner can also assist in making modifications based on particular conditions and individual responses.
- #2 – CHOOSE PRODUCT WITH LIVE CULTURE LEGITIMACY. Only select products from companies with a 100% potency guarantee on the bottle. Then, double-check that their product is pharmaceutical grade and tested independently to ensure that their bacterial strains stand up to the manufacturing process and the company’s method of distribution. I recommend ProTren Probiotics because they are one of the few manufacturers which meet the criteria. Their manufacturing facility is a pharmaceutical grade, certified, state-of-the-art production facility that must pass regular and rigorous third party audits every two years. These audits are conducted by the Australian government agency, TGA. ProTren’s certification is so good it is accepted by 48 country members, including the U.S.
- #3 – PURCHASE BRANDS WITH A SOLID HISTORY OF PROBIOTIC EXPERIENCE. Manufacturing experience is key. ProTren and its sister company, Natren, have 35 years of experience in manufacturing probiotics, which is all they do. The companies’ strains have been approved and formulated by probiotic pioneer, Natasha Trenev, who is known as the mother of probiotics. The companies only use strains that have been proved to be safe and effective for humans. And they offer two powerful delivery systems to enhance the power and survivability of their super strains, making them strong enough to survive a pH of 1.7 acidity in the stomach for over an hour. The company shares specific protocols based on years of patient use with practitioners like myself, which we can then share with our patients. In addition, ProTren ships the product chilled direct to your door to ensure the survival of your probiotics all the way to your refrigerator.
In conclusion, all of us could use a good dose of Probiotics regularly, and particularly when our microbiomes have been compromised. Choosing the right strains from reputable and tested companies make all the difference in efficacy and our overall safety.
To get started on your probiotic protocol today, contact Positively Ayurvedic for the right Natren/ProTren plan for you.
And for a list of some of the best probiotic foods, see article, “Probiotic Food Sources.”
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at info@positivelyayurvedic.