Some people are naturally skeptical about the hoopla and craze around probiotics. They believe it’s just a fad pushed by supplement makers. We totally get this; there is certainly a lot of talk about probiotic efficacy. After all, a lot of the bacteria do die en route to your lower gastrointestinal tracts. Do probiotics work just enough to produce noticeable results and better quality of life?
Before taking a look at the scientific evidence, let’s see how probiotics work. Taking probiotics in food or supplement form isn’t absolutely essential. Our gut is already teeming with friendly bacteria strains numbering in the trillions. As a collective, this is known as a microbiome.
The microbiome regulates digestion, maintains hormonal homeostasis, and so forth. As such, symptoms like constipation, bloating, and rough bowel movements are signs your body’s probiotic level is low. This is due to a number of factors, such as a poor diet or being on antibiotics.
Ideally, the good bacteria should be in greater numbers than foreign bad bacteria. This is where probiotics from food or supplements come in.
Let’s take a look at the studies. It is only through independent and unbiased research that we can confidently determine whether a specific medicine works for a particular ailment.
First and foremost, do probiotics work in regards to treating digestive woes? A meta-analysis found that probiotics taken orally were effective for digestive-related disorders, including Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, pouchitis, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Furthermore, an article published by Harvard Health Medical School reaffirms that probiotics may be helpful in preventing urinary infections in women and delay the onset of allergies in children.
New research also suggests probiotics may play a role in heart health. A study from John Hopkins Medicine reveals that probiotics lower blood pressure. Authors of the study concluded that probiotics warrant further analysis for their potential effects on cardiovascular function.
The benefits of probiotics even extend to mental health. Studies show probiotic supplementation may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and improve cognitive ability.
Do they really work? The studies seem to suggest so. Not only do probiotics effectively improve digestion, but they also improve health in other areas seemingly not associated with the gut. If you keep up with the Truth Nutra philosophy, though, then you know we are firm believers that all health areas are interconnected.
Probiotics work; that much is clear. However, this doesn’t mean taking any probiotic supplement or even eating yogurt will necessarily improve your health. For probiotics to contribute to the greater stomach microbiome, they have to reach your lower guts intact. This is where things get a bit dicey.
Here’s the inconvenient truth: in lower-grade food and supplements, much of the probiotics are already dead. The ones that are alive may die during the long journey through your intestinal tracts.
In the end, only a very small fraction of the probiotics reach the lower gut – likely not in great enough numbers to be of meaningful benefit.
Do probiotics from food and supplement really replenish the probiotics in your body? Many probiotic supplements advertise really large colony-forming unit (CFU) counts. This simply refers to the number of live micro-organisms in each serving. Counts like 10 billion or upwards of 50 billion CFUs are not uncommon. However, taking probiotic capsules with 50 billion CFUs doesn’t mean you get an additional 50 billion probiotic bacteria in your gut. As we mentioned, several billion of those in a capsule are already dead, and a few more billion will die inside your stomach.
How can you minimize this? If taking a supplement, we suggest choosing wisely. Read the label or research the brand’s website. How does the manufacturer keep the probiotics alive? What type of capsule do they use? The capsule needs to be sturdy enough to reach the lower gut before completely dissolving; otherwise, the probiotics will be exposed to your harsh stomach acids and die.
We suggest looking for probiotic capsules that are freeze-dried, which prolongs the probiotics’ survival rate when stored at room temperature. Flaorcil50 uses freeze-dried technology for ensuring longevity of its 50 billion CFUs that come with every serving.
You also need to pay attention to timing. When you take a supplement isn’t as important as its quality, but it’s a relevant secondary factor. See our post on when to take probiotics. Timing does appear to have an effect on bioavailability to some degree.
Basically, the ideal time is about half an hour before a meal consisting of moderate amounts of fat. However, as you will discover in the article, this is by no means a universal rule.
As you can see from the studies, increasing probiotic count via food or supplementation certainly has a positive effect. We also showed that increasing probiotics isn’t as simple as just taking a probiotic pill. You also have to be mindful of supplement quality and timing for best bioavailability. You will know the probiotics are working when you notice less constipation and an easier time at the loo.
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