What Are Probiotics?
Digestive health probiotics are dietary supplements that support friendly bacteria that reside in the digestive tract. These bacteria (known as microflora or microbiota) are mostly found in the mouth and intestines, and they play an important role, acting symbiotically with the human body. When a person is healthy and eating a good diet, these bacteria will flourish in the intestinal tract, supporting digestion by breaking down food into beneficial nutrients and vitamins. In an ideal environment, these bodily processes run smoothly and the body's resources are not taxed. One's microbiota also produces essential compounds that protect cellular health and supports the immune system by keeping harmful microorganisms under control.
In the presence of unhealthy diets, certain diseases or antibiotic drug treatments, the intestinal tract can turn into a poor, even hostile, environment. With weakened or non-existent friendly bacteria, there may be digestion issues, immune function problems, or both.
Why Use Digestive Health Probiotic Supplements?
Probiotic dietary supplements offer significant benefits for both digestive and immune system health. These supplements supply live or dormant bacteria that help the body re-establish or maintain a healthy microbiota (bacterial environment). Other nutrients such as inulin may be included. This is a food source for the friendly bacteria and is known as a pre-biotic. Digestive health probiotics can be found in tablets, capsules, powders and liquids. We recommend probiotics in enteric-coated capsules, as these will protect the live bacteria from one's stomach acids. These special enteric-coated capsules break down in the intestine's alkaline environment, which protects the bacteria and delivers them live and intact into the optimal intestinal environment.
Hundreds of beneficial bacteria types are found in the body, but just a few dozen species are included in probiotic dietary supplements. Each of these has its own functions and benefits, so the typical probiotic supplement may have one, two or even more different bacteria species.
When and How to Use Probiotics
Probiotic supplements are virtually non-toxic, so they can be freely used for immune system and/or intestinal support, and are safe for short-term or long-term use. A popular time to take probiotics is after treatment with antibiotics, to rebalance the gut flora. Probiotics are also commonly used for other digestive health problems such as bowel health and bad breath. Probiotics, unlike vitamins and minerals, do not have a minimum daily requirement. A probiotic dietary supplement's potency is indicated as a guarantee of how many billion live organisms are present per single serving.
For the best results with probiotics, remember these key factors:
- Check expiration date, make sure product hasn't expired and take it right away
- Use product consistently, according to the label directions
- Store opened bottles of probiotics in the refrigerator; both heat and freezing can harm the live cultures
All Star Health carries a wide range of high-quality probiotic dietary supplements, including Garden of Life children's probiotics (see our children's probiotics).
(See also: Acidophilus, Acidophilus bifidus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Children's Probiotics)