Probiotics seem to be everywhere lately. Just scanning the shelves at your local market you might find them touted in soft drinks, cosmetics and even potato chips (not to mention the usual go-tos like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and unpasteurized sauerkraut.)
But with so much swirling in the news about beneficial bacteria, what are the key takeaways today? What do we really need to know about probiotics and how to use them?
To help, we’ve cut the noise down to five key points, so even if you’ve only got five minutes, you can be probiotic smart.
- First, a definition: Probiotics are live, “good” bacteria that help keep our bodies healthy. Look down. See that human frame of yours? It’s naturally home to a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. According to the Harvard Medical SchoolH, probiotics (“good” bacteria) can secrete protective substances which ignite the immune system or prevent illness-causing agents (pathogens) from taking hold and causing symptoms. But if the “bad” bacteria start to outweigh the “good”, you may feel unwell. In order to restore balance, more “good” bacteria can help. Probiotics are bacteria you take into your body (in the form of food or a supplement) to help renew your populations of normal, friendly bacteria.
- Strains (or types) and numbers matter: An effective probiotic must have the right strains at the right cell count. The human body contains trillions of microorganisms and in order to help maintain natural “good” bacteria, a probiotic with billions of cells is needed. Not only does the cell count matter, but each “good” bacteria strain has an important purpose. For instance:
- Lactobacillus is active in the digestive, vaginal and urinary tracts and helps to maintain and regulate a healthy state.
- Bifidobacterium is active in the small intestine and helps to protect the lining of the gut.
- Keep ‘em cold: Probiotics are live bacteria. When unrefrigerated the cells naturally die off at a faster rate. To maintain the best number of live, active cultures, look for a chill. Florajen Probiotics, for example, maintain a Cold Chain Commitment,™ meaning that from the time the probiotics are manufactured, delivered to the pharmacy, and placed in your hands, Florajen is kept cold. This ensures product potency and allows the cell counts within Florajen Probiotics to remain as consistent as possible through the expiration date. Power outage, travelling, or otherwise needing a little more warmth and flexibility? Don’t stress, Florajen Probiotics can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks and still maintain effectiveness.
- It would take a lot of yogurt: Yes, you can get probiotics from food, like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, unpasteurized sauerkraut, sourdough bread, tempeh, acidophilus milk, naturally fermented pickles (in sea salt and water, not vinegar), cottage cheese, and kombucha. But it would take a large quantities of these items to equal the high cell counts found in a quality supplement. One capsule of Florajen, for example, is equivalent to more than 10 cups of yogurt.
- Not for everyone: Probiotics are generally considered safe and to have no side effects, says Harvard Medical School. But they aren’t universally appropriate. For instance, people who have an immune deficiency, are critically ill, recently had surgery, or are being treated for cancer should not use probiotics without thoughtful discussion with a knowledgeable doctor first. Also talk to a doctor before giving probiotics to your baby, especially if he or she is sick. Florajen Kids probiotics, for example, are only recommended for children over age 6 months. For most other people in good health, says WebMD, probiotics won’t cause any issues. If there are any side effects, they’re usually very mild (like a little more gas than usual.)
If you decide to add a daily probiotic to your regimen for help with digestion, women’s wellbeing, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, or general or children’s health, experts encourage patience. Once you start, they say, give it a month to see if it works for you. And, of course, don’t stop any medical treatment you’re already undergoing just because you’re trying a probiotic, and talk to your doctor about any health-related questions or concerns you may have.
Looking for Florajen? Because we keep our products cold for freshness and potency, you can ask for them, no prescription necessary, behind the pharmacist counter!