Probiotics are friendly bacteria that offer many health benefits. Choosing the right probiotic supplement can benefit your overall health and well-being.
The bacteria in our bodies outnumber our cells by about 10 to 1? There are both beneficial and harmful bacteria and the ideal balance for our bodies is around 85 per cent good bacteria and 15 per cent bad. The purpose of probiotics is to help to maintain this ratio.
Consuming probiotics through natural food sources like yoghurt is one way to introduce the helpful bacteria into our guts and dairy foods have been shown to potentially buffer stomach acid and bile thus protecting the bacteria and ensuring it reaches its required destination.
Why choose a supplement?
But, whilst eating yoghurt can help to increase the intake of good bacteria, there are a number of reasons that taking a probiotic supplement might be more beneficial. These include the following:
- Most commercial yoghurts and yoghurt drinks contain sugar, which helps to feed bad bacteria and yeasts already present in the intestinal tract. Many of these yoghurts also include skimmed milk products, which have reduced fat and therefore higher sugar content.
- Probiotic supplements are generally dairy-free, which is a distinct benefit for many who cannot tolerate dairy products such as yoghurt.
- Shop-bought yoghurt has been processed and usually pasteurized, which can kill some of the good bacteria, enzymes and microbes, thus reducing their numbers.
- Commercial yoghurts are generally cultured for a relatively short period of time (often less than eight hours), giving it a sweeter taste, as much of the lactose is still present, and reducing the number of bacteria grown.
- Finally, probiotic supplements include details of the species and number of bacteria they contain and details of the research behind them, whilst most yoghurts don’t provide this information. Thus, supplements can be a more reliable and controllable way of increasing your probiotic intake.
And what to look for…
When deciding which supplement is right for you, one of the key things to look for is that it includes a high level of beneficial bacteria – 10 billion or more colony-forming units (CFUs) is the recommended level to make a difference.
And check that the probiotic supplement contains a number of different species of bacteria to provide support throughout the digestive tract (including both Lactobacillus and Bifidus species).
Finally, make sure it is backed by research supporting its efficacy