A Healthy Belly
The human GI tract is complex. It is host to trillions of microbes that have a powerful impact on our health. We also know that there may be over 1,300 different species of microorganisms in the human gut. The use of probiotics to help re-establish a healthy gut is a well-researched and accepted practice as they are generally well tolerated by most people.
The vast majority of probiotic species share common activities that benefit most people. For the most part, at this time there is not one strain specific for one outcome. Research is underway for targeted probiotic therapies for certain clinical outcomes.
Despite their effectiveness, only a small number of probiotic species are able to be isolated and grown outside the human GI tract on a commercial scale. Those most commonly researched and commercially viable are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium. However, commercially prepared strains are temporary members of the gut microbiome and only remain in the system for 1- 2 weeks after ingestion.
Tips for Selecting the Right Probiotic
- Expiration Date — Probiotic organisms are prone to easy deterioration so commercially produced probiotics must use strict manufacturing procedures. Only choose a probiotic with a listed expiration date printed on the bottle. Look for companies that state cell viability strength at the time of expiration. Do not choose products that claim potency only at the “time of manufacturing.”
- Shelf Life — There has been a signifiant amount of innovation developed to allow probiotics to have a longer (9-18 month) shelf life at room temperature, rather than refrigeration. However, only order product packages that are small enough to use within 1-2 months. The shelf life greatly diminishes once the product is opened and exposed to oxygen and moisture.
- Strain Selection — Choose a product with a diverse mix of strains (multi-strain) for optimum gut health.
- CFUs — Probiotics are measured by colony forming units (CFUs). For general gut health, I usually suggest beginning with a CFU of 5-20 billion.
- Antibiotics & Probiotics — To help preserve good bacteria, take probiotics two hours after an antibiotic dose to limit any interaction.
Probiotics: ingested microorganisms that remain viable in the gut long enough to benefit the host in a healthy way.