For thousands of years, long before the invention of refrigerators, cultures thrived on what we now know as probiotics. All foods were fermented for later consumption – from dairy, grains, vegetables, to even meat and fish. There were even fermented beverages. Although food fermentation was invented for food preservation, every mouthful of fermented foods happened to serve trillions of beneficial bacteria along with it. Nowadays, if you happen to eat tons of sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, miso soup, or raw cheese, you are pretty much ahead of the game when it comes to consuming probiotics.
Although fermented foods have been around for a while, probiotics really did not become a “thing” until the 90’s (kind of like the Macarena and avocadoes). Because of its newfound fame, you can find probiotics in everything now – yes, even chocolate.
How Do Probiotics Work?
So, how do probiotics work exactly? Well, the digestive tract is lined with bacteria – 85% of it is good bacteria and 15% of it is not so good. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are especially good for the digestive system. When these numbers are off balance, or when there is not enough beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, infections and illnesses may occur.
Believe it or not, 80% of your entire immune system is located in your digestive tract. Called the enteric nervous system, it is the second largest part of our neurological system. Some may even call it our second brain. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), 60-70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases. 40 of these diseases have been linked to bacterial imbalance, including depression, arthritis, IBS, and cancer. Therefore, probiotic supplements are needed to boost the immune system and combat stress-induced disorders.
Many people are in need of a probiotic boost. Strong evidence suggests that probiotic benefits boost the immune system, prevent and treat urinary tract infections, improve digestive function, and fight food-borne illnesses. New studies reveal that probiotics may even help reduce flu and colds, treat kidney stones, lower cholesterol, improve acne, and even help with weight loss.
Probiotic supplements introduce friendly bacteria that are similar to organisms that occur naturally in the digestive tract. Stress, changes in diet, or even chlorinated water may alter the bacterial flora in the intestinal tract. This means that beneficial bacteria are lost. Health experts recommend taking a probiotic supplement daily in order to replenish the body’s beneficial bacteria. Taking probiotic supplements replace lost, beneficial bacteria and help the body to build a stronger immune and digestive systems.
Why It is Important to Pick the Right Probiotic Supplement
Currently, the FDA regulates probiotics like foods, not medications. Unlike drug companies, probiotic supplements do not have to show that their products are safe or that they even work. Therefore, it is important to remember these rules when picking the right probiotic for yourself.
There are basically two main types of probiotics: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic and works best in the small intestine. It can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods and helps people digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Bifidobacterium, can be found in some dairy products, works best in the large intestine, and can help with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Although probiotics can be grouped into the two main types above, when picking probiotic supplements, it is important to note that there are various strains of probiotics amongst the two groups. The benefits derived from one strain may not be offered by another strain. Therefore, strain diversity is rather important. When choosing a supplement, it is important to look for a multi-strain probiotic that has lots of L’s (lactobacillus) and B’s (bifidobacterium). You ideally want to choose a supplement that has 4-15 different strains. The larger strain diversity will cover more digestive needs overall.
The label should always have the genus, species, and the strain, as well as the CFU’s (which are colony forming units) per serving. There needs to be a high CFU count as it is important to purchase a probiotic brand that has a high number of probiotics, ranging from 15 – 100 billion. The brand quality is also another important factor.
Why Choose Ultra Flora by Metagenics
Metagenics is a life sciences company whose goal is promoting healthy living for those with chronic illnesses. Their products do not treat medical conditions, but improve overall health for those that suffer from them. Metagenics believes in naturopathic methods to address the needs of those suffering from chronic conditions.
Ultra Flora Balance by Metagenics is one of the most recommended probiotics out there right now. The NCFM© strain is the most widely studied strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus, with numerous research publications.
Most probiotic supplements today are destroyed by your stomach acid before they even get to your digestive tract. Ultra Flora probiotics by Metagenics are enteric coated and this protects the probiotics from harsh stomach acid, ensuring that they make it to your gut in the first place. As an added bonus, it is even gluten-free.
Probiotics by Metagenics offer genetically identified and clinically studied strains. The genetically identified strains assure the presence of beneficial microorganisms only. These strains have been shown to resist acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes, allowing survival through the digestive tract for colonization.
What do you hope to achieve with probiotic supplements? Are you thinking of taking probiotics to boost immunity? Aid digestion? Or would you like to balance your hormones? Metagenics has 11 distinct formulas for targeted relief and daily support. Besides the Ultra Flora Balance, other popular probiotic supplements offered by Metagenics include Ultra Flora IB and Ultra Flora Acute Care
Taking Probiotics to the Next Level with Prebiotics
Once you have your daily recommended dose of probiotics, you can find ways to get the most of your probiotics – through prebiotics. While probiotic foods have live bacteria, prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria already in your gut. You can find prebiotics in items such as asparagus, artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, maple syrup, and legumes. Although you can have prebiotic foods on their own, make sure to try them with your Metagenics probiotics for the ultimate immune and digestive boost!