Last updated: August 19, 2021

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Hello! Thank you for joining us again. You may have heard that stress, canned foods or poor nutrition damage your gastrointestinal flora. This is true, that's why you need to know what you can do to repair it. So, this time we want to talk to you about probiotics and how they can help you.

To begin with, it will be important to know what gastrointestinal flora is and what function it has in the body. This will help you better understand why we need to repair it. Then we will give you information about probiotics, as it is also essential to know what they are and how they relate to the gastrointestinal flora.

Finally, once we have a broader picture about this, here we want to show you some probiotics and give you their general characteristics. In this way we want to help you choose the right ones for you and you can start to see the impact, positive of course, on your health and that of your family.




Summary

  • Probiotics as a dietary supplement are good bacteria like the ones you naturally have in your gastrointestinal flora, but they are not all for the same thing. They enter your digestive tract, start to reproduce and begin to repopulate different parts of it, helping your flora to re-establish itself and protect you from infection.
  • There is confusion over the terms probiotics and prebiotics and people use these terms interchangeably. Now, although both provide great benefits to your flora to keep it healthy and protect you from many diseases, it is good to know that they are not the same thing.
  • Some things we consume damage our intestinal flora, for example, something we rarely consider is medication that alters the reproduction of microorganisms and their function is altered. Similarly, highly processed foods, canned foods, foods with a high sugar content such as soft drinks, etc., damage our intestinal flora.

The Best Probiotics: Our Picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about probiotics

We've already looked at a few products and know that the information we've just given you will help you choose the one that suits you and your tastes. However, now we want to give you more details about probiotics and what they can do for your health so that you can feel more confident in your decision.

Probiotics strengthen your immune system. (Photo: warrengoldswain / 123rf.com)

What is a probiotic and what are its benefits?

Probiotics are a food supplement that contains good bacteria like those found in your gastrointestinal flora. Basically what they do when they come in is tell your worn out or damaged flora: 'Reinforcements are here!' These bacteria take their places, start to reproduce and in this way start to protect you.

So, probiotics will bring balance to your flora and you will start to see this reflected in better digestion. Also, although not so obvious, your digestive system will be able to better absorb the nutrients from what you eat and this will also result in your immune system benefiting and strengthening.

To give you a clearer idea of the health benefits of taking probiotics and having the amount of micro-organisms your body needs in your gastrointestinal flora, we present the following table. We will contrast the advantages of a healthy flora with the disadvantages of not having this balance in our body:

Advantages
  • Improves digestion
  • Good absorption of nutrients
  • Strong immune system
  • Destroys bad microorganisms
  • Balances pH
Disadvantages
  • Constipation
  • Poor nutrition and anaemia
  • Susceptible to diseases
  • Cholera, colitis, salmonella, etc.
  • Gastritis or colitis

Probiotics or Prebiotics - What should you pay attention to?

When it comes to health care, it is always important to understand the terms of what you are buying and its benefits, as sometimes mixing certain good compounds together is not the best thing to do, or you need to get the ratio right. In this case, a mixture of probiotics and prebiotics is a good thing and a great help.

Basically, probiotics contain live good bacteria that are naturally created by fermented foods. Prebiotics are the fibre that nourishes these bacteria. That's why a product that provides you with both will be good as the prebiotics will support the reproduction of the probiotics.

PROBIOTICS PREBIOTICS
Characteristics Live Bacteria Fibre
Function Reproduce and regenerate the gastrointestinal flora Nourish the bacteria.
Sources Fermented foods Fibre-rich foods.
Foods Yoghurt, kefir, etc. Whole-grain cereals and vegetables.

Role of probiotics in gastrointestinal flora

Your gastrointestinal flora plays a very important role in your health and is the name given to the group of microorganisms, bacteria, fungi and yeasts that live in your digestive tract. They defend you from microorganisms that enter your body, especially through food.

By keeping it in balance you ensure a stimulation of gastric juices and enzymes in your digestive system. If your flora is damaged, you will start to have problems with digestion and become vulnerable to various diseases.

Therefore, paying attention to the state of your flora becomes indispensable. You need to establish habits to protect it and take care of it from what can damage its reproduction and as a consequence alter the function it has in your digestive system, which will end up affecting your immune, neurological and even hormonal system.

"The best and most efficient pharmacy is within your own system."
Robert C. Peale

Just as in our flora there are different microorganisms, in probiotics as a supplement there are different strains of good bacteria and each will help us in different diseases or cover certain deficiencies. Before we continue, we want you to know that a strain only includes one type of micro-organism.

You don't have to learn their names as they are very rare, just know that there are different ones and that each has subtypes. Bifidobacterium, lactobacillus or streptococcus are some of the strains you will see in products. However, the combination of strains can be ideal to complement the treatment of conditions such as; food allergies, tooth decay, colitis, diabetes, diarrhoea, eczema, gastritis, autoimmune diseases, among others.

Healthy body in healthy flora. (Photo: Viktoriya Kuzmenkova / 123rf.com)

Ways I help or harm my flora

There is no better way to take care of our flora than by maintaining a healthy diet. Through good eating habits you protect it and help it regenerate. The benefits extend as it is said that if your digestive system is functioning well then your whole body will function well as your flora regulates many other functions.

Among the foods that you can consider to be the most recommended are those known as natural probiotics and are fermented foods such as homemade yoghurt, sauerkraut, kambucha, miso, etc. Many of these options can be found in Asian food shops or organic food shops.

The following table will help you to graphically see and identify whether you are helping or harming your gastrointestinal flora according to your habits. It will also help you to know what to avoid once you start taking your probiotics so you don't mess up the treatment you are taking.

IMPROVE HARM
Excess Alcohol No Yes
Eating vegetables Yes No
Fermented foods Yes No
Antibiotics No Yes
Canned foods No Yes
Processed foods No Yes
Whole grains Yes No
Probiotics as a supplement Yes No
Artificial sweeteners No Yes
Animal fat No Yes

As you may have noticed in the table we focused only on dietary habits. However, there are other types of habits that also damage our gastrointestinal flora and have to do with stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, being overweight, use of laxatives, etc. We would do well to pay attention to these habits as well.

Purchasing criteria

It will always be nice to find different presentations and have a wide variety of product to choose from. Just remember that there are a few things you need to consider when making your purchase. Here are some of them:

  • Strain
  • Presentation
  • Age
  • Content

Strain

A probiotic bacterial strain is a specific type of microorganism that has been catalogued by professionals according to its genus and species, which is given a name and number to differentiate it. Each strain has subtypes and can be combined according to its intended therapeutic use.

The quality of a product is not determined by the strain per se, but by whether it withstands the whole process involved in producing and marketing it so that when it enters your body it remains effective, resists gastric juices, can reproduce and repopulate your flora.

Finding probiotics is not difficult. (Photo: geralt / pixabay.com)

Presentation

Presentation will always be important and will be according to your taste. Here we will tell you about the products we informed you about earlier. It is important that you check the way in which you have to store the product, some require refrigeration. However, there are many other presentations such as drops, tablets, capsules, etc..:

Powder. In the very specific case of probiotics, this presentation gives you the advantage of starting to act from your throat and oesophagus. You will be able to notice it in the glass you use because when you are taking it you will see how it sticks to your glass where it passes through. The same will happen throughout your digestive tract.

One of the advantages of this presentation, compared to others, is that it does not require preparation, making it ideal for people who find it difficult to take time to prepare things in the morning due to the pace of their activities. It is also very easy for the body to assimilate.

Gummies. Despite being a solid presentation, it is not necessary to take it with water or any liquid. Therefore, it is an advantage in terms of time because you can take them and chew them while you continue preparing for your day.

It is important that you check the way in which you have to store the product, some require refrigeration. (Photo: Diana Taliun / 123rf.com)

Age

As probiotics are something very natural for our body, it is a product that can be safely consumed at any age from babies to pregnant women. In fact they are considered GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).

However, just because they are classified as safe does not mean that they should be taken indiscriminately, as the important thing is that there is a balance in your body. Always, at any age, it is better to take care of your diet and look for foods that naturally promote the reproduction of our gastrointestinal flora and avoid those that are harmful to us.

In the case of babies, it may be necessary to take probiotics as a food supplement if for some reason their mother's flora was not well; if the birth was by caesarean section, since during natural childbirth the baby benefits from the bacteria in the birth canal; or if the mother cannot breastfeed the baby.

(Photo: Robert Przybysz/ 123rf.com)

Content

In the case of probiotics, rather than the number of units of the product offered, it is the number of units of the strains that is important. In other words, it is not so important whether it has one hundred or fifty gummies, 50g or 100 ml; what you need to look at is the amount of micro-organisms they provide.

The unit of measurement is CFU (Colony Forming Units) and the minimum that a product must have to be effective is one billion. That's why on the table of contents of probiotics you'll see legends like this: minimum one billion; more than one hundred million; or you'll see a number 200,000,00. It is important to know how many microorganisms there are.

Finally, it is also important to check what else is included. The prebiotics, which we mentioned earlier, can be found under the legend FOS which stands for Fructooligosaccharides. Remember that prebiotics, vitamin B and glutamine are among others as fertiliser for the probiotics to reproduce easily.

If your digestive system is functioning well then your whole body will function well as your flora regulates many functions. (Photo: angellodeco/ 123rf.com)

(Featured image photo: Photo: pixelbliss / 123rf.com)

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