Most environmentally conscious people are aware of the word “ecosystem,” in which every participating element plays a role in the system’s ability to flourish. The human body has one of those ecosystems, too, and it’s located in the gut.
The inhabitants of the human gastrointestinal tract are bacteria ““ loads of different varieties ““ and what they do and how many there are play a huge role in defining our health. When this bacterial eco-balance is disrupted ““ for reasons including taking medication, poor diet, antibiotics or aging ““ ingesting some “friendly” microorganisms may be beneficial.
These helpful bacteria, available in supplement form, are called probiotics, and they are available in many different varieties.
Here’s a sampling:
1. Multi-probiotic strains. Some probiotic supplements contain different well-known strains or types of probiotics similar to those found naturally in the body, including acidophilus. Probiotics may promote gastrointestinal comfort and healthy bowel function.* And, because a large percentage of cells of the immune system are located in the digestive tract, probiotics can also help support immune response.*
These products are typically sold in varying degrees of potency, which are often billions of colony forming units (CFUs) of viable probiotics per 2-capsule serving. And they may also include natural fiber, such as inulin, derived from the chicory root. One high-potency multi-strain probiotic is Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra, which includes 13 species of beneficial cultures.
2. Supplements containing prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that may support healthy levels of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. For some, getting prebiotics in their probiotic supplements ““ so they work together to promote digestion and support the immune system ““ is the way to go.
Vitacost Probiotic 15-35 contains 15 different probiotic strains plus NutraFlora FOS, a highly concentrated source of prebiotics that supports healthy levels of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
3. Children’s formulas. Youngsters are also susceptible to gut issues, and your pediatrician may recommend a daily probiotic for your kids, like Garden of Life RAW Probiotics. These formulas are often kid-friendly fruit-flavored in chewable form, and they’re designed to be taken by children between 1 and 12 years of age.
Do you have a success story about how probiotics helped support your health? Share it with us in the comments below.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.