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Probiotic supplements provide healthy bacteria that have a beneficial effect on the human body. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a finely balanced environment where as many as 500 different strains of bacteria compete for space and nutrients. Instead of being passive inhabitants, these microflora interact with their human host in an intricate manner, regulating digestion, elimination, neurological function, and metabolism. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect, boosting immune function and enhancing the elimination of harmful compounds from the body.
The natural balance of microflora can be disrupted by exposure to pathogens, medications, and poor nutrition. Supplemental probiotics can increase populations of healthy bacteria and reduce harmful “bugs” that have been linked to health problems. What follows is a list of reasons to take a high-quality probiotic, including specific details about strains to look for when sourcing healthy bacteria to add to your diet.
#1: Greater Immunity
Probiotics can give your immune system a lift while also inhibiting the growth of harmful gut bacteria. Probiotic supplementation increases levels of immune cells such as IgA and Natural Killer cells that fight off pathogens (1). Studies show probiotic supplementation raises levels of protective anti-bodies in children, elderly adults, and well-trained athletes (2, 3, 4).
#2: Fewer Allergies
A robust immune response isn’t always appropriate. Sometimes when the body is exposed to benign particles from our environment like pollen or dust, the immune system will overreact with an excessive response, which can be harmful. Beneficial bacteria can help the body manage this response and avoid overreacting with an allergic reaction that is unnecessary (1).
#3: Counter Digestive Disorders
GI symptoms such as constipation are dangerous besides being unpleasant: Constipation leads to increased circulation of steroid hormones that cause cancer. Probiotics are a safe solution that can counter constipation and reduce other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
#4: Protect GI Health During Antibiotic Treatment or Diarrheal Illness
Although antibiotics are an important treatment for some bacterial illnesses, they can wipe out your healthy bacteria and cause diarrhea. Often thought of as an unfortunate side effect of a stomach illness, diarrhea can lead to malnutrition and dehydration if not quickly overcome. When choosing a probiotic to reduce digestive problems, bifidobacterium, saccharomyces boulardii, and lactobacillus strains have been shown to be effective in studies (1).
#5: Increase Protein & Nutrient Absorption
The bacteria in your gut communicate with the cells that line the intestinal wall and “tell” your intestine what to absorb into your bloodstream. Having an overpopulation of inflammatory bacteria can result in harmful pathogens getting through (called malabsorption), while keeping nutrients and amino acids out. Even something as simple as intense exercise can cause malabsorption. Improving the bacterial diversity and quantity is especially important for athletes who have higher nutrient needs for muscle and tissue repair following muscle damaging workouts (5).
#6: Improve Metabolic Health
Healthy bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate that have an antioxidant effect, lowering levels of oxidative stress that impairs insulin signaling and leads to diabetes. A study found that giving a probiotic supplement to people with metabolic syndrome resulted in a significant decrease in inflammation and increase in protective biomarkers (6).
#7: Better Mood & Less Depression
The majority of the neurotransmitters that control mood are produced in the gut. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in happiness, satisfaction, and relaxation, is produced almost entirely in the GI tract. In a study of 40 patients with clinically diagnosed depression, those who took a combination of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains significantly reduced depression and improved mood (7).
#8: Protect The Heart
Probiotics can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension and reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol that shuttles cholesterol from the liver to cells where it causes narrowing of the arteries (8, 9). Healthy bacteria also have an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to lower production of cytokines linked with heart disease such as C-reactive protein.
How To Get Started With Probiotics
Because probiotics are living organisms, there are various challenges associated with taking them. For a probiotic to be effective, two things must occur (10, 11):
1. It must be alive when you take it
2. It must survive the digestive process and reach the intestines alive where it can have maximum benefit.
That’s why you want a product that is guaranteed alive through the expiration date (not just at the time of bottling) AND one that can resist stomach acid so that it is alive for delivery to the intestines. All of our Poliquin Probiotics are designed to meet these requirements.
Our Proflora Excellence 2.0 is best for general immune, metabolic, and neurological health. It is a great daily use probiotic that is appropriate for children, pregnant women, and the elderly after consultation with a doctor.
Mega Proflora provides the same four bacterial strains as Proflora Excellence but with three times as many live bacteria making it ideal for “front loading” gut health and supporting immunity in the immune compromised, such as the elderly, those recovering from cancer, or individuals with underlying health conditions.
Proflora Excellence SB provides the therapeutic yeast saccharomyces boulardii that survives antibiotics and has been shown to support immunity and overcome diarrhea, making it your go to when on a course of antibiotics (12).