• August 7, 2020

STONE: Improving your gut microbiome by adding probiotics - Odessa American: Levi Stone

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STONE: Improving your gut microbiome by adding probiotics

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Posted: Sunday, July 26, 2020 4:30 am

Let’s face it; we don’t always eat as healthy as we should, perhaps opting for a quick meal from the drive-through and washing it all down with a large diet soda. Between the preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and excess sugars prevalent in many of our foods and beverages, they can alter the balance of the beneficial gut bacteria setting our digestive health into a tailspin. Beneficial bacteria are essential in maintaining optimal digestive health and the very boost you might need is by adding probiotics to your daily regimen.

Probiotics are living microscopic organisms which can yield healthful benefits. These living microorganisms are most often bacteria but can also be certain types of yeast.

For some, hearing the words “bacteria” or “yeast” may draw a negative association in thinking these may be harmful. Quite the contrary, several strains of bacteria and yeast are actually good. Those, like those found in probiotics, are actually very beneficial and necessary for our bodies to function properly.

The living organisms in probiotics are the same, or similar, to the beneficial (or “good”) bacteria found within your intestines. Having the right balance of these “good” bacteria provides an ideal environment for the digestive system to work efficiently and effectively.

According to the American Gastroenterological Association, the science continues to emerge on probiotics, but acknowledge they hold very beneficial aspects to overall gastrointestinal health. Some of these benefits may include:

  • Boosting your immune system by enhancing the production of antibodies to certain vaccines.
  • Produce substances that prevent infection.
  • Preventing harmful bacteria from attaching to the gut lining and continuing to grow.
  • Sends signals to cells, within the gut, to produce more mucous in the intestine which acts as a barrier against infection.
  • Inhibit or destroy toxins produced from “bad” bacteria.
  • Helps the body produce B vitamins which are necessary for metabolizing the food we eat.

The popularity of probiotics, over the past few years, seems to have spurred several food and beverage manufacturers to include them in their products.

Today, products with probiotics can include anything from yogurt and granola bars to chocolate and baby food. A multitude of products can leave your head spinning and wondering if you will get any benefit at all. The best way to decipher which product will work best for you is to visit with your doctor, preferably a gastroenterologist.

While there are many different strains of beneficial bacteria classified as probiotics, the most common are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each group of these bacteria has different species and each species has different strains. This is where some of the complexity comes in and where your doctor can help you choose the best product. For instance, some strains are more inclined to help with the immune system and move digested food through the gut, while other strains may help relieve lactose intolerance by helping the body break down lactose found in milk and milk products.

Found naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, probiotics have been a staple in many cultures and regions throughout the world. Overall, probiotics are safe and carry minimal risks, but are still best discussed with your doctor prior to using them.

Through advanced science and manufacturing techniques, there are now many formulations available commercially, easy to use, and over-the-counter for those looking to add this supplementation to their respective diets. The American Gastroenterological Association also offers these suggestions on helping you and your physician choose the most appropriate probiotics to fit your needs:

Checking the label. The more information a product has the better. Look for information specific to the probiotic’s group, species, and strains found in the contents of the product.

If necessary, call the manufacturer directly and ask questions about their product, specifically what research they have done that supports their product.

Stick to well-established companies and/or companies who are reputable. The internet can be deceiving, so exercise caution especially in situations that sound “too good to be true” and/or with products and companies with no established reputation.

Have an honest and open discussion with your doctor about any symptoms you have as well as any previous or current digestive issues you are experiencing. If probiotics are an option for you, it may be the missing piece needed to improve not only your digestive, but overall health as well.

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