Probiotics: Consumption Methods
When it comes to taking probiotics, there are various forms in which they can be consumed. Some of these are discussed in this article.
Many people get their probiotics through eating various foods. The other method of taking probiotics is as a supplement, usually a capsule or two. These probiotics are aimed at balancing the gut flora in a positive fashion.
Probiotics do not change the flavor of foods, but they may contribute slightly to the flavor. An example is yogurt. It would probably not taste the same if the active cultures of probiotic bacteria were not present. Yogurt starts with a certain number of naturally occurring probiotic organisms, but many have now been supplemented with specific probiotic microorganisms.
Some of the foods that contain probiotics include cheeses, kefir, sour cream, and yogurt.
One problem with foods as a source of probiotics is that even if they do contain the probiotic organisms there is no guarantee that they will have the probiotics in a large enough number or in the form that is needed in order to get health benefits. Try to find out if the manufacturer has studies to support that their food, with its probiotics, makes a significant contribution.
The probiotic microorganisms must stay alive in order to give you the benefit. This means that the product must be closely monitored and stored in the correct conditions for the microorganisms to survive. Do not expect the shelf life of such products to be very long. Fresh probiotics are the best, and should be stored in the refrigerator. Air and moisture can damage probiotics so watch packaging carefully.
The organisms must be able to survive the stomach acids in order to reach the bowel, where they will do the most work. If the organisms are inside of a capsule, the capsule must not dissolve in the stomach, but must dissolve in the small intestines to allow release of the probiotics.
A potency should be found on the bottle if you are taking probiotics in a capsule. A serving of food may also give a potency. It tells you the number of viable bacteria per dose or capsule or serving. You might also find a mention on the bottle about the presence of contaminating or other bacteria that do not contribute as they are not considered probiotic.
There are more than 50 species of lactobacillus. Some of the lactobacilli found in foods and supplements include Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. acidophilus DDS-1, Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus johnsonii, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus plantarium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus salivarius, and Lactobacillus bulgarius. You may note that some of these sound rather specific, with the GG or DDS-1 denoting very specific strains.
Approximately 30 species of bifidobacteria exist. Some that are used as probiotics include Bifodbacterium bifidum, Bifodbacterium thermophilum, Bifodbacterium infantis, Bifodbacterium breve, Bifodbacterium longum, Bifodbacterium lactis, and Bifodbacterium pseudolongum.
There are a few other organisms that are considered to be gut probiotics. These include Streptococcus thermophiles, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Enterococcus faecium.
Honestly, there are no universally used, or suggested for use, combination of probiotic microorganisms that will help every person. Each of us has our own version of gut flora, a variation on a theme. Most people do a little bit of trial and error until they find a probiotic combination that does not give them side effects and that they feel works. It may be a specific yogurt or kefir, a specific supplement, or a combination of the two.
One of the best things you can do when trying to decide what probiotics to focus on is to decide what you want to help, i.e., are you trying to avoid diarrhea?. Then do a little internet research to find out what organisms are suggested when trying to treat your issue. That way you can pick out a probiotic supplement, food or capsule that will contain those specific organisms.
Always pick brands you trust. Research by ConsumerLab.com has shown that some items do not contain the ingredients that they claim to contain, even when dealing with more common brands. There is no regulation of how foods are supplemented with probiotics, nor how supplements are produced. Even if the item is “correct” when it leaves the production line, a probiotic microorganism might die in transport.
Another thing that you may see are compounds labeled prebiotics. These are non-digestible carbohydrates that can act as food for probiotic organisms. Prebiotics are naturally part of yogurt or kefir. You could attempt to add prebiotics to your regimen, but there are no suggested doses. Prebiotics are found in bananas, whole grains, artichokes, onions, garlic, and honey. You can help your probiotics to work better with a diet that includes healthy portions of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Other forms of probiotics
Probiotics may also be administered in suppository form. There is a vaginal suppository that can be used to help populate the vagina with “good” bacteria in an effort to keep yeast from overgrowing or to keep bacterial vaginosis from recurring. The reviews on whether it works are mixed, but for those females it does work feel very happy with the results. Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus vaginal capsules have been found to help with bacterial vaginosis.
Suppositories to use rectally exist, but there is no good consensus on whether they help or not. Most people try to use oral probiotics that last throughout the digestive tract.
Probiotics can be found in creams. One use would be for atopic eczema, a skin condition mostly found in children. Some people do feel that it helps but according to the Cochrane Database Review proof to support that probiotic creams truly help eczema was not found. One of the difficulties in determining efficacy is that different creams are being used by different practitioners. There really is no suggestion for specific treatment.
Various face creams contain a variety of probiotics which are claimed to help with facial and body skin health. The hope is that the probiotic bacteria, that are theoretically good for skin, would help keep the “bad” bacteria away that could cause infection or pimples. Some people even believe that they could help with anti-aging. Not much research has been done yet to substantiate the claims. At this point in time there is little to suggest what you should use, or how much.
Overall, it is felt that a person who is serious about the ingestion of probiotics cannot get enough probiotics through eating food. There is a need for oral supplements, and when appropriate, creams or other sources of probiotics, in order to get the needed amount of probiotics into or onto your body. You will always need to experiment as to what will work for you.
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