What are probiotics?

You are aware that bacteria surround you on a daily basis. Your body is even made up of ninety percent bacteria cells and only ten percent human cells. However, there is no need to worry; many of these bacteria are beneficial to you and are necessary for your optimal health.

Probiotics, according to the World Health Organization, are “live organisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics literally mean “for life” and are coming to the forefront of medicine as beneficial bacteria supplements to help restore our vital microbiota.

At any given time, you have around 160 bacterial types (species) in your gut. Keeping the numbers of the good bacteria high such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria becomes an essential daily task. The largest groups of probiotic bacteria found in our body are bifidobacteria and the second group is lactobacilli.

The idea of beneficial bacteria to preserve foods has been around for centuries. The idea of beneficial bacteria aiding us in life wasn’t created until the early 1900s when Dr. Elie Metchnikoff travelled to Eastern Europe. He was surprised to find many people living to be 100 years of age or older and concluded that this was due to the large quantities of yogurt they consumed. Yoghurt today, often has sugar, preservatives, and low levels of active cultures and can be pasteurised which kills bacteria.

But consumers need to be wary; not all probiotics are created equal. Just how can you tell if a probiotic will beneficial to your health? First, you need to know if the strain is beneficial for you. Within each family, or genus, of bacteria, there are many species and each of those species has hundreds of strains. For example, Lactobacillus is the family (genus), acidophilus is the species, and NAS or DDS-1 is strains.

Not all strains provide health benefits. This is why you must rely on a reputable probiotics manufacturer to research and formulate its probiotics with the best and most beneficial bacteria available.

What to look for when buying a probiotic supplement

The following tips are the most important things you need to look for when purchasing a probiotic supplement:

Look for the International Good Manufacturing Practice certification (cGMP), which will ensure that you are receiving the highest quality probiotic that meets unequalled standards. This also guarantees that the product has been tested for potency and safety in all stages from the culturing of the bacteria through the printed expiration date.

You must also look for a “potency guarantee” for each strain which will be listed on the bottle label, it is your guarantee the potency is there through to the printed expiration date. The listing must include the strain, not just the genus and species. Without the strain listed, you may be getting worthless bacteria.

Some probiotics must be stored refrigerated for the bacteria to live and some are shelf stable.  Purchase only a probiotic with its supernatant (culturing medium). This provides nourishment for the probiotic and has been found to increase the benefits of the probiotic by up to 50 percent. The packaging is an important way to keep the bacteria protected.