Probiotics are living microorganisms that can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements. The idea of consuming live microorganisms is often not very appealing as we often consider all bacteria and other microorganisms to be harmful “germs”.
However, this is far from the truth as large numbers of microorganisms naturally live in our bodies and are instrumental in helping our bodies function properly.
While probiotics are mostly known for their effects on our digestive system, in actuality, probiotics are also extremely beneficial to our immune health.
Probiotics are believed to be able to boost our immune system by inhibiting the growth of harmful gut bacteria and also promote the production of natural antibodies in our body while also boosting immune cells like IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells.
A recent review also found that probiotics can also reduce the likelihood and severity of respiratory infections in children by up to 17%
When taking probiotic supplements, many of us may think that choosing the supplement with the most number of strains would be the best choice. However, this is far from the truth as not all probiotics are equal. In scientific literature, most research only covers the effects of a few Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. These include:
LactoBacillus Rhamnosus GG (LGG)
A well-known and researched probiotic strain, LGG is an extremely robust strain that has a high survival rate through gastric juices with a good adhesion to our intestinal walls.
It is understood to be beneficial in digestion and also immunity as it promotes thicker barriers in our GI tract that help reduce the effects of IBS and incidence of infection. It has also been found to be associated with the effective treatment of eczema, allergies and Crohn’s disease.
Lactobacillus Acidophilus NCFM
One of the most extensively researched strains in the world, Lactobacillus Acidophilus NCFM has been found to be effective in reducing pain and bloating associated with IBS and diarrhoea caused by bacterial and viral infections.
Additionally, there has also been emerging research that suggests that the strain is also able to help boost the number of antibodies in our immune system, leading to better immunity against bacterial or viral infections.
With benefits to both digestive health and the immune system, and extensive research to back it up, it is little wonder that this probiotic strain is often hailed as the best probiotic strain in the world.
Bifidobacterium Lactis BI04
Various studies have focused on the effectiveness of the probiotic strain in supporting immune function and improving gastro-intestinal function through the stabilisation of gut bacteria.
The strain has also been found to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of diarrhoea caused by antibiotics.
How To Use Probiotics For Digestive Health
To begin reaping the benefits of probiotics, it is best to start increasing your daily consumption of them. You can easily do this through food sources or probiotics supplements. Fermented foods and yogurt naturally contain probiotics so it will never hurt to add a bit more kimchi or Greek yogurt into our diets.
Probiotic supplements are also a great way to up your daily probiotic intake, however, you should note that probiotics are only effective if they are alive. So one major issue with probiotic supplements is whether or not the strains used in them will be able to survive through the excess heat during packaging and the handling process, and the gastric juices during consumption.
Thankfully, there are strains out there that boast superior stability against high temperatures with high survival rates through gastric juices, digestive enzymes and bile. LactoBacillus Rhamnosus GG (LGG), Lactobacillus Acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium Lactis BI04 are such strains, and they have also been found to exhibit good adhesion to our intestinal walls – making them ideal probiotic strains for consumption.
Don’t Dive Into Taking Probiotics
Like all things in life, it should be good to begin your probiotic journey slowly and steadily. While probiotics are considered safe for most people, those who have not taken much probiotics in the past may find themselves experiencing Gi issues like gas, bloating and mild diarrhea when they starting too fast.
It’s recommended that if you have never taken any probiotic supplements or rarely taken any fermented foods, that you should start at 10 Billion CFU per day initially and slowly increase the dosage as your body adjusts to the introduction of probiotics. For reference, a standard serving of yogurt has around 10 Billion CFU while supplements will have their CFU amounts listed.