Everything You Need to Know About Probiotics (a complete guide)

Advertisements for probiotics supplements are all over the place. It seems that you can’t turn on your television or browse the Internet without seeing one. But there’s a good reason –

Millions of people have taken these products, and for many different reasons.

Of course, some want to address a digestive issue. Others are looking for something that will help their overall health.

But whatever your reason, it’s important that you know as much as possible about how probiotics can actually help you before you make your purchase.

So, check out our simple probiotics guide with info and tips below. It’ll help you discover the right types of probiotics for you and your family.

What is a Probiotic Supplement?

Let’s start with the word probiotic. Simply, it means to promote life.

And probiotics are actually alive. In fact, they’re the beneficial bacteria and other microbes in your “gut” or gastrointestinal tract.

Turns out, there are trillions of little microscopic organisms inside of you. And many of them are good for you, but some of them are quite harmful.

However, when there’s a good balance between good and bad microbes, your digestive system will typically work properly. But if the bad bacteria outnumber the good, it can lead to digestive problems.1

Now, a probiotic supplement is a product that’s designed to provide reinforcements to your supply of good bacteria.

Of course, you can find beneficial microbes in many kinds of foods. These are mainly fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread. But it can be extremely hard to ensure you have enough beneficial bacteria in your gut through diet alone.

That’s why lots of people turn to supplements.

The Benefits of Probiotics

probiotics benefits

What does science have to say about how probiotics can improve your health? Here are a few reported benefits, backed by solid scientific evidence.

Respiratory issues – Research shows that probiotic use could help reduce the risk of certain kinds of respiratory concerns… including catching a cold.2 In fact, in one study children were divided into two groups: One group received milk enriched with probiotics and the other received regular milk. According to the results, the children who drank the regular milk were 17 percent more likely to suffer an upper respiratory infection than the group who drank the probiotic enhanced milk.3

Constipation – Probiotics can benefit bowel function as well. In one study, people suffering from constipation received two servings of yogurt with probiotic bacteria daily for several weeks. At the end of the study, the participants reported they not only had increased bowel movements but also a reduction in bloating.4

Feminine problems – Good and bad bacteria not only fight for control of the gut, but also the female reproductive system. When some women take antibiotics or birth control pills, they often develop yeast and urinary tract infections.A probiotic supplement can inhibit some of the bad bacteria that can cause these problems.5

Diarrhea – Antibiotics can really help nurse you back to health once in a great while, but they can also seriously deplete the number of good bacteria in your gut that results in loose stool. And this condition actually has a name: antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). The lactobacillus group of bacteria found in many types of probiotic supplements have been shown to help relieve many of the symptoms associated with AAD.6

Oral health – Finally, the health of your mouth can actually have a significant impact on your general health—just as there is good and bad bacteria in your gut, there’s also the same in your mouth. That’s why it’s important to support your mouth’s good bacteria with good oral care. Low birth weight and blood sugar issues are just two health problems that have been associated with poor oral hygiene. The Lactobacillus reuteri bacterium has been shown to help strengthen oral health and reduce tooth decay.7

So, now that you know how probiotics can help you, you just need to…

Find the Right Probiotic Product

Now, you probably already know there are thousands of probiotic supplements on the market. It can be difficult to narrow down your choices and find the supplement that’s right for you.

That’s why it’s so important you carefully look at the labels of the products you’re considering. They provide key clues that can give you a good idea of whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth.

You want to make sure the label provides information about the viability of the bacteria contained in each specific product. Viability simply means whether or not the microbes will be alive when you ingest them. If the label says the bacteria were viable at the time of manufacture, that really doesn’t tell you anything. You have no idea whether or not they’re still alive.

You need to make sure your product labels say something like, “viable until expiration date”.

If you see that phrase or something like it, chances are you’re about to purchase a truly helpful probiotic. Thing is, the microbes inside need to be alive to do their job in your gut. As long as you follow the storage instructions, the product should work.8

Furthermore, you’ll want to check on the number of good bacteria per serving. This number will be measured in colony forming units, or CFUs. This is the amount of bacteria in a supplement that have the ability to divide and form colonies.

Now, here you’ll probably see a wide range of numbers. Some products offer 100s of millions of CFUs per serving, while others have CFUs in the trillions. Most products will provide anywhere from 15-30 billion.

The next thing you need to know when you’re looking at probiotic labels…

Popular Probiotic Strains

probiotic strains
Of course, it’s super important to know the strains of good bacteria in the probiotic products you’re considering. Here are just a few that should be in whatever you eventually purchase.

Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum) – This is one of the first strains of bacteria that develop in the body. It’s really important when it comes to helping your gut stay healthy and it’s a great strain for helping you metabolize carbohydrates.9,10

Lactobacillus acidophilus – L. acidophilus is a very important strain of good bacteria. It plays a vital role in inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Also, it helps ensure that there is the right balance between beneficial and harmful microbes in the gut.11

Lactobacillus reuteri – This is another bacterial strain that inhibits the growth of harmful microbes. It’s called L. reuteri and it also helps strengthen your immune system. Of course, this can help provide protection against several different kinds of serious illnesses and health issues.12

Are Probiotic Supplements Safe?

In general, probiotic supplements are safe for the vast majority of people. In select cases, some people report minor issues like bloating or gas, but that’s about it.

But, no matter what your health may be like, talk to your doctor before taking any sort of probiotic product. They will have a good idea of how ingesting beneficial bacteria could affect your gut.

But your doctor will know something even more important – whether or not a probiotic will interact with any medications you might be taking. So, definitely check in with your healthcare professional.

And remember, when you take a probiotic, you’ll be adding billions of good bacteria to your digestive system. While this is a good thing, you’ll still be affecting the balance of microbes in your gut. It might take a few days for your system to adjust. It’s during this time that you might experience minor bloating and gas.14 But those effects usually subside quickly.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, taking a probiotic supplement can provide many different health benefits. And the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages for the majority of people.

However, you should still talk with your doctor first to make sure it will be safe for you to start a probiotic regimen.

Again, you want to pay close attention to what your body is telling you. If, for example, you’re experiencing side effects after three or four days, talk to your doctor to see if you might need to stop your probiotic regimen.

1. https://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics/article.htm
2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub2/abstract
3. http://www.bmj.com/content/322/7298/1327
4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2007.03362.x/full
5. http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics
6. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
7. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160504001552
8. https://isappscience.org/probiotics
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10831430
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3145055/
11. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1988.tb09312.x/abstract
12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3871281/
13. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm
14. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/07/probiotics_n_5563618.html

12 Awesome Benefits of Lactobacillus Acidophilus (including weight loss!)

If you have done any research into probiotic supplements, you’ve likely run across a lot of long, Latin terms. They’re used to describe certain types of beneficial bacteria found in most probiotic products. One of the most important is Lactobacillus acidophilus. That’s a mouthful, to be sure, but this bacteria strain is offers a myriad of health benefits.

What is Acidophilus?

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of bacteria that feeds on sugars provided by the food you eat. You want to increase the amount of this strain in your “gut,” or gastrointestinal tract. Lactobacillus acidophilus and other “good” bacteria can help counteract “bad” bacteria. When there’s balance between good and bad microbes in the gut, your digestive tract will usually work as it should. But when the bad ones outnumber the good, you may be at risk for many types of digestive problems.1

Lactobacillus acidophilus is associated with many health benefits. Here are 12 ways this bacteria can benefit your health:

1. Helps With Feminine Infections

There is some scientific evidence that women who take suppositories containing Lactobacillus acidophilus may find relief from bacterial vaginosis. This is a relatively mild infection in most instances, but there are rare occurrences of more severe complications.2

2. Reduces Symptoms of Traveler’s Diarrhea

Everybody has to deal with the frustration of discomfort of diarrhea at one time or another. There is one particularly troublesome version of the condition. It’s known as “Montezuma’s revenge,” or traveler’s diarrhea. It often strikes people who visit underdeveloped countries. These countries often have contaminated water or food. Research indicates that Lactobacillus acidophilus could help reduce symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea.3

3. ReDuCES IBS Symptoms

One of the most common diseases of the gut is irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This condition can make life miserable, forcing sufferers to head for the nearest bathroom at a moment’s notice. Studies show that Lactobacillus acidophilus helps to ease inflammation in the gut. According to research, the strain helps to reduce the activation of blood platelets. A high blood platelet count is one of the indications of IBS.4

4. May Help Manage Cholesterol Levels

Studies show that Lactobacillus acidophilus may help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.5 In one study, people who took a probiotic containing the strain saw a major reduction in LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels.6 In another study, participants who ate yogurt containing 300 grams of Lactobacillus acidophilus also saw an improvement in their ratios of good vs. bad cholesterol.7

5. Inhibits Allergic Reactions

allergies | Probiotic AmericaThere is evidence that Lactobacillus acidophilus could help people suffering from allergic asthma. This is the most common form of asthma, affecting approximately 60 percent of the estimated 25 million people in the U.S. who have the condition. Allergic asthma occurs when an allergen triggers a reaction. Common allergens include mold, dust, pet dander, and pollen.8

One study suggests Lactobacillus acidophilus may help inhibit an allergen’s ability to trigger an asthma attack.9

6. Boosts Immunity

Your immune system is key to your health. It helps to protect you from infections, and it also helps you heal from an injury. According to research, taking Lactobacillus acidophilus regularly could help strengthen your immune system. In one study, researchers studied children who frequently suffered from the common cold. Those who ate food rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus for three months saw a reduction in their symptoms. According to the study’s results, the children developed colds less often.10

7. Improves Absorption of Nutrients

If your body can’t do a proper job of absorbing nutrients from the food you eat, that can lead to major health problems. Certain nutrients can be hard for us to get from food, such as rutin. However, rutin is in citrus fruits, apples, and black and green tea—which helps promote blood circulation. Research indicates that Lactobacillus acidophilus helps the body absorb rutin, to your benefit.11

8. Protects Against Gut Infections

There are indications that Lactobacillus acidophilus may help inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori. This is a harmful bacterium that can cause peptic ulcers. It’s unclear how H. pylori spreads. Researchers believe unclean water and food may be to blame.12-13

9. Eases Eczema / InHibits ECzema in NewBorns

If your skin becomes itchy, painful, and inflamed on a regular basis, you might have a condition known as eczema. One of the most common forms of eczema is atopic dermatitis. Lactobacillus acidophilus may help reduce the symptoms of this condition.14

In one study, researchers provided a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria to pregnant women. They gave the mixture to the women, as well as their infants, three months after delivery. According to the results, the children given the mixture were 22 percent less likely to develop eczema than those who did not receive it.15 In another study, researchers found that children who received Lactobacillus acidophilus in combination with standard medical treatment showed fewer symptoms of atopic dermatitis.16

10. Strengthens the Gut

The gut contains trillions of bacteria. Again, many of them are good, but many of them are harmful. Lactobacillus acidophilus helps bolster the number of beneficial gut bacteria. It also helps increase the amount of something called butyrate in the gut.17 Butyrate is a fatty acid that is very important for maintaining gut health.18

11. Reduces Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

Lactose intolerance can be a serious issue for some people. It can lead to a host of digestive problems, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. It occurs due to an inability to digest lactose, which is a sugar found in many kinds of dairy products. According to a study, Lactobacillus acidophilus could help reduce these symptoms.19

12. Inhibits Acne

Lactobacillus Acidophilus | Probiotic America News

Lactobacillus acidophilus, and other beneficial bacteria in probiotics, might help clear up acne. These beneficial bacteria, according to research, may also help patients better tolerate antibiotics used for their condition. Studies suggest applying probiotics to the skin might help inhibit acne-causing bacteria.20

Other Important Lactobacillus Strains

Aside from Lactobacillus acidophilus , there are other strains of good bacteria that are important for your health. Here are a few strains you should look for in any probiotic supplement you’re considering:

· Lactobacillus rhamnosus –

This strain has also been shown to help reduce the symptoms of IBS.21 It might even play a role in helping to reduce the occurrence of seasonal allergy attacks, such as hay fever.22

· Lactobacillus brevis –

Lactobacillus brevis is found in many kinds of fermented foods. These include yogurt, pickles, and sauerkraut. This strain may help boost the immune system.23 It has also been shown to promote gum health.24

· Lactobacillus gasseri –

There hasn’t been as much research conducted on the benefits of Lactobacillus gasseri, compared to other strains. But, there is an indication that it could help you lose weight. In one study, obese adults taking supplements containing Lactobacillus gasseri lost almost 10 percent of their abdominal fat. They did so over a period of three months.25

How to Get More Lactobacillus Acidophilus Into Your Gut

Lactobacillus acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria are in many fermented foods. These include not only yogurt and sauerkraut, but also sourdough bread, and others. You can find milk enriched with Lactobacillus acidophilus in many grocery stores.

But you can’t get beneficial amounts of Lactobacillus acidophilus only from food. You’d have to eat them almost exclusively to get enough, and this would likely cause weight gain. So, it’s best to supplement your diet with probiotics that include this important strain.

1 http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/lactobacillus-acidophilus
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24299970
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17311979
4 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0075664
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10702159
6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25954637
7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25197295
8 http://www.aafa.org/page/allergic-asthma.aspx
9 https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2013/481651/

10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22507276
11 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0142376
12 http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/alternative-meds-update/lactobacillus-acidophilus-gastric-infections-autoimmune-conditions/article/463037/2/
13 https://medlineplus.gov/helicobacterpyloriinfections.html
14 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24954372
15 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19840300
16 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20861645
17 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23758634
18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070119/
19 http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/specific-strain-lactobacillus-acidophilus-may-relieve-symptoms-lactose-intolerance/
20 https://www.livescience.com/46502-probiotics-hold-promise-skin-conditions.html
21 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886445/
22 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25899251
23 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4285317/
24 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17577323
25 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23614897

7 Foods to BAN From Your Diet if You Have Thyroid Issues

There’s a fair chance that you have never thought about your thyroid. However, this small butterfly-shaped gland is a vital piece of your endocrine system, helping the body regulate hormones. If you are one of the millions of people living with health concerns, it could be your thyroid – a gland highly sensitive to your everyday diet. Because the entire endocrine system can be sensitive to diet, there are foods to avoid, and also foods that you can add to your health regimen in order to restore proper thyroid function.

What is the Thyroid Gland and How Does it Work?

Located on the front of the neck, this “master gland” is charged with many critical bodily operations. The thyroid gland’s function impacts nearly every cell in your body, and many processes, as it is responsible for the production of essential thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). To produce these hormones needed to regulate everything in your body from your appetite, to your good mood, and even your deep sleep, the thyroid must find iodine. If there is not enough of it in your bloodstream, the thyroid may not function properly, and you may notice these symptoms of common thyroid dysfunction:

  • The “jitters,” or a feeling of physical nervousness and anxiousness
  • Mental fog, and an inability to focus
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle
  • Gastrointestinal distress like gas and bloating
  • Racing heartbeat or palpitations
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Unwanted weight gain
  • Cholesterol imbalance
  • Enlargement in the front of the neck, at the location of your thyroid
  • Growing intolerance to heat, or hot flashes, or the opposite (cold flashes)

If you notice that you have three or more of these symptoms, avoiding these seven worst foods for thyroid health.

1. Gluten

Many things can cause the immune system to attack your thyroid gland. Gluten is a tiny protein present in grains, however, this substance is added into so many foods today that many people have reported negative symptoms associated with consuming it. Not only is it used in baked goods as a leavener, but it also works as a preservative. That’s why health professionals suggest that gluten is perhaps the biggest culprit of thyroid dysfunction today.1 Seen as an invader by the immune system, gluten leads the body to create large amounts of antibodies in the blood when it enters the intestinal tract.

2. Soy

This term encompasses many different items, all made from the soybean. These can include protein powders, milk, and many vegetarian items like cheeses and meats. However, when people consume so many soy products, they often do not realize it. This can be problematic for the proper function of the thyroid gland, as soy contains phyto estrogenic compounds called isoflavones, which have been scientifically shown to negatively affect thyroid functioning.2

Because soy contains what are known as phytoestrogens (isoflavones), they may cause your body confusion. These compounds mimic natural estrogen hormones produced in your body. For this reason, if you are worried about a healthy thyroid, you may choose to eliminate all soy-based foods including edamame, tofu, and soy sauce from your diet.
thyroid problems | Probiotic America

3. Caffeine

In our fast-paced lifestyles today, many people drink more than just one cup of coffee in the morning. In fact, most people can be found drinking about 3-5 cups of Joe every day. This constant consumption of caffeine boosts energy levels, but it can also have a disruptive effect on your metabolism. Your body’s metabolism is naturally regulated by the thyroid gland. However with so many “boosts,” from caffeine during the day, coffee can disrupt the adrenal glands, causing an overproduction of epinephrine and norepinephrine – hormones that harm your thyroid. This, in turn, produces adrenaline that you do not need in regular day-to-day applications.

Thus, consuming caffeine in large quantities every day could burn out the adrenal glands, and overstimulate the thyroid over time. Not only that, but caffeine also increases blood sugar and insulin levels, which can cause cravings for sugary foods and refined carbohydrates – also overtaxing the thyroid.

4. Alcohol

The thyroid gland plays a vital role in the health of the liver, and its ability to detoxify potentially dangerous hormones in your body. While drinking small amounts of some types of alcoholic beverages can promote good health, too much can harm your healthy thyroid. In clinical studies, alcohol consumption has been directly shown to have a toxic effect on healthy thyroid cells, and this direct toxicity may account for a reduction in thyroid volume.3

5. Sugar

Don’t be fooled by food labels: Sugar goes by over 50 different names, including corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, maltodextrin, maltose, and many more. Is it any wonder that people often don’t realize just how much sugar they are actually eating? When you consume large amounts of sugar, as most do, it can tamper with gut bacteria balance.

Studies have confirmed that eating excessive amounts of sugar allows non-beneficial bacteria in the stomach to proliferate, putting a damper on active thyroid hormone (T3 and T4) production. This shows that gut bacterial balance plays a major role in thyroid health, and that it may also influence the regulation of other hormones.4

thyroid problems | Probiotic America

6. Red Meat

Studies have shown that vegetarian diets are rarely associated with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).5 For this reason, eliminating meat, including ground beef, bacon, and certain cuts of steak, may help reduce your risk of potential thyroid complications.

7. Seafood

Since iodine and heavy metals have a very similar molecular structure, the thyroid often grabs for elements such as mercury, mistaking it for iodine. Seafood tends to be high in these metals, due to ocean contamination. Heavy metals like mercury often prohibit the body from absorbing essential minerals, including zinc, magnesium, and selenium. Mercury also disrupts thyroid hormone production, limiting the amount of necessary T3 and T4 hormones in your body. This makes seafood a hazardous dietary choice for those looking to maintain, or improve their thyroid health.6

Foods to Feed your Thyroid

Talk to your doctor if you feel like you may need a little extra help promoting your thyroid health. Until then, you may want to add these foods to your everyday menu to boost the proper functions of your oh-so-important thyroid gland.

Best foods for your thyroid: Coconut oil, seaweed, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, sprouted seeds, filtered water, bone broth, and fiber-rich foods like apples, beans, seeds, and lentils.

The Takeaway

It is so important to take good care of your thyroid gland, because as a central part of your endocrine system, it takes great care of you. While most of the time, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is all you need to keep your thyroid working properly, you may also want to adjust your diet to avoid these seven worst foods for your thyroid. Today, there are so many factors that can mess up the proper functioning of this essential gland, including the natural aging process, immunity problems, stress, and environmental pollutants. So, always try to keep your thyroid humming, by eliminating these foods.

Want more health tips? Keep reading here:

12 Probiotic Foods to Help You Feel Great

1. Chin Lye Ch’ng, MRCPI, M. Keston Jones, MD, FRCP. Celiac Disease and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease. Clin Med Res. 2007 Oct; 5(3): 184–192.
2. Messina M, Redmond G. Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature Thyroid. 2006 Mar;16(3):249-58.
3. Yatan Pal Singh Balhara and Koushik Sinha Deb. Impact of alcohol use on thyroid function. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jul-Aug; 17(4): 580–587.
4. Hays MT. Thyroid hormone and the gut. Endocr Res. 1988;14(2-3):203-24.
5. Serena Tonstad, Edward Nathan. Vegan Diets and Hypothyroidism. Nutrients. 2013 Nov; 5(11): 4642–4652.
6. Offie P. Soldin, Daniel M. O’Mara. Thyroid Hormones, Methylmercury Toxicity. Biol Trace Elem Res. Apr. 2008.

Can Yoga Help Improve Digestion? (the research may surprise you!)

In the U.S., an estimated 70 million people suffer from digestive problems every day. 1 From indigestion and constipation to diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), these conditions cause discomfort, anxiety and stress in the daily lives of Americans. We’ve all been taught to reach for relief in the form a chalky, chewable tablet from our local drugstore. Is it possible to find relief without medication?
Continue reading “Can Yoga Help Improve Digestion? (the research may surprise you!)”