What are Probiotics? What are the health benefits of Probiotics?
Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria that keep you healthy. They are living good bacteria that stay alive in your intestine after being consumed. These microscopic organisms work hard to alter the overall intestinal environment to a favorable one by crowding out bad bacteria such as viruses that might otherwise dominate and harm health. Even though they are bacteria, probiotics actually help protect your body from infection. Probiotics can stimulate and work with your immune system to improve your health and prevent, or even treat, certain diseases.
Probiotics help with digestion and nutrient absorption. These “good guy” bacteria enable essential health-promoting nutrients to be absorbed that otherwise would not have been able to cross the intestinal wall into the circulatory system. In fact, the depletion of “friendly” probiotics can lead to nutrient depletion and consequently inferior health; if your body can’t utilize the nutrient-dense foods you eat then you might as well not eat them in the first place. The regular consumption of probiotics will help your body to properly digest, process and utilize the food you eat. Probiotic consumption also increases the bioavailability of minerals, especially calcium.
Probiotics help detoxify and cleanse your body. Probiotics have been shown to support liver function and detoxification. These “friendly” bacteria filter toxins in the gut before they get into the bloodstream. The presence of probiotics speeds up the transfer time of toxic waste in your colon, thus preventing toxins from staying in your body and being reabsorbed in your bloodstream.
Probiotics improve the health and appearance of your skin.
Probiotics are beneficial for improving skin clarity and helping to prevent breakouts. Promising research suggests probiotics can help with an array of skin conditions ranging from dryness to redness and irritation. In fact, probiotic-rich soaps such as Dr. Ohhira’s award-winning Kampuku Beauty Bar are amazing for boosting skin’s radiance, suppleness and clarity.
Potentially Promising Weight Loss Benefits of Probiotics
As a bariatric (weight loss) surgeon Andy is always intrigued with new research that might help his patients lose weight. Some preliminary studies at Washington University (1,2) in St. Louis have revealed certain “unfriendly” gut bacteria are exceptionally adapt at extracting calories from food, thereby doubling fat accumulation. Lead investigator Dr. Jeffrey Gordon theorized that “…differences in our gut microbial ecology may determine how many calories we are able to extract and absorb from our diet and deposit in our fat cells.”
In other words, depending upon intestinal bacteria levels, you might not necessarily extract the same number of calories after eating your bowl of pasta as your friend does after eating hers, which may help explain why some people seem to be able to eat more than others without gaining weight. As of now we cannot say there is definite proof that just by adding probiotics you will lose weight, but it is theoretically possible that adding more “friendly” bacteria just may help you shed pounds. And there is no downside to doing so.
The Bottom Line on Probiotics
Unfortunately, numerous factors can disrupt the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria, and therefore interfere with your body’s natural ability to heal and detoxify itself. Helping to restore intestinal integrity, probiotics work round the clock to balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria within the GI tract, which can easily be upset by chlorinated water, poor elimination of waste, stress, oral contraceptives, a diet rich in refined foods and poor digestion. Antibiotics can also wreak havoc on the gut flora. By the way, Andy always tells his patients and family members that they should take antibiotics as infrequently as possible and if they do need to take them then it is important to simultaneously supplement with a high quality probiotic, which they should be taking anyway…
Take a Probiotic Supplement Daily
In addition to eating non-dairy probiotic rich foods it is also important to supplement your diet with a high quality and non-dairy probiotic supplement as part of the Clean Cuisine lifestyle.
When looking for a probiotic supplement, it is important to realize that not all probiotics are equal. Your body doesn’t always absorb the probiotics that the label claims it has.
Many mass-market probiotic supplements contain a limited number of good bacteria and are manufactured in such a way that the good bacteria may not survive (such as being exposed to heat, moisture, and light) or contain fillers and added sugars that interfere with the body’s ability to absorb them. Here is what to look for:
- A brand that contains strains of bacteria that have been clinically documented for their effectiveness. These include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces.
- A dairy-free probiotic because cow’s milk allergy is one of the most common.
- A brand that is sold refrigerated to maintain shelf-life because heat is an enemy of probiotic viability.
***Note: We have our own line of Clean Cuisine probiotics but we also highly recommend Shaklee Optiflora, a unique, two-product system (Optiflora Prebiotic Complex and Optiflora Probiotic Complex) that delivers guaranteed live probiotics Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus acidophilus, along with the prebiotics FOS and inulin as well as gammatocopherol, a nutrient associated with colon health.* Dr. Ohhira’s Essential Formula is another excellent brand and contains 12 strains of friendly bacteria, including E. faecalis TH. Dr. Ohhira’s award-winning brand was developed by Japanese microbiologist Dr. Iichiroh Ohhira, PhD, and, to our knowledge, is the only manufacturer that relies on a natural fermentation process using ancient Japanese traditions. We are sure there are other good probiotic supplements on the market but we know for sure these brands are of exceptional quality.
1. Turnbaugh PJ, et al. “An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest.” Nature, Dec. 21, 2006.
2. Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, Gordon JI. “Human gut microbes associated with obesity.” Nature, Dec. 21, 2006.
3. Geier MS, et. al. “Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics: a role in chemoprevention for colorectal cancer?” Cancer Biol Ther. 2006 Oct;5(10):1265-9