I run with a health-conscious crowd. My friends and family protect skin with sunscreen, exercise for heart health, and try to make good food choices. Therefore, when this same set of healthy folks complain about digestive issues, the first thing I’ll ask is if they take probiotics. Most often, the answer is no – and they’ll say, “But I eat yogurt…”
So, yes, some yogurts have live bacterial cultures (or probiotics), and that’s an excellent calcium-rich food choice, but here’s some more insight as to why we should all consider taking probiotic supplements as well.
Intestinal health is just as important as the other primary functions in the body, yet is often overlooked, if not abused. The food we eat, beverages, alcohol, our environment, medications, antibiotics, and diet can ALL affect our digestive system which is what I call the SECOND brain of the body. The intestines are not only responsible for nutrient absorption from food, but also rid the body of waste products. Lining the walls of our intestines is a natural eco-system of bacteria or intestinal flora. Most of us don’t realize that our digestive system, specifically our intestinal tract, is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria called probiotics or probiotic organisms. It’s a constant battle in our guts, and that’s why taking probiotics (GOOD bacteria) will ensure that our systems are balanced, healthy and are ready to fight off bad bacteria that can wreak havoc at any time. Common digestive complaints that indicate you’re shy on healthy probiotics: Gas, bloating, weight gain, constipation, food allergies, depression, migraines, acne, anxiety and more! This imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is called dysbiosis.
How probiotics help
Probiotics are awesome. They perform a number of incredibly important functions:
- Majority rules – Through sheer numbers probiotic bacteria make it difficult for bad bacteria to gain a foothold in your digestive tract. If these bad bacteria do get a chance to establish themselves, they can cause all kinds of problems, so it’s a good idea to maintain a healthy majority of beneficial bacteria.
- Nutrient absorption – Not only do probiotic organisms assist with the digestion and utilization of nutrients, they can also synthesize some nutrients, such as B vitamins and vitamin K. They also aid the absorption of calcium, which is important for bone health, among other things.
- Immunity boost – There’s mounting evidence that probiotics also support normal immune system function by modulating the activity of specific immune system cells, maintaining normal barrier function, as well as through other aspects of immune function. They also play a role in protecting the delicate tissue of the gut, where a lot of immunological activity takes place.*
- Elimination of waste – In addition to helping our body get what it needs, probiotics also help our body get rid of what it doesn’t need, such as metabolic waste materials that are a normal byproduct of metabolism.
- Reinforcements – Over the course of our lifetime a number of factors can affect the balance of bacteria in our gut, and not always for the better. A good probiotic formula can help to quickly replenish vital gut microflora during travel or other stressful situations and help to maintain normal digestive function.
NOW® Women’s Probiotic has been specially formulated using three clinically tested probiotic strains to support women’s health through every stage of life.* This product features L. rhamnosus HN001 and L. acidophilus La-14 which have been shown to colonize the vaginal tract and help to maintain healthy vaginal pH when taken orally.* Both the B. lactis HN019 and HN001 strains may help to support healthy immune system function in pregnant and nursing women.* HN019 also supports GI regularity and reduces occasional gas and bloating.* These specialized strains also support healthy, balanced immune system function in women of all ages.*
Another digestive cheerleader in the body is enzymes.
Enzymes –Even if you’re eating a healthy diet you may still be missing out on important nutrients, one of the most important of which is digestive enzymes. While our body typically makes sufficient enzymes to digest the foods we eat, the additives, preservative and other compounds found in our foods can upset digestive balance, so quality digestive enzyme supplements are one of the easiest and most effective ways to maintain a good balance of digestive enzymes and normal digestive function.
I love the NOW Foods & Supplement product line as they are US based, have strict quality control, and are still family owned. They are available in many stores across the country, or you can find them online. NOW® Super Enzymes is a comprehensive blend of enzymes that support healthy digestion.* Formulated with bromelain, ox bile, pancreatin and papain, Super Enzymes helps to optimize the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and protein.*
Each NOW® Probiotic-10™ packet has at least 10 billion live organisms consisting of probiotic bacterial strains that are known to colonize the human GI tract plus Inulin to promote the growth of a balanced spectrum of organisms throughout the intestinal tract. This convenient unflavored powder mixes easily in water or juice, is appropriate for vegetarians and vegans, and is dairy and gluten free. This product is formulated to deliver a potency of 10 Billion Organisms through the Best By Date. That’s a lot of healthy bacteria per serving! *
More research continues on the added benefit of healthy gut flora. Recent studies show that intestinal flora may even impact your brain. Although it’s too early to say, there are some interesting studies right now exploring the role of gut bacteria in such diverse areas as depression, cognitive function, dementia, inflammation, autoimmunity and even cancer.
If you’re feeling ‘off’, bloated, cranky and not regular, you may consider taking probiotics to get your system back on track. Keeping a good balance in the intestines is an ONGOING thing – it’s not something you take once and have forever! Environmental factors are always against us, so do your body a favor and supplement with healthy bacteria!
*Product Statement Sources: NOW Foods