A SIMPLE GUIDE TO PROBIOTICS, PREBIOTICS, AND SPORES.
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Got a gut feeling about your gut health? Chances are, you could benefit from adding a source of probiotics to your daily wellness routine. Most Americans do not get enough probiotic aid to maintain a healthy digestive system. When your digestive system is imbalanced, you can experience more than just an upset stomach; it can lead to other health issues including skin problems, difficulty concentrating, and hormonal symptoms. Because your gastrointestinal tract is so closely linked with other systems in your body, keeping your gut happy and healthy is vital to overall wellness! Not sure where to start? Here's an easy guide to navigating the vast world of gut health supplements.
This common term refers to microorganisms that encourage the growth of healthy gut flora in the body. These are usually live bacteria and yeast found in fermented foods that can be ingested to bolster your own healthy bacteria. Germs are usually thought of negatively, but some germs-like lactobacillus bacteria- are extremely beneficial to regulating the digestive system and breaking down nutrients! Good bacteria can stop harmful germs from attaching to intestine walls, reduce infection, and block the release of toxins from other bad microorganisms. People who take probiotics noticed reduced inflammatory symptoms, improved digestion, lower blood pressure, and improved immunity. Probiotics can even aid skin conditions linked to inflammation, like acne or rosacea. Probiotic organisms are naturally found in yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. Yet, getting the appropriate amount of probiotics purely through diet can be difficult! That's why probiotic supplements are an excellent addition to your healthcare arsenal. They pack millions of live, active organisms frozen in a convenient capsule so you can get your daily digestive boost in one simple step. Some probiotic supplements require refrigeration to keep the bacteria vegetative, but most strains can survive manufacturing and have a variable shelf life. Be sure to pick a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria and a stomach-friendly formula to avoid side effects like nausea or indigestion.
So you have your probiotics, now what are prebiotics? Simply put, prebiotics feed the probiotics in your body--it's food for your friendly bacteria to munch on! Having a healthy amount of prebiotics keeps your gut flora happy, and encourages good bacteria to flourish and grow. The more diverse your gut flora is, the better the probiotic effects you'll see in your daily life. Prebiotics are starches that cannot be broken down by the human body, that's why they stay whole long enough for your intestinal microorganisms to get ahold of them. These natural fibers are found in fruits and veggies, oats, and legumes. Healthy fibers are always a good addition to any diet, but prebiotics can also be found paired with probiotics in certain supplements. Choosing a supplement with both probiotic and prebiotic ingredients helps establish a strong colony in your GI tract, and makes it more likely to see positive effects sooner. When taking a supplement, remember to stay hydrated and try to eat fibrous foods to encourage your gut to stabilize.
What's a spore? It sounds alien, but spores are simply another form of good bacteria. When environmental conditions aren't ideal for bacteria to live, some strains can revert to a "spore form" where they grow a tough outer layer called the endospore. The endospore protects bacteria from the outside world until conditions are more favorable- ideally in your gut! Then the dormant bacteria will become active again, and form healthy colonies in the GI tract. Spores are being researched as an alternative to more commonly used bacterial lines in probiotics; because of their sturdiness, spore probiotics could survive manufacturing and shelf life better than normal probiotics. Also, spores are resistant to the strong stomach acids and contractions of the human digestive system, making them more likely to reach the small intestine safely. Most bacterial spores are soil-based, meaning they come from the earth. Spores have been shown to have the same beneficial effects as non-spore forming bacteria, and are an attractive option for those looking for a long-lasting supplement.
Which probiotic is right for you?
Ideally, you will be able to find a supplement that contains both probiotics and prebiotics, maybe even in spore form! Depending on your needs, you might find that one particular strain of microorganisms work better for your GI tract than others. Don't be afraid to research individual strains and determine what probiotic is best for you. Also, consider the form of your supplement- would you prefer a dissolvable powder, or gummies, or even just regular pills? Today's wellness market is chock full of options, so keep your lifestyle and comfort in mind when adding a supplement to your routine. If you suffer from immune disorders or other serious health concerns, consider talking to your physician before adding new supplements to your diet. Though side effects are rare, it's always wise to do your research! Probiotics are tiny organisms that help your body function better - think of your probiotic supplement as a friendly boost to your overall wellbeing.