May 16, 2017
You’ve probably been hearing a lot of stories about probiotics and the myriad of benefits they provide for health. These “friendly” bacteria can be found in numerous parts of your body, and they play a large role in repelling or disabling unwanted microbial invaders. While probiotics occur naturally in many different foods, the best way to ensure that you are incorporating these health-boosting microorganisms into your lifestyle is by taking probiotic supplements.
Even though scientists have known about probiotics for decades, there still doesn’t seem to be a consensus about one of the most basic aspects of these supplements: how and when they should be taken. Some health experts suggest taking a probiotic supplement with food, while others insist that you take them on an empty stomach. There are those who insist that taking probiotics first thing in the morning provides the most health benefits, but others claim that the evening meal is the ideal time to get your recommended dosage. And then there are those probiotics advocates who feel that the time of day is irrelevant when it comes to taking supplements.
So, who is right? The best answer is also the simplest one: check the product label. If the dosage directions on your probiotic packaging call for taking the supplement at a certain time or with/without food, then make sure to adjust your regimen accordingly.
While your attention is focused on the label of your probiotic supplement, let’s go over a few other pieces of information that you should take note of. The first detail is the concentration of the probiotic that you’re taking, which is measured in colony-forming bacterial units, or CFUs. These will be measured in millions or billions, and they may be broken out my bacterial strain. Generally speaking, adults should target a daily dosage of 15 to 20 billion CFUs each day. In addition, some probiotic supplements are time release, meaning that they introduce the probiotics into your system gradually, instead of all at once.
Next, you should take note of the directions for storage of your probiotic supplements. While most probiotics will call for storage in a cool, dark, dry place (like a cabinet, drawer, or pantry), a few products require refrigeration in order to maintain maximum potency. And like all consumer products, it’s important to check the expiration date of your probiotics. After all, because the supplements contain live bacteria, they won’t do you any good if they’ve died off before they enter your body.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to probiotics is that unlike many over-the-counter medications, the main ingredients for similar probiotic supplements can vary widely. Even though all probiotic supplements contain active bacteria, the types, strains, and subspecies of bacteria differ significantly from product to product. The supplements that are labelled properly will identify all bacterial strains on the side of the container, with the strains listed in descending order from highest to lowest concentrations (i.e. from more to less CFUs).
The reason this is important is because certain probiotic strains have been shown to protect you from specific diseases or ailments. Here is a partial list of conditions, along with the specific strains that have been shown to combat them:
Finally, there are a few other recommendations regarding probiotic supplementation. You should never take these supplements along with coffee, tea, soup, or another hot liquid, since the bacteria’s effectiveness could be eroded by the heat. Also, if you will be traveling for any length of time (especially by air and/or to another country), it’s wise to take some extra doses of probiotics to combat pathogens and boost your immune system before, during, and after your trip.
Researchers are discovering more and more benefits of probiotics every year. So if you could use a little health boost, try a probiotic supplement for a month or two to see if you achieve satisfactory results. Since side effects are minimal and no prescription is required, what do you have to lose?
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June 27, 2017