Updated: 2019, Sep 2

The Ultimate Guide To Probiotic Supplements

Ultimate Guide To Probiotic Supplements

There are thousands of diseases that can affect the human body. While some of these health conditions only affect the body for a short period of time and sometimes even goes away without any medical intervention, other diseases can develop into a chronic condition and affect a person throughout the rest of their lifespan. In some cases, diseases that develop can be life-threatening and result in mortality.

Due to the severity of some conditions, medical scientists are always conducting experiments and research to identify new ways to treat common health conditions that could lead to life-threatening symptoms. One particular discovery that offered a lot of hope to the medical industry had nothing to do with conventional treatments, such as prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication.

Instead, this discovery related to an all-natural “remedy” that could treat a wide variety of health conditions – both acute and chronic diseases – and poses as an effective way to improve the immune system, digestive function and even the general wellbeing of the entire human body without the need for medical intervention.

The discovery we are referring to is the microorganisms that resides within the digestive tract of the human body. Medical scientists discovered that there are thousands of microorganisms living in the gut of humans and, while some of these microorganisms posed as toxic sources, the majority seemed to serve important roles in the maintenance of a healthy body.

Soon after the discovery, medical experts started to study the way these microorganisms interacts with the body and came up with a way to improve the diversity and volume of the microorganisms that posed as beneficial species for the human body – in the form of probiotics.

In this comprehensive guide, we would like to tell you more about probiotics but, at the same time, we would also like to make you aware of the function that the microorganisms that reside within your gastrointestinal tract play in the maintenance of your wellbeing.

In addition to looking at probiotics and their particular function in keeping the body healthy, we would also like to discuss some of the most commonly diagnosed diseases that can be affected by an unhealthy balance of microorganisms in the gut, how they are usually treated, the side-effects that the conventional treatment methods can cause and, of course, how probiotics can be an effective option to treat these conditions without causing adverse reactions.

We are also going to introduce you to some high-quality probiotic supplements that you can pick up at Amazon and a variety of other health stores at affordable prices – and tell you why these probiotic supplements could be beneficial for you.

The Brief Overview of How and When Probiotics Was Discovered

Before we explore the gastrointestinal tract and the microorganisms that reside within this part of the body, as well as how probiotics can be of use to you, let’s first consider the discovery of probiotics.

Firstly, you should realize that the use of probiotics is certainly not a new trait in the treatment of diseases that affect the gut. The Candida Diet explains that references of fermented products used to treat intestinal conditions date back thousands of years. Some of the earliest references can be seen in the Christian Bible, as well as the Hinduism books.

In addition to these references, there is also evidence that Pliney the Elder, a Roman naturalist, utilized fermented milk as a way to treat certain conditions affecting the intestines of his patients. During these times, however, the particular bacteria that affects the intestines and the bacteria found in these fermented products were not yet discovered –but it was recognized that these products yielded benefits for the gastrointestinal tract of the human body.

The first official discovery of microorganisms residing in the gastrointestinal tract dates back to 1899, which is just over 100 years ago. A research scientists in Paris, named Henry Tissler, discovered a bacteria with a “Y” shape in an infant’s intestines. Henry labeled the “Y” shaped microorganism he discovered as bifidobacteria – and this name is still used today to describe this particular type of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract.

After conducting more research, Tissler found that infants that had this type of bacteria in their intestines were less likely to suffer from intestinal conditions, with diarrhea being one of the most prominent intestinal problems that seemed to be less severe. The bacteria was also mostly found in the intestines of infants that was breast-fed.

Probiotics History

Apart from Henry Tissler, other medical scientists also started to study different species of bacteria that resides in the intestines of the human body. A Russian scientist that was also attending school in Paris studies lactic acid bacteria. He discovered that a particular type of bacteria, known as clostridia, assisted with the breakdown of proteins found in milk – including lactic acid.

After this breakdown process has been completed, however, he found that certain toxic substances were released into the body – these included phenols and ammonia. Fortunately, he discovered that the lactic acid bacteria provided a protective function in the body against these types of toxins.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll see the word “probiotics” used on many items at your local grocery store. The word is now defined as microorganisms that pose benefits to the health of the host’s body. Note that the microorganisms that are classified within the “probiotics” group does not necessarily only include bacteria, but can also include yeast and other types of microorganisms.

Probiotic Pros

Microorganisms That Reside in The Gastrointestinal Tract

In the human gastrointestinal tract, trillions of different microorganisms exist. Gut Microbiota For Health reports that medical scientists have discovered more than 1000 different species of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract and they possess over 3 million different genes. This is about 150 times more genes than the human body possess.

The average weight of the microorganisms that reside within our gut is around two kilograms and the majority of these microorganisms – in volume and in the diversity of species – can be found in the large intestine of the gastrointestinal tract.

It is also important to understand that only around 33% of gut bacteria are common amongst the majority of people – the rest of the microorganism diversity and volume in the gut is unique to every single individual on the planet.

Development of Bacteria and Other Microorganisms in The Gastrointestinal Tract

Before we consider the different types of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms found in the gut, let’s first discuss when and how these microorganisms start to develop in the human body. First, it is important to understand that, at birth, the feces of an infant is sterile.

The development of bacteria in the gut does, however, start at birth – and the particular fingerprint of the developing bacteria is determined by a variety of factors, including how the infant is born and whether or not they are breastfed following their birth.

A review paper published in the Journal of Nutrition explains that the first species of bacteria that develops in the gastrointestinal tract of an infant most often includes certain species that are seen as pathogenic. This includes streptococci, staphylococci and enterobacteriaceae.

While this may seem like a negative trait, medical scientists discovered that the fact that these pathogenic bacteria species inhabit the body within the second and third day following birth are actually an appropriate measure to prepare the body for the inhabitation of the beneficial gut bacteria that will be developing here after the third day of birth. Once these bacteria species have developed, a series of other species that are beneficial, often called the gut “flora”, starts to develop.

These beneficial bacteria species include lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and various other species. Note that the first species to inhabit the body during day two and day three after birth are mostly classified as aerobic microorganisms, which means they need to exist in oxygenated parts of the body to survive. After day three, anaerobic microorganism start to develop, which does not require oxygenated environments to survive and multiply? In some cases, anaerobic microorganisms can die out when exposed to parts in the body that contain oxygen.

The review paper also explains that the first bacteria that inhabits the body of an infant comes from the mother – the sources of these bacteria can include the mother’s vagina, which the baby comes in contact with during birth, as well as the mother’s skin.

It was also found that the feces of the mother can also contribute towards a larger diversity of bacteria in newborn babies as one particular study found species of Escherichia coli bacteria to inhabit the bodies of newborn babies and present in the feces of mothers directly after birth – this, however, was only the case with babies that were born through vaginal delivery.

Bacteria Species

Since such a large number of microorganisms live in the gastrointestinal tract, discussing each would take up a considerable amount of time. Thus, we are going to focus on the most important bacteria species found in the gut that has a connection to the body’s wellbeing. We will discuss both good and bad bacteria, including their functions, where they are found in the body and whether they are beneficial or detrimental to the host’s health.

In the previous section of this topic, we have already mentioned some of the most significant microorganisms that can be found in the human gut, so let’s expand on these microorganism species to better understand their purpose and the functions they serve in the human body.

Bacteria Species

Bacteroides

Let’s start our discussion by looking at one of the more commonly found bacteria species in the gastrointestinal tract – bacteroides. These species are also classified as bacteroidetes. A review articles posted on the Clinical Microbiology Reviews Journal explains that, in the gastrointestinal tract, these species of bacteria has beneficial roles to play within the body but, when they start to colonize other parts of the body, they are considered pathogenic.

A pathogenic bacteria can be a cause of disease and the development of certain conditions, such as an abscess or infection. Medical scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston explains that one particular type of bacteroides, known as Bacteroides Fragilis, has been found to play a direct bacteria-to-host function and also play a major part in maintaining an effective immune system in the human body.

Bacteroides Fragilis is classified as a gram-negative bacteria that is also anaerobic. It is mostly found in the large intestine, also sometimes referred to as the lower gastrointestinal system. This type of bacteria also assists with the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Bifidobacterium

We have already mentioned bifidobacterium and we discussed its discovery – now let’s take a closer look at what it is and what purposes it serves in the body. Bifidobacterium is also one of the first types of bacterium species that inhabits the human body and also plays a vital part in numerous important functions that the digestive system is responsible for.

This particular type of bacteria is also often found in different types of food as their benefits for the human body is quite significant and they can often also be utilized as potential treatment measures for different health concerns. A review paper published in the frontiers in Microbiology Journal explains that Bifidobacterium can be observed in the highest concentrations in an infant.

The diversity and concentration of these bacteria decrease in adulthood and then, once again, decreases when the host reaches an old age. They explain that, during a younger age as an infant, the gastrointestinal tract contains quite a diversity of Bifidobacterium, with some of the most abundant species including Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve and Bifidobacterium longum.

In adulthood, other forms of this bacteria can be seen in abundance, including Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Bifidobacterium catenulatum. One particular form, Bifidobacterium longum, seems to be equally present in the infant and adult stages of a person’s life.

Streptococcus

Streptococcus is a type of firmicute and it is classified as a lactic acid bacteria. This species of bacteria assists with the breakdown of lactose into lactic acid, but also plays an important part in the maintenance of a functioning immune system, as well as in the wellbeing of the colon. This is a common probiotic and it is often utilized during the production of certain dairy products, including yogurt and cheese.

A particular type of this bacteria, known as Streptococcus thermophilus, is also amongst some of the very first bacteria species to inhabit the gastrointestinal tract following the birth of a newborn baby. This bacteria in particular has numerous beneficial properties for the human body. A study by the Hiroshima University in Japan found that this bacteria has the ability to inhibit a Th17 response in the human body; thus providing an anti-inflammatory benefit to the host.

A study by the Dankook University in Seoul also found that Streptococcus thermophilus plays an important role in oral health. Furthermore, medical scientists at the School of Agriculture in Japan, together with the Food Science Institute, found that Streptococcus thermophilus is able to stimulate the growth of various other bacteria species that are classified as probiotic.

Lactobacillus

Lactobacillus is also classified as a beneficial species of bacteria and does not only inhibit the gastrointestinal tract, but can also be found in the genital and urinary tracts. Certain fermented food types, such as yogurt, contains these bacteria species. One of the most beneficial forms of this bacteria species is known as Lactobacillus acidophilus. This type of bacteria is primarily found in the small intestine.

It is equipped to survive here and is resistant to the bile acid that the stomach produces, which can still affect bacteria that resides in the small intestine. Lactobacillus is also known to protect the body against certain bacteria that are classified as pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Candida albicans, Clostridium, Helicobacter and more.

Lactobacillus acidophilus is also responsible for the production of a particular type of enzyme that assists with the breakdown of sugar found in milk – the enzyme is known as lactase.

Clostridium Difficile

While the bacteria species we’ve discussed thus far all play essential parts in the immune system, gastrointestinal tract and the wellbeing of the human body, this particular species of bacteria are considered harmful and can lead to an ill-feeling, accompanies by numerous other potentially harmful symptoms. NHS Choices report that this bacteria is found in the gastrointestinal tracts of at least 3% of all healthy adults, but it doesn’t always cause an infection and symptoms do not necessarily develop.

When a person’s gut contains this bacteria, the other species of bacteria that live alongside these ones are usually able to maintain the Clostridium Difficile bacteria; thus no symptoms will develop as the bacteria is unable to multiply and infect the host’s body. In some cases, however, such as when the affected person takes antibiotics for some reason, the balance of healthy gut bacteria can be affected in a negative way.

In such a case, the Clostridium Difficile that inhabits the person’s gut starts to multiply. In addition to multiplying, the bacteria also starts to release toxins into the person’s body and causes symptoms to develop due to the bacteria infecting the host. Symptoms of a Clostridium Difficile infection may include diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration, headaches, dry mouth, a loss of appetite, a fever, weight loss and reduced urination.

Helicobacter

Helicobacter

Another potentially harmful genus of bacterium species that can inhabit the gastrointestinal tract is Helicobacter, with two particular species seemingly widespread amongst the global population – Helicobacter Hepaticus and Helicobacter Pylori. The British Society of Gastroenterology reports that Helicobacter Pylori in particular is present in around 40% of the UK population’s digestive tracts.

One positive attribute noted is the fact that, in 90% of all affected individuals, the bacteria does not cause symptoms to develop as their internal microbiome is able to keep the Helicobacter Pylori bacteria in check. In the other 10%, however, the bacteria can lead to an infection and cause symptoms to develop.

A serious symptom that this particular bacteria species can cause is an ulcer that develops in the duodenum or the stomach. These ulcers are also called duodenal ulcers and gastric ulcers. Another common symptom, which is sometimes caused by a developing ulcer that the Helicobacter Pylori bacteria caused, is indigestion.

The Connection Between Gut Microorganisms and Disease

Numerous medical studies have linked the microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract to diseases and health conditions that commonly affect the human body.

A definite connection between the immune system’s function and microorganisms in the gut have been established, but, in addition to this connection, several other conditions have also been linked to alterations in the gut microbiome, a term that refers to the ecology of microorganisms that reside in the digestive system.

A review paper published in the Gastroenterology & Hepatology Journal explains that inflammatory bowel disease is one of the most common associated diseases that can result from alterations and an imbalance in microorganisms that reside in the digestive tract, often called a microbial dysbiosis.

Irritable bowel syndrome is another commonly associated disease, but these are not the only diseases that have been linked to microbial dysbiosis. Due to the influence of gut bacteria on metabolic function of the digestive system, metabolic syndromes are often also seen amongst individuals with an unhealthy balance of bacteria in their gut.

Obesity is another serious health issue that microbial dysbiosis contributes to – in turn, obesity is linked to an array of other health concerns that can lead to premature mortality in many cases.

In addition to the diseases and health conditions that we have mentioned above, microbial dysbiosis and alterations in the concentration, as well as the diversity, of gut flora can lead to or contribute, in some ways, to the development of the following diseases and conditions:

  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Coeliac disease

Cardiovascular disease, asthma and allergies have also been linked in some ways to microbial dysbiosis. A recent study, published on Science Alert, also found that gut bacteria could be linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Another study published in Science Daily explains how gut bacteria could also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Two common words that are often referred to in modern media – and often found on certain foods – is “probiotics” and “prebiotics”.

These two substances work hand-in-hand with each other to enhance the wellbeing of the gastrointestinal tract, make the immune system stronger and they can even be utilized to treat some common health conditions that affect the digestive system.

To truly understand how these substances work and the functions they serve, we should look at each individually. We would also like to mention that probiotics and prebiotics are often used together – in such a case, it is referred to as synbiotics.

Prebiotics

We should really start our discussion of these two substances with prebiotics. Prebiotics are substances that promote the growth of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract that is considered beneficial for the host’s wellbeing – including their immune system, digestive system and overall health.

Best Prebiotic Food Sources

Obtaining prebiotics through natural sources are always considered to be the best way to promote the growth of the beneficial bacteria that resides in the human body’s digestive system. Let’s consider some of the best natural sources of prebiotics that you can consume and use in your food, as reported by Dr. Axe:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Chicory root
  • Leeks
  • Jicama
  • Dandelion Greens

Note that it is important to consume the above-mentioned foods in a raw state and not cook them to obtain the most benefits from them. In addition to the foods that was mentioned above, bananas that are under-ripe also seems to be a good source of prebiotics. Acacia gum, also called gum Arabic, is a substance that is extracted from the acacia tree – this substance is also rich in prebiotics.

Probiotics

While prebiotics promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, probiotics ARE the beneficial bacteria that inhabit the gut. The bacteria species found in the gut does not only live in the human body, but can also be found in other locations.

A large number of fermented dairy products contain probiotics that increased the diversity and concentration of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, but certain non-dairy products have also been identified as potentially beneficial probiotic sources.

Best Probiotic Food Sources

There are quite a large number of foods that contain probiotics since the live bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract are often found in external environments as well. The most common types of food that contain probiotics include fermented dairy products.

Yogurt is one of the top foods to consume if you want to increase your probiotic intake. Aged cheese and Kefir, which is a type of fermented milk, are also rich in probiotics. There are also a variety of non-dairy products that can be used as sources of probiotics. For example, cabbage can be finely shredded and then fermented by particular bacteria species (lactic acid bacteria), which is a traditional food known as Sauerkraut, and then consumed as a source of probiotics.

Other excellent sources of probiotics, as reported by Authority Nutrition, include:

  • Buttermilk
  • Pickles
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Natto

Prebiotic and Probiotic Recipes

We will discuss some of the best probiotic supplements on the market in a moment but, first, let’s take a look at some delicious recipes that you can prepare at home to increase your uptake of both prebiotics and probiotics.

It is always recommended to obtain these substances in a natural form to improve their absorption in the body, which can lead to a better colonization of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

Let’s start by looking at a very basic recipe that you can eat for breakfast – muesli with fruits, nuts and, of course, yogurt. This high-fiber breakfast recipe has been shared by the MONASH University of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

All that is needed is a cup of muesli, about one tablespoon of wheat bran flakes, around 20 cashew nuts, some dried fried, a tablespoon of yogurt, a cup of milk and one cup of fresh fruit. Mix the ingredients in a bowl and enjoy – that’s how easy it is to prepare a meal that contains both prebiotics and probiotics.

Apart from this easy-to-make breakfast, here is a couple of other recipes that are also worth looking at to increase your consumption of prebiotics and probiotics:

Best Probiotic Supplements

We’ve discussed the function of the microorganisms that reside in the gastrointestinal tract, and we looked at how the microorganisms are connected to certain diseases and health conditions. We also discussed what prebiotics and probiotics are, and how they can help to increase the diversity of the microorganisms that live in the gut.

Now, let’s turn our focus toward the three top rated dietary supplements that can be used to increase your uptake of probiotics to promote a wider diversity and a larger concentration of bacterial species in your digestive system; thus allowing you to experience a vast variety of health benefits.

Culturelle Digestive Health Probiotics

This probiotic supplement is highly rated at numerous locations on the internet. It is a 100% vegetarian formula that utilizes a variety of natural ingredients that contain probiotics – in other words, the supplement contains numerous types of beneficial bacteria that can help you overcome many symptoms related to the gastrointestinal tract.

The product claims to assist with digestive function, reduce the frequency of digestive problems and to restore a healthier balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. The main type of bacteria found in this probiotic supplement is Lactobacillus. In addition, a 3mg serving of vitamin C and a 200mg serving of Inulin is also found in each capsule.

Florastor Daily Probiotic

The main probiotic supplement by Florastor is promoted as a daily supplement that improves the immune system and assists with digestive health. The product helps to stimulate the balance of bacteria species in the gastrointestinal tract.

In addition to their main product, the company has also released two new products – FlorastorPre and FlorastorPlus. Their main product contains a healthy dose of Saccharomyes boulardii, as well as other essential nutrients that further improves the benefits the supplement is able to provide its user.

Schiff Digestive Probiotic

Another excellent choice when it comes to selecting a daily probiotic supplement. The supplement contains a particular probiotic that, according to Schiff, has a much better survival rate than probiotics found in natural sources, such as yogurt. This particular probiotic that the supplement utilizes is known as BC30.

It is a common probiotic found in numerous supplements. Schiff Digestive Probiotic is one of the more affordable options when it comes to probiotic supplements, with a price tag of only $12.99 for a 30-day supply.

You May Also Want To Read – Probiotics Are Useful For Therapy Of Autoimmune Diseases: Is It True?

Final Verdict

Thousands of microorganisms live inside your gut. Some of these microorganisms are classified as “bad” bacteria and can contribute to the development of certain diseases, but many of the microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract actually plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy body.

Here, we have discussed the health benefits that probiotics can offer you, and how they can be used to assist with the recovery of numerous diseases that are affected by the bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms that can be observed in the human body’s gastrointestinal tract.

In addition to our discussion on microorganisms and the function of probiotics, we have also discussed some of the most useful probiotic supplements that are currently available on the market, including the pros and cons of each, and where you can find them. If you are uncertain about the above-mentioned probiotics you can take a quick scan of Plexus VitalBiome Review which could also be a decent option in a pool of probiotics on the market. Take the information we discussed here to mind as a way to help you improve the wellbeing of your body, and as a way to help you recover from and treat the particular conditions that probiotics are useful for.

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Featured Image: Shutterstock.com
In-Post Images: Shutterstock.com, drjockers.com, intechopen.com, image.slidesharecdn.com & pinterest.com
Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandri

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