Almost everyone is talking about probiotics. From granola bars to yogurts to food supplements to pet food, manufacturers of probiotic products are creating a firestorm.
But before you jump on the bandwagon, would you not like to find out more about this supplement? Here are 5 questions you have to ask before you buy a probiotic supplement.
1. What are Probiotics?
There are two notable words in the term probiotics: “pro” and “biotics”. In other words, this is a supplement that is “for” the “biological” organisms in the human gut. The idea is that the human intestines contain different strains of natural bacteria. Some of these can produce diseases that manifest as diarrhoea and pain.
There are also bacteria that are friendlier to the intestines. They can help negate the effects of bad bacteria and prevent diarrhoea. In other words, probiotics are nothing more than microorganisms that may confer some benefit to human health.
2. Are Probiotic Supplements Regulated by the Australian Government?
In the US, the FDA does not regulate products that it classifies as supplements. Hence, almost anyone can make a supplement and market it in an instant without undergoing rigorous testing and evaluation.
The European Food Safety Authority has already put regulations on the placement of “health claims” on products with probiotics. Under no circumstance should a product state that it is good for a particular health benefit.
Following in the line of thinking of the European Union, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand is also putting forth regulations that will help define how such supplements should be labelled. You can still see “probiotics” in the labels of products, however.
3. What Strains of Bacteria Should My Probiotic Supplement Contain?
Different microorganisms have different effects on the human body. Probiotic supplements are now classified into two distinct groups according to purpose.
The first group aims to support immune functions. Examples of these include Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus casei.
The second group of probiotics is ideal for use among people receiving antibiotics. These are also perfect for those with diarrhoea. These can include Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
4. What is the Difference between Live and Dead Probiotics?
Notwithstanding the obvious, some supplements use only live and active cultures in their formulations. What this means is that you are getting live microorganisms, allowing them to serve their function in the gut the moment you consume them.
However, there are also products that come with the label “made with active cultures”. Such products may have started with live and active cultures. But since the product is heat-treated, the process can kill the probiotic microorganisms.
5. Is it Safe?
Supplementing with probiotics requires the introduction of live microorganisms in the body. Different individuals can react in different ways to such microorganisms.
There may be demonstrable benefits for some, while others may experience some side effects. In general, persons with altered immune system should observe caution. Patients with acute pancreatitis should also not take probiotics.
Probiotics may be a good supplement for some individuals, but not for others. If you’re thinking of getting this supplement, it is best to talk with your doctor first.