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Support Your Digestion with High-Quality Probiotics
By Jen Palmer, Naturopathic Doctor (ND) & NEEDS Education Director

With digestive disorders demanding everincreasing attention on the United States' health front, Americans are spending more time and money searching for ways to heal their embattled mid-sections. Extensive new research suggests that probiotics are fundamental to maintaining a vigorous digestive tract—the foundation of good health. Probiotics have demonstrated immediate and on-going positive health effects for numerous chronic gastrointestinal conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In addition, they have been shown to help prevent food and environmental allergies and the growth of harmful organisms (i.e. yeast), enhance the immune and digestive systems, and promote the degradation of toxins. Some strains of probiotics have also been shown to bind mercury and other heavy metals, preventing their absorption into the body.

Probiotics are found in a variety of foods, including cheese, yogurt, butter, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. However, most of us cannot or do not eat these foods in sufficient quantities to counteract the challenges of modern life. The proper balance of these micro flora can be thrown off by a diet high in meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and other processed foods. Constipation, diarrhea, stress, birth control pills or other forms of estrogen replacement therapy, chlorinated water, and antibiotics in our food supply can also easily offset the balance of these beneficial organisms.

Therefore, supplementation may be necessary. However, selecting an effective probiotic can be confusing. Some are single strains, while others are a combination of many probiotics. A few are stable at room temperature, though most are not.

Powders versus capsules? Where should you begin? The NEEDS Wellness Team understands this confusion and to help facilitate your selection process, we have highlighted the following probiotic supplements and provided details on the particular benefits of each:

Probiotic Acidophilus BioBeads, from Natrol, is one of the most convenient products. Unlike most probiotics, they don't require refrigeration and the blister-pack container makes them suitable for travel. In addition, as tiny spheres (or "beads"), they are really great for kids and those who have difficulty swallowing. Plus, they are guaranteed to provide over 2.5 billion live cultures. Natrol Probiotic Acidophilus BioBeads are uniquely protected by an advanced triple shell that ensures viability through all three biophases: 1) Biophase 1 is targeted-release technology to help guarantee BioBeads potency on the shelf and protects viable microflora all the way to ingestion; 2) Biophase 2 happens when the bead passes safely through the acidic stomach environment unharmed; 3) Biophase 3 is when the inner layer gently breaks down, releasing a proprietary blend of probiotics that helps support digestive health and immunity.

UltraFlora Balance is a unique blend of "friendly" bacteria that have been shown to support a healthy intestinal environment and immune health. This probiotic is ideal for traveling and backed by the Metagenics ID Guarantee for purity, clinical reliability, and predicted safety via scientific identification of strains with established health benefits. The Bifidobacterium is also of human origin. It produces strong acids that positively affect the good bacteria of the intestines, contributing to healthy intestinal flora. This formula's combination provides 15 billion CFUs of probiotics to populate the digestive tract.

Ther-Biotic Complete, from Klaire Labs, is 100% dairy-free, therefore, an excellent choice for those extremely sensitive to dairy. Klaire Labs grows its probiotics on a chicory-derived inulin base that promotes growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines.

In addition, they use "InTactic" delivery technology. This is a hypoallergenic, highly purified polysaccharide complex derived from a marine origin and blended directly with the probiotic strains. The vegetarian capsule shell dissolves when it reaches the stomach. Gastric acid then binds to the outermost layer of the InTactic polysaccharide complex. This binding forms an insoluble matrix or "weave" that acts like a second shell to protect the remaining probiotics from the acidic pH. When the pill enters the more alkaline intestinal tract, the insoluble polysaccharide InTactic matrix begins to dissolve, releasing probiotics.

Thus, the InTactic complex protects the probiotic microorganisms as they pass through the acidic environment of the stomach and affords a higher survival rate for the remainder of their journey in and through the intestinal tract. There are 25 billion CFUs and 12 strains, including Lactobacillus rhamnosis, L. acidophilus, L. cassei and bifidobacterium bifidum, B. longum, and B. breve, in this broad-spectrum probiotic. This formula supports healthy bacteria balance throughout the entire intestinal tract. It uses l-leucine as filler and is completely hypoallergenic and free of maltodextrin, gluten, and dairy proteins.

Flora Biotic Ultra, from NutriNeeds, is an excellent, well-balanced, potent probiotic. It contains 14 different strains, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Bifidobacterium longum. It is guaranteed to have at least 35 billion viable cells at the time of manufacture.

In short, probiotics are very beneficial in humans. They inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria that cause digestive stress and improve digestion and absorption of food and vitamins, stimulate the body's natural defense mechanism—the immune system—and help make vitamins the body requires. The health benefits of these organisms are so profound; a probiotic is one of the few supplements that nearly all people can benefit from and everyone should consider making it a part of their daily regimen.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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