How probiotics support your microbiome
By Joanna Foley,
Chances are you've heard about the microbiome at this point. But you may have questions about what exactly it is or why it’s so important.
This blog will help explain the microbiome, how probiotics help support it, and why choosing a high potency probiotic is best for keeping your microbiome healthy.
What is the microbiome?
The term “microbiome” refers to a collection of both beneficial and harmful microorganisms in your body. It is mostly made up of bacteria but also contains fungi and viruses. It is primarily consists of your digestive tract, and the majority of bacteria live in your colon. Your skin is the second-largest home of the microbiome. Your microbiome is so huge that research estimates the amount of bacteria cells to be nearly equal to the number of cells in your body.
The microbiome plays many important roles, which have a significant impact on your health.
These roles include:
● Promoting proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from your diet
● Supporting the immune system by defending against harmful pathogens
● Supporting a healthy weight
● Helping to protect against many diseases and health conditions. Examples include diabetes, asthma, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.
● Producing specific vitamins, specifically vitamin B12 and vitamin K
● Influencing your brain function, mood, and behavior through the gut-brain axis (which you can read more about in this post)
However, the ability of the microbiome to support these functions greatly depends on how healthy it is. This is where probiotics can play an important role.
How do probiotics support your microbiome?
Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria. They are sometimes referred to as “friendly bacteria” because they help keep you healthy. They do this by balancing out the mixture of helpful and harmful bacteria in your microbiome to keep it healthy and strong. Not having enough of these beneficial bacteria can lead to a condition called dysbiosis, which can increase inflammation in your gut and lead to the development of many diseases. Some types of probiotics support the integrity of your intestinal barrier to keep it strong and able to resist harmful pathogens. This affects how the bacteria in your microbiome work.
Probiotics are found in a small amount of fermented foods and beverages. These include miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, and yogurt with live and active cultures. Since there are a limited number of food sources of probiotics, taking them in supplement form can be helpful. This can be done in addition to eating food sources. Probiotic supplements provide a larger quantity of bacteria than food sources, leading to more health benefits.
Why potency matters when choosing a probiotic supplement
Reading a probiotic label can be confusing, so knowing what to look for can help you choose the right supplement and reap the most benefit.
The potency of a probiotic is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing one and is measured in colony-forming units (CFU’s). This indicates the number of live, usable cells. Many supplements provide around 10 to 20 billion CFU’s per serving, but some contain much more.
Because probiotics are live organisms, manufacturers need to take special care to make sure they survive and can do their job when ingested. Higher potency probiotics provide a larger quantity of bacteria, which gives more a chance of surviving the journey through the gut and providing your body with benefits.
In addition to a high CFU count, refrigeration is another factor that can improve a probiotics potency by helping keep some types of bacteria alive. This is why high potency probiotic supplements that require refrigeration may be the best ones to choose.