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How to Choose a Probiotic

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 8.10.42 PMby Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Gut flora play a key role in nutrition and your immune system.

Without these tiny helpers, your body wouldn’t be able to absorb vital nutrients or carry out its regular maintenance functions.

When your body is under attack from toxins, harmful organisms, or infection, gut flora act as the first defense against the intruders since they reside in the mucosal membranes that form the barrier between the outside world (the gut) and in the inside of your body (your bloodstream).

Since 80% of your immune function resides in the wall of the intestines – known as “gut associated lymphoid tissue” or GALT – your immune system is critically dependent upon good bacteria (probiotics) to keep the bowel wall healthy, to produce B vitamins, folic acid and vitamin K, break down your food, reduce food allergies, and fight off yeast and other invaders of the bowel.

Additionally, the cells that line your colon need energy to regenerate themselves. The gut flora helps in this process by converting unabsorbed sugars into specific types of fatty acids that your cells use for energy.

Your gut flora also:

* Produce enzymes and proteins that can kill or inhibit harmful bacteria

* Crowd out the “bad” bacteria by giving them no space to grab on

* Stimulate the secretion of Immunoglobulin A, an antibody that fights infection

* Without a strong immune system you are more prone to infections, flu, allergies and cancer.

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms found everywhere on Earth — in water, soil, plants, and in most parts of your body. In fact, bacteria outnumber the actual cells in your body by about 10 to 1. Your skin and digestive system alone host about 2,000 different kinds of bacteria.

There are fewer bacteria in the stomach than in other parts of the digestive system because the acidic environment kills most bacteria.

That makes delivering probiotics particularly challenging — you have to ensure that those good bacteria can survive in the stomach’s unfriendly environment.