This is reprinted from Dr. Mercola’s website. It is a great summary on probiotics.
The History Behind Fermented Foods and Their Health Benefits
History provides us a few clues on how different cultures promoted their intestinal health before modern times. Years ago, people used fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut – as food preservatives and as support for intestinal and overall health.
promoted intestinal health with a raw yogurt
drink called lassi – full of probiotics
Here are a few examples…
- During Roman times, people ate sauerkraut because of its taste and benefits to their overall health.
- In ancient Indian society, it became commonplace (and still is) to enjoy a before-dinner yogurt drink called a lassi. These Indian traditions were based on the principle of using sour milk as a probiotic delivery system to the body.
- Bulgarians are known both for their health and their high consumption of fermented milk and kefir.
- In Asian cultures, pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots still exist today.
- People of the Ukraine consume probiotics from foods like sauerkraut, raw yogurt, and buttermilk.
The interesting thing was most of these dietary habits were born from tradition… at the time, no one really knew or understood why they were so healthy to your digestive system.*
How Probiotics Got Their Start – An Uphill Battle
Against Big Pharma
Well, things changed in the early 1900s, when Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff (Nobel Prize 1908) proposed that the Balkan population enjoyed excellent health due to consumption of large quantities of fermented milks containing beneficial bacteria.*
These ‘good’ bacteria were later defined as probiotics, which comes from Greek terminology meaning ‘for life.’
In the 1950s, the USDA licensed a probiotic formula for use in the digestive tract of pigs. Later on in the 1970s, the effectiveness of the probiotics in that role in pigs was discovered. Probiotics were later pioneered for human use.
So, what took so long to bring probiotics to the forefront in human health enhancements?*
I believe that the mere fact that large pharmaceutical companies were able to leverage millions of dollars to market their products pushed probiotics out of the way… relegated them to the back-burner.
But today, the health trend has clearly begun to shift toward natural nutrition. And that has allowed probiotics to resurface and gain the attention they deserve.
And that’s why I spend so much of my time researching factual data on how to provide you with the best probiotic formula available.
All this is well and good, but…
Why Are Probiotics So Vital to Your Health?*
less-than-optimal health after birth?
From the very first breath you take, you’re exposed to probiotics.
On the way through the birth canal during a normal delivery, a newborn gets dosed with bacteria from their mother. This event starts colonization in the infant’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract of ‘good’ bacteria. Compelling new research now shows many caesarean-section infants have less-than-optimal health after birth. This is most likely because they are not exposed to the mother’s healthy bacteria in the birth canal which would then serve to populate its own GI tract.
As you mature, you’re faced with many threats to the beneficial bacteria in your gut… from chlorinated drinking water… to overly-processed foods.
The ‘good’ bacteria in your gastrointestinal system can only provide you with optimum health if the proper balance of different types of bacteria is maintained in your gut.*
This is where probiotics can have a profound effect… not just on your GI health, but on your overall health as well.* Keep in mind, 80% of your immune system actually lives in your gut.
Probiotic formulas are available with many different types of bacterial strains… with the most common being Lactobacillus acidophilus. But as you’ll find out shortly, not all probiotics are created equal… and not all probiotic formulas are properly produced to provide optimal benefits.*
In general, if formulated properly, the major benefits of a high-quality probiotic are to…
- Aid you in digesting food, particularly hard-to-digest foods and foods to which some individuals are more sensitive.*
- Enhance the synthesis of B vitamins and improve calcium absorption*
- Help you keep a healthy balance of intestinal microflora*
- (In women) Promote vaginal health*
- Support your overall immune function*
I strongly believe the key to an optimal probiotic formula is through science-backed research by a qualified non-biased laboratory… and through a manufacturer with rigorous high-quality process standards in place.
You’ll see more evidence of this unwavering belief I have coming up…
When’s the Best Time to Take a Probiotic Supplement?
One of the confusing issues with probiotic supplements hinges around timing… when is the best time to take them?
See my recommendations here
Recommendations are pretty much all over the place on the best time to take them around meal times.
I can tell you when it comes to this, my team and I have carefully researched this issue and even consulted with the one of the foremost authorities and pioneers on probiotics…
The bottom line… my recommended approach and timing for taking a probiotic supplement are…
- Take it prior to eating breakfast with a glass of pure water
- Wait 10-15 minutes after taking it before you eat because stomach acid from your meal could impact some of the ‘good’ bacteria (you could lose 5-10%)
- Avoid taking it within 3 hours of taking any antibiotic
And talking about meals and probiotics, something I hear quite often is…
“If I Eat Yogurt, Should I Still Take Probiotics?”
You are probably wondering why using nearly any commercial yogurt might not be as beneficial as a probiotic supplement. Afterall, traditional cultures have been consuming cultured, fermented foods like yogurt for years for digestive health promotion.
of probiotics. Heat pasteurization significantly
reduces most of the ‘good’ bacteria benefits
The problem arises because…
- Traditional yogurts were phenomenal sources of beneficial bacteria due to their raw and unpasteurized state.
- Most of today’s yogurts are pasteurized, unless specially purchased raw and unpasteurized from a local farmer. Sadly, pasteurization radically reduces most of the benefits.
- Even most of the yogurts certified organic by the USDA are pasteurized in some fashion.
So what, in my opinion, is wrong with pasteurization?
Well, it basically kills or sterilizes most of the beneficial and other bacteria during the heat processing. And some yogurts (particularly the frozen ones), don’t contain any live bacteria at all.
So, as great-tasting as many of them are, don’t be fooled by yogurt products advertising live cultures beneficial to your digestive system… many have likely had the beneficial bacteria already reduced or wiped out by heat-intensive pasteurization processes.
To me, this is one of those cases where it appears that in our collective zeal to rid ourselves of every trace of infectious agents in our food supply and homes, we may have outdone ourselves.
As a whole, we’re less exposed to bacteria now than in the past, including beneficial bacteria. Antibacterial products, hand sanitizers, and the like have made for a world that’s a whole lot cleaner, but is it really that much healthier?
Due to strict food safety regulations, less bacteria (including the ‘good’ ones) survive the manufacturing process. Many overly-processed products, just like yogurt, undergo pasteurization or sterilization, which may destroy beneficial bacteria.
While this may be helpful in some ill-health prevention, it also means we are exposed to less health-enhancing bacteria.*
And with helpful bacteria less available in our food, I’m even more convinced how crucial it is to consider supplementation with high-quality probiotics.
But, I first must raise the caution flag and give you fair…