11 Feb Probiotics: Five Things You Need to Know
True or false – all yogurts contain probiotics.
I was recently invited by Danone Canada to attend a session on probiotics hosted by Dietitians of Canada. I should say that I’ve done work for Danone in the past (not specifically on DanActive, its probiotic drink), and they are not currently an active client. The speaker, Natasha Haskey, MSc RD works for the Saskatoon Health Region and stated no affiliations with any probiotic company.
This blog post is meant for information purposes only. Please consult your doctor or health care provider before using probiotics for therapeutic purposes.
So having got all that out of the way, what were the five take-home points from the session?
1) Probiotics comes from the Greek word for life. Probiotics are not the same as “active live cultures” that you find listed on yogurt containers. Probiotics deliver a health benefit beyond just having live “good” bacteria.
2) The strain of probiotic matters. When you see the name of a probiotic, it should state three things: genus, species and strain. An example of a proper probiotic name would be Lactobacillus casei DN-144 001. The strain is usually alphanumeric. Just saying E coli or acidophilus doesn’t mean anything. One strain of E coli is a deadly bacterium, while another strain delivers health benefits. It’s a bit like saying “canine” as the species, but this means a wolf and dog would both qualify.
3) General health benefits of probiotics: they don’t allow “bad” bacteria to take over your gut; they help strengthen your immune system; they make vitamins B12 and K, and they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) which have the potential to protect against cancers and heart disease.
4) Strain-specific benefits: Certain strains can help reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea in children; other strains can reduce diarrhea linked to taking antibiotics; some strains can help improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
5) How to choose a probiotic food/supplement: Does it state the genus-species-strain? Does it tell you the number of bacteria/serving? Is there a serving size and dose recommended? Do they guarantee its effect until a best-before date? Is there storage information? Do they provide contact information for the company?
Bottom line: Even if you don’t buy probiotics, you can eat certain foods to help develop a healthy environment in your gut. Which foods? Fruits, vegetables and foods high in fibre.
Have you taken probiotics?