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When it comes to probiotics, people are most familiar with the benefits of yogurt. We’re told that it is regularity and immune support in a cup! Unfortunately, scientific facts show that these benefits are often quite exaggerated.

Between manufacturing, packaging, shipping, poor temperature control measures, facility storage practices, food labeling laws and more, the true potency of the actual "living" probiotics in these tasty treats is often far weaker than advertised. Yogurt is still a healthy sensible snack for those free of intolerances, perhaps. But a panacea with true "immune-boosting" support? Likely not.

To give some perspective, it is estimated that we possess ten times more probiotics than cells in our bodies. We have between ten and 100 trillion cells, which means we possess anywhere from 100 to 1,000 trillion probiotics in our bodies. The sheer microbial volume is staggering. 

It is no surprise then that these probiotic yogurts, which contain maybe millions or billions (at manufacturing time, but not necessarily by the time they hit your plate), may not truly supplement and provide the impact we need.

Still, probiotics are so misunderstood and are so much more important than many of us know.  

Did you know that probiotics

1. Play a role in the production of critical B vitamins like B-1 (Thiamine), B-2 (Riboflavin), B-3 (Niacin), vitamin K2, B-7 (Biotin), B-9 (Folic Acid) and B-12. An estimated 10% of our daily energy requirements are a direct result of the hard work done by the "friendly" bacteria residing in our gut.

2. Are estimated to weigh in aggregate almost 3.5lbs. For perspective, our brain weighs approximately 3lbs, our heart is slightly over half a pound and our liver is about 4 lbs, making probiotics one of the largest organs in the human body.  

3. Are responsible for completing the digestion of foods like beans, lentils, quinoa, barley, brown rice - any full whole grain really. Complete digestion of many foods relies heavily on these friendly microbes.  

4. Live everywhere in and on our bodies, not just in the gut. They live in the ears, eyes, nose, esophagus, tonsils, mouth, gums, lungs, appendix, forearms, urinary tract and still elsewhere.

5. Make up to 40% of mother's colostrum (breast milk, dubbed "liquid gold").

Now, I am certainly not recommending a yogurt boycott or mass fridge dump. I am simply highlighting the importance of well-thought-out probiotic supplementation as a necessary addition to the quest for better health. 

Here are some basic probiotic do's and don’ts to help you make the best choices

1. Don't rely on yogurt alone to support your probiotic needs.

2. Don't purchase probiotics that require refrigeration online from companies that do not ship them with cold packs. (You may save money, but not your health).

3. Do your homework: probiotic purity varies dramatically by brand. Visit Consumer Labs for information on dozens of brand manufacturers.

4. Don't take them with food. I recommend taking them 30 minutes before eating.

5. Don't take the same probiotic all the time. Cycle different brands and find what feels right for you.

6. Do take your probiotic with colostrum; they work in conjunction and enhance each other’s efficacy.

Please stay tuned for my next article, Probiotics: Take Two, which will delve deeper into the microbial abyss and discuss probiotics as they relate to disorders like Candida Albicans, Celiac and more.

photo credits: ali harper, weiferd watts

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