Supplements vs Vitamins vs Probiotics
When looking into vitamins and supplements, it’s easy to get confused as to which is which. A vitamin is defined as a natural substance usually found in food that helps your body be healthy.
A dietary supplement is defined as a product taken orally that contains one or more ingredients, such as vitamins or amino acids, that are intended to supplement one’s diet and are not considered food. With that in mind, it is important to understand what your body needs to function at optimal efficiency.
Which supplements should I take?
Multivitamins are supplements that come in many forms, and can be targeted toward different people dealing with different medical issues. Centrum is a line that specializes in multivitamins, including those that target seniors over the age of 60.
Prenatal vitamins are supplements that women take when they are expecting a child. These tend to come with more iron and specific nutrients that pregnant woman may lack and will need for a healthy pregnancy.
There are also supplements for weight loss, hair, skin, nails, and even your microbiome (thanks to probiotics). Many of these products can contain natural and chemical ingredients, so you should be vigilant about the ingredients in anything you’re consuming.
Which vitamins should I take?
Vitamins can be consumed in a variety of forms, including liquids, powders, pills, gummies, etc. Different forms are absorbed by the body in different rates.
Depending on your body, diet, and routine, one type may be more effective for you than another. To ensure that you are not consuming too much or too little of a certain vitamin, you should always check with your physician.
It’s important to ask your doctor to make sure you are taking the vitamins that suit your need in the appropriate dosage. Fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E are not excreted in urine the way water-soluble vitamins are, so taking too much of them can be dangerous.
What are Probiotics?
In simple terms, probiotics are live bacteria that live along your digestive tract, supporting your body’s ability to absorb nutrition and fight off infection. While they are naturally occurring in your body, your probiotic levels can easily become unbalanced, leaving you with an insufficient amount. Unlike “bad” bacteria that do their best to make you sick, probiotics are “good” or “helpful” bacteria committed to keeping you healthy.
The benefits of probiotics to us are countless:
♦ Crowd out “bad” bacteria, fungi, and yeasts
♦ Create enzymes specifically tasked with destroying harmful bacteria
♦ Create enzymes that counter the production of cholesterol in your bloodstream
♦ Stimulate the secretion of IgA, an immunoglobulin that stops foreign substances from entering your circulatory system
♦ Stimulate the secretion of regulatory T cells that are crucial for maintaining an optimally balanced immune system
♦ Produce vitamin B12, vitamin K2, and butyrate, which all play a significant role in maintaining your digestive health
♦ Promote strong bones
♦ Relieve acid reflux and indigestion
How A Good Gut Is Important
Hippocrates, who is considered by many to be the “Father of Modern Medicine,” said “All disease begins in the gut.”
Around 80% of your immune system lives within your digestive system’s gastrointestinal tract (2). When your digestive system is not functioning properly, every part of your body can be affected, putting your health at risk. For example, your body may have trouble:
♦ Absorbing vitamins and minerals and allowing food proteins to enter your bloodstream
♦ Regulating hormone levels
♦ Eliminating toxins
♦ Initiating your immune response, putting you at a higher risk of all types of diseases, including autoimmune, cancers, and allergies
♦ Producing serotonin: Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in maintaining a balanced mood. This means that probiotics can help combat depression and anxiety as well. Almost 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract (3).
Clinical Studies Support Benefits of Probiotics
A substantial amount of time, money, and effort has been devoted to probiotics research, making it virtually impossible to list all of the health benefits of probiotics. Below is just a snippet of the latest and greatest clinical research findings.
A 2015 study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) reconfirmed past research showing that probiotics play a significant role in promoting a healthy immune system (4). The study specifically found that probiotics can help with intestinal problems, some skin disorders, respiratory infections, and weight loss.
A 2017 study conducted by the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that probiotics, particularly lactobacillus, may reverse symptoms of depression, improving mental health (5).
Researchers from the University of Florida found that probiotics work to regulate your body’s immune response to allergies, reducing allergy-related nose symptoms (6).
Research published in 2017 stated that probiotics could be used as a therapy for the prevention and treatment of cancer because of their ability to modulate intestinal microbiota and tumor suppressing properties (7).
What can harm our Gut Balance?
While there is no doubt that the discovery of antibiotics has prevented millions of deaths, there is a cost to taking them. Antibiotics are unable to distinguish between “good” and “bad” bacteria. Essentially, they will work to kill anything they come up against. When probiotics are killed, space opens up for bad bacteria and fungi that may be resistant to antibiotics can easily take over. They can thrive, leaving your levels unbalanced and your body struggling to regrow the good bacteria it has lost.
When your body is stressed, it can wreak havoc on your digestive system. By altering your gastrointestinal motility and secretion, stress can kill off and/ or greatly reduce the production of probiotics.
The frequent use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, Motrin, Midol, and Advil, can kill your good intestinal bacteria.
When you are constipated, “bad” bacteria is allowed to hang out in your digestive tract much longer than it should be. Not only will it proliferate, but it will target your “good” bacteria.
The chemicals that may have been used to grow the food you eat, such as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, as well as any additives and preservatives that may have been added to it, have been shown to kill off probiotics.
Consuming some natural herbs
Several different herbs are frequently taken as natural antibiotics. Just like their synthetic counterparts, these herbs are unable to tell the difference between “good” and “bad” bacteria, causing them to kill any bacteria they come in contact with. These herbs include goldenseal, colloidal silver, and grapefruit seed extract (GSE).
We already know how effectively chlorine can kill bacteria in your pool, so it would stand to reason that the same would be true your body. Chlorine, which may be included in your tap water to kill any bacteria it harbors, will also kill the good bacteria living along your digestive tract.
Both chemotherapy and radiation target any bacteria living in your body and can be particularly devastating to good bacteria.
Sugar and sugar substitute consumption
Sugar is frequently added to foods as a preservative and preservatives have been shown to kill good gut bacteria. One study found that the common sugar substitute, Stevia, kills off large numbers of the probiotics living in your digestive tract (16).
Studies show that the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are often found in many of the foods we eat not only kill off good bacteria, but create conditions that are just right for bad bacteria to flourish (17).
Kinds of Probiotics
Lactobacillus. This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
Bifidobacterium. You can find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast found in probiotics. It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems.