Did you know that our bodies are made up of trillions of cells, and as well as human cells we are made up of hundreds of billions of living bacteria called the microflora, which live on our skin, in our mouth and nose and largely in our intestines (gut flora)?
This gut flora is made up of both 'good' and 'bad' bacteria and it is important to maintain a balance of these to ensure good gut health. The 'good' bacteria spend their days helping to neutralise some of the toxic by-products of digestion, reduce harmful substances (such as toxins and carcinogens), and discourage 'bad' bacteria and 'bad' yeasts. They also help to stimulate the digestive process and aid the absorption of nutrients, as well as producing important vitamins including B and K.
We lose about 50mls of our gut flora every day through bodily functions, so it is important that we replace the good bacteria in order to maintain a healthy balance of microflora. This in turn promotes good gut health, and the key to good overall health all starts with the gut. Of even more importance when replacing good bacteria - is of doing so with LIVE bacteria.
It seems these days however that although many health professionals and probiotics manufacturers are recommending probiotic supplements containing billions of bacteria, it may be unclear as to whether the bacteria in the products are actually alive. It is also important to note that the numbers most companies promote are individual bacteria, and this is used as a marketing tool designed to make the human mind think that the higher the number the better the product.
If the bacteria are not alive however, the number of bacteria is almost irrelevant as they won't be able to do their job once they get to your gut (if they get that far).
Many probiotic products that are available in pill and powder form are freeze dried and inert when you ingest them and are therefore not able to multiply. The bacteria need to reactivate in the gut however if the gut is not in a healthy and balanced state then the bacteria may not have all the food they need to reactivate, and are therefore rendered useless.
Live bacteria and batch testing
It is crucial therefore that the bacteria in the products you consume are actually alive, and a batch test can assure that. If inert, bacteria are unable to multiply, but if they are alive 1 bacteria can multiply every 20 minutes, and in 24 hours becomes 4,553,481,496,843,251,613,696 (if each bacterium split every twenty minutes for an entire day). So having 1 live bacterium is more beneficial than having 1 billion inert bacteria as you will end up with more bacteria through multiplication.
When manufactured via a natural fermentation process the number of live bacteria will always vary, each batch will be different and it would be impossible to state a number of bacteria on the product label as they are constantly multiplying. This is why a batch test is important to ensure that there is actually LIVE bacteria in the product to begin with, rather than the total number which changes all the time.
Colony forming units
The count of bacteria should be expressed in colony forming units (CFU), not individual bacteria. Each CFU has approx. 1,000,000 bacteria in that colony (this is when there is enough bacteria to be visible as a colony which can then be counted). For example, a batch test result showing > 10,000 live CFU's per gram, equates to a minimum of 10,000,000,000 (10 billion) bacteria per gram.Note this is a minimum as the live bacteria are multiplying all the time.
In terms of serving sizes, a child serving of approximately 1.5 grams would give them a MINIMUM of 15 billion bacteria, and an adult serving of 3 grams (one teaspoon) would provide 30 billion bacteria. Again, the bacteria must be alive, so they are multiplying all the time, and it is important that they are also bred to withstand the harsh environment of the gut so they are not immediately killed off upon arrival.
Your own personal army
LIVE good bacteria are our own personal army that are there to protect and serve our bodies. They play a vital role in our immune responses, produce vitamins for us, turn proteins into essential amino acids, digest our food and they will die to protect us.
We need these good guys now more than ever as so many things such as our foods, water supplies, medicines, antibacterial sprays and wipes and many other environmental factors are trying to kill the bacteria (the good gets killed even when the bad are targeted).
So to give you and your family the best chance at good health, take a probiotic each day that is organic, contains prebiotics, is in a natural powder form and has been batch tested to ensure live bacteria and help regain your army.