Halal Consumer - Issue 28 - page 11

The human gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, is
home to diverse microbial communities, which
include over 500 types of bacteria. These com-
munities are also referred to as GI flora. The
most common group of bacteria found in the
intestine is lactic acid bacteria. The relationship
between you and your GI flora is symbiotic;
both you and the microorganisms you host are
benefiting one another. Along your gut, bac-
teria have a nice, warm, safe place to live and
grow. In return they act as a HAZMAT regula-
tor for your body. Normal GI flora helps prevent
infections and pathogen (harmful bacteria)
overgrowth. They improve intestinal function
and maintain the strength of intestinal lin-
ing. Probiotics also help fight the bacteria that
causes diarrhea. The GI flora plays a significant
role in production of vitamin K and certain B
vitamins, synthesis of amino acids, and bile
transformation (a process in the metabolism of
glucose and cholesterol). Probiotics also have a
direct impact on immunological health.
Where Are Probiotics Found?
Probiotics are available in foods and dietary
supplements. The most well known bacteria of
the gut are
Lactobacilli
and
Bifidobacteria
, mak-
ing them the most widely available probiotics
for consumption. You can enjoy probiotics in
fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, kefir,
and aged cheeses. Look for food labels that
read, “contains active cultures” or “contains
live cultures.” More detailed labels will even
list the type and name of the probiotic. Some
non-dairy foods that contain probiotics are
kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and soy bev-
erages. However, be careful of how these foods
are prepared. When live cultures are exposed
to high temperatures (like baking a pizza with
fermented cheeses) the bacteria you are trying
to eat is killed!
Interest in probiotics is growing and more
dietary supplements are emerging. Dr. Javeria
Chishty, PharmD of East Windsor, New Jersey,
works as a retail pharmacist. She advises,
“Probiotics supplements are beneficial in some
cases but, as with all dietary supplements, they
are not FDA [Food and Drug Administration]
approved and should be used with caution.
There’s no guarantee they’ll be effective.” Dr.
Chishty observes customers most often seek pro-
biotic supplements “when they are on antibiotics,
to regulate their digestive system, or to combat
irregularities such as excess gas or diarrhea.”
Food or Supplements — How To Decide
You may be wondering, which is better: pro-
biotics from foods or from supplements? That
depends on your specific needs. If you are a
healthy individual looking to maintain healthy
digestive function, obtaining probiotics from
food sources is always the best choice. When
consumed as food, the intestines better absorb
them. However, in treating specific ailments or
symptoms a supplement may be more helpful
and convenient. For example, if you are suffer-
ing from diarrhea, you may not want to eat large
amounts of foods. Halal certified supplements
such as Forever Active Probiotic by Forever
Living or Probiotics by 4Life might be a bet-
ter option. For better absorption, the probiotic
supplements should not be taken on an empty
stomach. As with any dietary supplement, herbal
remedy, or vitamin, if you take probiotic supple-
ments you should inform your physician.
When Are Probiotics Needed?
Recall that your gut maintains a natural flora.
If this flora is disrupted in some way, increas-
ing the probiotics in your regular diet can help
restore your good bacteria. The natural GI flo-
ral can be thrown off by the use of antibiotics
and some medications, abrupt diet changes, use
of laxatives, or C.
difficile
-associated diarrhea.
For the healthy individual, there is no need to
seek out excess probiotics, assuming he or she
has a balanced diet that includes the foods con-
taining them.
Dr. Umair Ahmad, MD, a family medicine physi-
cian from Columbus, Ohio, says, “When I have
patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome [IBS];
symptoms associated with IBS such as gas and
bloating; and viral or bacterial GI infections, I
include probiotics as part of their treatment.”
Dr. Ahmad continues, “I always suggest probiot-
ics to a patient on antibiotics. It doesn’t hurt to
TOP TO BOTTOM: Kimchi, blue
cheese, tempeh, miso.
Spring 2014
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