The power of probiotics - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

The power of probiotics

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(WOIO) -

Next time you head to the grocery store, take a look around. Chances are you'll be surrounded by probiotics, a "friendly" bacteria that aid in digestion.

Probiotics are now popping up in everything from candy to cosmetics.

Do these products harness any real health benefits or are they simply hype?

Hollis Blume uses probiotics. She explains that her children have a sweet spot for chocolate. "Every day after school, I'll give the kids a chocolate bar."

However the chocolate bar Blume gives her children is a "good for you" probiotic chocolate bar with proven digestive health benefits. Blume insists, "They don't even know that they're eating probiotics. It tastes like regular chocolate."

Chocolate is just one of the unique, new ways to get a daily dose of probiotics.

A new line of healthy probiotic fortified products include pizza crust, coffee, snacks, coated drinking straws, even oral care and skin care products.

With the global market for probiotics set to reach more than 32 billion by 2014, renowned gastroenterologist Dr. Shekhar Challa considers probiotics to be the new vitamin because they can help with so many conditions.

"Around 30 years ago, we used to take vitamins only if we needed them. Now, we take vitamins because they help you with so many conditions. I believe that's where we are headed with probiotics," says Dr. Challa. 

There are literally trillions of strains of probiotics. Research shows the benefits of some strains go way beyond digestive health to assist with colds, deceased urinary tract infections, allergies, eczema, and weight loss, according to Dr. Challa.

So how can you tell whether a product is more hype than help? Registered dietician Erin Palinski-Wade says it can be confusing. "The FDA doesn't regulate probiotics, so probiotic supplements and probiotic foods aren't required to label the dosage or the strain of product they contain."

It's important to research the probiotics you consume. Experts advise to stick with labels that list the specific probiotic strains used.

Palinski-Wade suggests looking for products that have credible scientific research to back up their claims. That includes looking for strains that are heat resistant for items such as pizza crust and coffee.

Look for labels that list CFUs. CFUs stand for colony forming units. These units are basically an estimate of the amount of viable bacteria cells in a product or supplement.

Dr. Challa said, "There is enough evidence in the literature that one needs three to five billion CFUs on a daily basis."

In essence if you are using probiotics, be sure to consume enough CFUs to deliver actual health benefits.

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