A Quick Guide to Probiotic Supplements, MASSAGE MagazineTo complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Gut Flora Contributes to Health,” by Erin Zimniewicz Williams, C.N., L.M.P., in the March 2014 issue. Article summary: Our bodies contain 10 times more bacteria than cells—and the majority of bacteria live in our digestive system. There are 100 trillion viable bacteria in the colon comprised of hundreds of different species. Bacteria in the colon are often referred to as gut flora, and we need these bacteria for optimal health.

Probiotic supplements are available in a variety of forms, including freeze-dried powder, capsules, wafers and liquids. The strains of bacteria most researched and recommended are the NCFM strain of L. acidophilus, developed at North Carolina State University from a human intestinal tract, L. acidophilus HMF and the L. acidophilus DDS-1 strain. Other strains are available, but their viability and ability to survive in the presence of bile or stomach acid is unknown.

Remember to exercise caution before using a probiotic supplement, as the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements and manufacturers use a variety of marketing tactics to help sell their products.

As always, read labels. All probiotic supplements should contain viability information such as colony-forming units per gram and strain name, and be packaged in a dark container. Always refrigerate probiotic supplements.

Erin Zimniewicz Williams, C.N., L.M.P., is the owner of EZ Balance in Redmond, Washington. She is a certified nutritionist and licensed massage therapist as well as a yoga and Pilates instructor.