So you’ve seen them mentioned in your favorite magazine, heard about them on the radio and even your doctor may have recommended them, but what exactly are probiotics? Probiotics are live bacteria that have been shown to be good for your health. Yes, those little buggers can actually be good for you! They’re good for your gut health because they help raise the good bacteria in your microbiome. Check out my post about your microbiome here if you want to know why your inner ecosystem is hugely important and how an imbalance can be responsible for a whole host of not so fun symptoms.
Gut issues and autoimmune diseases have been skyrocketing over the last few decades and that is due to our Standard American Diet (SAD). SAD is full of processed foods that are high in sugar, unnatural ingredients, antibiotics and other junk that feeds your bad bacteria allowing it to win over the good bacteria There may be a battle going on in your body and you didn’t even know it! So while your great grandmother may have been healthy as an ox she probably also had a much healthier, diverse microbiome. Fortunately for you, there are actions you can take to help the good bacteria win over the bad. One of those is taking probiotics!
Science knows that probiotics are helpful, but they are still trying to figure out exactly why and which strains help with which symptoms. Medicine has made great strides, but the microbiome is still a very new area of study and there’s new research coming out every day, but if you’re having any of the below symptoms of an imbalanced microbiome then you may want to consider adding a quality probiotic to your life.
What are symptoms of an imbalanced microbiome?
- Gut-related illnesses
- Digestion problems
- Weight gain
- Inability to lose weight
- Extreme food cravings
- Food intolerance
- Skin rashes
- Autoimmune diseases
- Hormonal issues
- Brain fog
- And many more
So you’ve determined that you more than likely have an imbalanced microbiome and you should be taking a probiotic….now what? There’s hundred of probiotics on the market and choosing the correct one can be difficult and overwhelming. What’s most important in choosing a probiotic is making sure to pick one that has the strains that you need.
What to look for in a quality probiotic:
- If the product needs to be refrigerated make sure that if you have it delivered that it comes with freezer packs and you continually keep the probiotic refrigerated. Dead bacteria are worthless to your microbiome and a waste of your hard earned money.
- Make sure your probiotic has an expiration date. The supplement industry has very little regulations so look for a brand that imposes their own regulations and includes an expiration date.
- Find a probiotic with a range of Colony Forming Units (CFUs) between 3-50 Billion CFUs. CFUs are used to estimate the number of live bacteria inside the probiotic you’re taking.
- Make sure the are no nasty additives and additional ingredients in the probiotic that are unhealthy for your body
- Choose a probiotic from a company that has established a way to protect the bacteria from your stomachs natural acids and can actually make it to where it needs to go. A quality probiotic will include some information about its survivability on the bottle or on their website.
- Certification by an independent third party. Most supplements are not regulated and companies with probiotics that are reputable usually have had them reviewed by a third party to determine their effectiveness.
- Pick probiotics with strains that are beneficial for your problems (expect a post on this soon!).
In addition to taking a probiotic it’s also a great idea to get some through natural and whole food sources. People who have a very big microbiome imbalance may only be able to start out with small amounts of probiotic and no foods that contain them naturally because their gut is so damaged. Personally, I couldn’t eat any fermented foods for a year when I first got Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.
Unfortunately, you can’t just rain down probiotics and have your body shout with glee. There’s a lot of bad bacteria in your gut that will be super cranky when all these good for you items start entering it’s territory and your body may not be used to processing these new types of bacteria. That’s one of the reasons why when someone starts eating healthier they experience a lot of bloating and gut disturbance. The body just isn’t equipped yet to deal with the new stuff you’re putting in it so you have to start small! When you can though definitely add in the below foods that contain probiotics!
Foods with probiotics:
- Certain yogurts
- Certain cheeses
- Other fermented foods such as pickles
So now we’ve been over what probiotics are and why you made need them, but there’s still a ton of brands out there. How do you decide? Please see my list below of my top choices for probiotics and why.
My top choices for probiotics:
- VSL #3- Maybe one of the most well-known probiotics and one of the few that is actually regulated by the FDA. It contains 225 billion to 900 billion per serving. Unfortunately, this one needs to be refrigerated so you need to make sure to get it from somewhere that takes care to keep it refrigerated the entire time.
- Prescript-Assist- This is the one I take and I love it. I can carry it with me in my purse because it doesn’t need to stay refrigerated and contains a myriad of good bacteria, but you do have to take care that it stays in a cool, dry place so don’t leave it sitting out in the sun! It also includes prebiotics which I will post about soon! It is gluten free, dairy free and vegan and has a good variety of strains. it is also Read more about it here.
- Complete Probiotics Platinum- It has 50 billion live cultures and no unhealthy additional items added to the pills that you have no business putting in your gut. It also it has each substrain it uses listed on its website. This one also included prebiotics!
Those are my top three, but there are a bunch more out there that you can look at. Just make sure you do your research so you’re getting the most bang for your buck! Even if your digestion is fine I always suggest at least a maintenance probiotic and definitely take one when you’re on an antibiotic to protect your good bacteria. Now get out there and help those good buggers multiply!
Darren M. Brenner, MD, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL- Published July 2011
Publications, Harvard Health. “Should You Take Probiotics?” Harvard Health. Harvard Health Publications, Apr. 1015. Web. 10 July 2017.
Sorokulova, Iryna B., Iryna V. Pinchuk, Muriel Denayrolles, Irina G. Osipova, Jen M. Huang, Simon M. Cutting, and Maria C. Urdaci. “The Safety of Two Bacillus Probiotic Strains for Human Use.” SpringerLink. Springer US, 13 Oct. 2007. Web. 10 July 2017.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. It is just me sharing knowledge I’ve gleaned during my own research and balancing my own microbiome. Do not take probiotics without talking to your doctor first. People who have immune deficiency or are being treated for cancer should not use probiotics without a doctor’s okay.