This blog post is sparked by a question my dad asked me the other day.
For a little background information, he’s in his 60’s and has been having some stomach issues which have included bouts of pain, discomfort & bloating. His doctor recommended that he add in a probiotic to his diet to help him replenish his gut bacteria, to which I think is a great idea, however he didn’t know what to look for so he asked me..
The smartest people will admit when they don’t know something (not saying I’m smart, more so brutally honest) & I didn’t know the answer to his question. So, this sparked a lot of research on my end to figure out what exactly he should look for in a high quality probiotic. Plus, I learn the best by reading & putting the subject into my own words, hence the blog.
Knowledge is power my friends.
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS & WHY DO YOU NEED THEM
I like to think of probiotics as little miniature helpers that work inside of your gut to restore & maintain a healthy ecosystem. They help to eliminate unwanted visitors (ex. bacteria) & repopulate the “good guys”.
WHAT TYPES OF BACTERIA ARE FOUND IN PROBIOTICS
While there are countless species of beneficial bacteria, the ones you’ll commonly find in probiotic supplement are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces boulardii. (The last one actually isn’t a bacteria, but a non-colonizing yeast) Among these common spices of bacteria, there are countless strains within them.
Lactobacillus typically live in your small bowel. Taking various strains of this bacteria can help with reducing gut inflammation, while combining it with Bifidobacterium can improve symptoms of bloating. Bifidobacterium live inside of your colon & large intestine, producing short-chain fatty acids called butyrate. These fatty acids supply energy to your colon cells & get absorbed throughout your body to help regulate a variety of metabolic processes. Saccharomyces boulardii is a beneficial yeast that is given with probiotics to protect the gut lining & outcompete other unwanted yeast.
FIGURING OUT IF THE PROBIOTIC IS HIGH-QUALITY & KNOWING WHAT TO BUY
I know a lot of us, including myself, always look for the best deal at the supermarket. However, when it comes to supplements & ESPECIALLY probiotics getting the best deal isn’t always the best option.
Probiotics are living organisms that are very sensitive and can die easily. To do their job they have to withstand the process, shelf life & the acid in your stomach. Some strains are able to withstand the process better than others, but most commercial strains are not formulated to do so.
- Billions is better than millions when it comes to CFU’s (Colony forming unit’s, how bacteria is counted in probiotics). Look for a range of 5-100 billion CFU’s & start low. If you’re wanting to just support overall gut health, then you may only need 30-50 billion CFU’s. If you have serious digestive problems, its best to work with a practitioner to ensure that you’re taking the right amounts at the right strains.
- Look for a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria. Try to stay away from brands that only contain one or two strains.
- Stay away from filler ingredients. When you look at the label, try to avoid anything that has cornstarch or lactose. These can cause adverse reactions if you’re sensitive.
- ALWAYS check the expiration date. After that date, the probiotic potency can’t be guaranteed which means that the bacteria inside could be ineffective & dead.
- Also check to see if it needs to be refrigerated. Depending on the strain, it may need to be.
With all of this being said, it’s always a good idea to consider potential reasons why you need a probiotic in the first place?
Yes, I think it's a good idea to support your gut bacteria, however why are you having the GI distress to begin with? Stress? Autoimmunity? Lack of sleep? IBS? Food allergies?
The list could go on, but it’s worth considering why you’re having the issues in the first place- Just food for thought!