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Confused about Probiotics?

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Probiotics are all the buzz lately. You’ve probably seen supplements lining the shelves and maybe you’ve started to notice the addition of probiotics to many of your everyday grocery buys. Here are a few definitions to start:

Probiotics: live microorganisms that when consumed, are intended to maintain or restore beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract.

Prebiotic’s: non-living compounds in food that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms (aka food for bacteria). Found in onions, leeks, asparagus, apples, bananas, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, cabbage, sauerkraut, barley, cocoa bean, garlic, flax seeds, and seaweed.

Gut microbiota: the microbes living in our intestine, ⅓ of which is common to most people and ⅓ that is unique to each individuals. 

Benefits of probiotics include: 

  • Preventing and treating diarrhea 
  • Improving some mental health conditions 
  • Maintaining bone health 
  • Reducing levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and hormones such as insulin  
  • Protecting the heart by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure 
  • Reducing the severity of certain allergies and eczema
  • Improving symptoms of digestive disorders such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Boosting the immune system (70% of the immune system is located in the gut)
  • May help you lose weight and belly fat

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Can you get enough probiotics from food sources?

Most people can! The benefits of getting probiotics from food sources include the fact that you also get the fiber and prebiotics that help to feed the good bacteria. Those who might want to look into a supplement include individuals who have been on high dose antibiotics or are frequent users of antibiotics. Otherwise, by eating a variety of fermented foods, you can certainly achieve a healthy balance of gut bacteria without relying on a pill.

What are the best probiotics?

Diversity is KEY. The more diverse your gut bacteria is, the better. There is no way to tell what the best strains are because it is individualized to each person. The best way to find the right probiotic for your body would be to try brands out and see which works the best for your bowel health.

If you are eating food for the probiotics, look for foods labeled “contains live active cultures or active cultures”, rather than one marked, “made with active cultures”. This will ensure that the probiotics have not been killed off during the pasteurization process. If you are looking for a supplement, you want one that is broad spectrum probiotic that has been tested for quality, bioavailability, and purity (see list below).

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How do I know if I’ve found the right probiotic?

You may see an improvement in your digestive health such as reduced bloating, improvement in bowel movement frequency or consistency, clearer thinking, or improved mood. Signs that you haven’t include continuation or worsening of digestive issues. Simply discontinue taking probiotics to alleviate negative symptoms.

Should they be refrigerated?

Not all probiotics require refrigeration depending on the different strains. Very often, the number of colony forming units (CFUs) in a product decreases over time. Manufacturers factor this in when they set a “Best by” date, and build the product with “overage.” If the product is labelled to contain 10 billion CFU, the original content will be 15 billion or more CFU to account for the large number of bacteria that will not be viable once the product is finally consumed. Follow the directions on the package to see if your brand needs to be kept in the fridge.

Who shouldn’t take a probiotic?

If you have a condition called small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), you may not benefit from a probiotic and could actually see worsening in your symptoms. The good news is, probiotics aren’t harmful and the worst that happens is a temporary upset stomach.

Natural food sources of probiotics

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha
  • Pickled vegetables (yay pickles!)
  • Green Olives
  • Miso
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Soft, aged cheese
  • Natto

Consumer Labs Tested and Approved Top Probiotics

  1. Align
  2. Country Life Acidophilus
  3. Culturelle
  4. Pearls softgels
  5. Florastor
  6. Genestra Brands HMF intensive
  7. Hyperbiotics Pro-15
  8. InnovixLabs Chewable Probiotic
  9. Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete Powder (I take this one as needed, not daily)
  10. Kyo-Dophilus
  11. Nature’s Way Primadophilus Optima
  12. Olly Pure Probiotic
  13. Pure Encapsulations Probiotics
  14. Vitamin World Probiotic 10
  15. Trunature (costco)
  16. Swanson Ultra Hardy Strain
  17. Spring Valley (Walmart)
  18. Solgar Advanced 40+
  19. Radiance Acidophilus With Pectin
  20. Schiff Digestive Advantage Gas Defense Formula
  21. LoveBug Probiotics Yeast is a Beast
  22. Jarrow Formulas Women
  23. CVS Health Women’s Probiotic
  24. Garden of Life Women’s Daily
  25. Smarty Pants Kids
  26. Nature’s Way Primadophilus
Harvard Gut & Probiotic Symposium
My dear friend Shawn and I at the Harvard Gut & Probiotic Symposium.

If you have any questions or would like to learn how to personalize your nutrition to improve your digestive health, click the link below!

Here’s to a year of great health!

If you want to trust your gut,
make sure it’s a healthy one!

References:

1 Probiotic Supplements and Kombucha Review. ConsumerLab.com. https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Probiotic-Supplements-and-Kombucha-Drinks/probiotics/. Published 2018. Accessed December 31, 2018.

2 Kechagia M, Basoulis D, Konstantopoulou S et al. Health Benefits of Probiotics: A Review. ISRN Nutr. 2013;2013:1-7. doi:10.5402/2013/481651

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