The breakdown on everything you need to know about probiotics!
Your gut health is SO important. The gut is responsible for many critical functions in your body, like digesting food, fighting pathogens, enhancing our immune system, controlling our metabolism, and synthesizing serotonin. Prebiotics and probiotics are key components in improving the health of your gut. Today we’ll be diving into the connection between probiotics and gut health.
Let’s break it down – what are probiotics?
Your gut is filled with around 100 trillion bacteria, some good and some bad. When the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria is off, we call this dysbiosis, which can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeast that reside in your body. By taking probiotics, you are essentially recolonizing your gut with many new good bacteria that help to balance the bacteria in your microbiome to help keep it happy resulting in you feeling better.
Who should take probiotics? What conditions and symptoms do they help with?
The health industry has pushed probiotics on almost everyone, advertising its use on numerous medical conditions and symptoms. While probiotics are great for many people, others should take caution and consult with a professional to help figure out what may be right for you.
Probiotics tend to help people suffering from symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or those who have Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, and certain food allergies intolerances. If you start taking probiotics and feel your symptoms getting worse, stop and consult a health professional. In my practice, I find clients that are not tolerating probiotics well have other conditions going on like SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), which requires a whole different approach.
How can you incorporate probiotics into your diet?
Food sources of probiotics are foods and beverages that are fermented. Try to include some of these foods daily in your diet. If you do not want to ferment foods yourself, many health food stores have them prepared and ready to go!
- Kefir (fermented probiotic milk drink)
- Greek Yogurt (or Activia)
- Kimichi (Asian dish with fermented cabbage, radishes, and scallions)
- Some raw cheeses
What to look for when purchasing probiotics?
The probiotics section is filled with bottles of different brands advertising the billions of probiotics in each bottle, which makes the decision of which one to buy super overwhelming. Unfortunately, a lot of the probiotics in the aisle of your local pharmacy or grocery store are not high quality and are therefore ineffective.
When buying a probiotic, there are a few factors you should consider.
- What are your symptoms?
- Does the bottle say that it contains live and active bacterial cultures?
- Does it have multiple strains? (ex. Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces Boulardii, Bifidobacterium)
- Does it have binders and fillers like lactose or cornstarch? (hint: avoid this!)
- Is it high quality? (a professional brand with clinical testing and trials to support effectiveness and quality)
Some of my favorite probiotics I recommend to my clients are:
- Megaspore sporebiotic
- Klaire Labs Factor 4
- Designs for Health Biospora
- Jarrow Jarrodophilus
When should I take probiotics?
Probiotics ideally should be taken in the morning, setting your gut up for the day and helping you stay consistent. Probiotics often do not have to be taken with food, although some people may experience mild GI discomfort and find taking probiotics with food to be helpful. In either case, make sure you are taking probiotics around the same time each day!
Here’s the bottom line…
Probiotics are a great way to keep you and your gut healthy by feeding your microbiome with a surplus of good bacteria. Taking probiotics can help alleviate GI discomfort, although probiotics are not for everyone. If you are experiencing ongoing GI complications, are unsure if probiotics are right for you, or are just overall confused about where to start, reach out to work with an RD or other health professional!