Probiotics 101!

As a health & wellness coach, one of the biggest frustrations I hear from clients is “there is so much information available! How do I weed through real facts and what is just another marketing push by a company focused on the bottom line? Supplements land at the very top of this list! Are supplements necessary? How do I find good quality supplements? Are supplements a waste of money? Which ones are most important for me to be taking?

Specifically probiotics are the biggest mystery of all!

What exactly is a probiotic?

Probiotics are credited with providing many health benefits connected with gut health and much much more! We could get very scientific here, but the quick answer is that probiotics help to increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut. They are responsible for everything from nutrient absorption to immune health. The key with probiotics is to make sure you are taking the right one to get the results you are seeking.

Probiotics can be consumed as a supplement, or you can focus on eating fermented foods. If using probiotics for specific needs, see below three strains and some of the conditions they are most helpful with;

Bifidobacterium - IBS, constipation, lung infections, ulcerative colitis, restoration of intestinal bacteria after chemotherapy

Lactobacillus - Reduces cholesterol and vaginal infections, promotes weight loss, prevents and reduces cold, flu, allergy and eczema symptoms, increases GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps you feel relaxed)

Saccharomyces - GI support, diarrhea, aids in improving multiple ailments like lactose intolerance, acne, high cholesterol, fever blisters and canker sores. Also, helpful with IBS and Crohn’s disease.

Do probiotics need to be refrigerated?

Most do, but don’t disregard the ones you find on the shelf. This just means the company that manufacturers them uses a technology that allows the probiotic to stay alive at room temperature. The company includes freeze-dried organisms that comes in packaging that prevent moisture (blister packs) seeping in. But, make sure to consume the capsule immediately after removing from the individual packaging to ensure its high potency. You will find more options of high quality probiotics in the refrigerator section, so I tend to lean towards buying these.

How do I know if the probiotic I am purchasing is high quality?

Quality matters when buying any supplement, but especially when it comes to probiotics! Buy professional brands that practice ways of testing to confirm the bacteria in the probiotic will survive on the shelf and in your gut! Just as you check the label on foods, make sure you check the labels of your supplements. Many times you will find unwanted binders and fillers (such as; lactose, cornstarch, etc.)

How do I know the correct dose to take?

When looking for a probiotic you want one that contains billions of organisms. A dose will range from 5 to 100 billion CFU’s. This measure is used to determine how potent it is - best to start low (30-50 billion) and work your way up! Also, make sure to look for a probiotic with multiple strains. But if you are taking one for a specific reason, make sure that the one you chose is high in that strain.

High quality supplements can be extremely effective, but it is never a bad idea to include high probiotics foods into your everyday. Set a goal to squeeze at least one of the following foods in once a week; yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha, natto, goats milk yogurt, kvass, raw cheese, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, salted gherkin pickles and brine cured olives. A few of these foods might be new to you — perfect reason to give it a GO! I am confident you will discover some new fav’s and start consuming daily!

Here’s to a healthy gut, healthy life!