I’m sure you’ve heard of probiotics and that you should probably be taking them, but there is a lot of confusion when it comes to which ones to take.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that are either just like, or closely similar to the ones that are naturally found in our gut. When you take them, it helps to change or repopulate the intestinal bacteria to balance out the gut flora.
First and foremost, it is definitely a great idea to be taking probiotics, and for several reasons. Not only do probiotics help keep the balance in our gut, they have many other health benefits. Probiotics can reduce constipation, and have also been shown to fight viruses like colds, the flu, rotavirus, herpes, and ulcers.
In fact, probiotics play a role in about 70-80% of our immune system response, and help kill invading pathogens and protect against opportunistic infections!
Probiotics are especially important to take during an antibiotic course of treatment because antibiotics attack all of the bacteria in our system, and cannot tell the good from bad, always leaving collateral damage with the good bacteria. By taking probiotics before, during, and after a course, you are helping to repopulated the good bacteria and restore gut health as quickly as possible. They are also extremely effective in preventing Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea.
Probiotics can even help defeat superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics!
If you’re lactose intolerant, probiotics are highly recommended for you too! There have been numerous studies that have shown that probiotics are helpful in decreasing lactose intolerance.
Your sinuses can benefit from probiotics too, especially if you are prone to allergies and sinus infections! Not only is there a connection between your gut and your physical health, but now research is showing there is also a connection between your gut and mental health. Not only will probiotics benefit your immune system and keep you healthier, they will also help reduce anxiety and depression.
As if those aren’t enough reasons to take probiotics, Probiotics can even help clear up acne prone skin because there is definitely a gut and skin connection! When you take more good bacteria, it helps calm the inflammatory response in our system AND reducing the production of sebum (the oily secretion of our glands that can be responsible for oily skin and acne) so try taking them internally as well as externally by making a probiotic face mask (combine 2-3 contents of probiotic capsules with ½ tsp. Of jojoba oil, grape seed oil, flax oil, or olive oil and make a paste to massage on the skin and leave on for about 15 minutes, then rinse off and moisturize skin).
As every single person’s body is different and unique, there is never just one solution or type for everyone, and you really have to try what works for you. Here are some basics to help you get started:
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two strains of bacteria that are very commonly taken as probiotics. Another is S. boulardii, a beneficial yeast that is useful during antibiotic treatment because the antibiotics do not affect it. These can be found in health food stores. Probiotics usually come anywhere from 250 million to 100 billion or more colony forming units (CFUs) per capsule. Generally, the more bacteria the better. Some probiotic products come in single strain form, and some come in combined strains. Some experts believe it is better to get ones with combined strains to strengthen the immune system best, but again, you have to find what’s best for you.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a popular strain of probiotics which has benefits of enhancing the immune system and helping protect against candida overgrowth, so if you often experience yeast overgrowth and yeast infections, try taking this probiotic. It is also recommended if you suffer from sinusitis and allergies.
Bifidobacteria bifidum is another strain that helps with digestion, supports the immune system, and helps synthesize B vitamins. There are now also soil based probiotics on the market like prescript-assist which contains 29 different soil based strains that have a lower bacteria count due to their stronger resiliency to survive the journey to the gut.
Specifically, with antibiotic use, Saccharomyces boulardii lyo (can be purchased as the product Florastor) is the probiotic of choice. The main reason is because it is a yeast and not a bacteria, which means it cannot get killed by the antibiotics so it survives on its journey to the microbiome destination very well. This is also one of the best studied strains of probiotics that has shown to have a particular benefit in preventing antibiotic associated diarrhea and protecting against opportunistic infection that may arise from a weakened immune system and gut flora. This probiotic does not require prebiotic fibers to survive and is great for sensitive individuals and for children.
Another great probiotic that is likely beneficial for antibiotic use is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (can be purchased as the product Culturelle). It has shown to protect against antibioticassociated diarrhea. It is even a good idea to take a combination of Florastor and Culturelle together to get better coverage and protection. Capsule form is usually recommended over powdered forms of probiotics, as it helps in having a delivery system to travel to the gut without being destroyed through the journey. Now, if you’ve never heard of PREbiotics, they are closely connected to probiotics. These are actually a source of food for the probiotics to nourish them
and help them multiply and survive in the gut. These make a great food source for probiotics because they are non-digestible fibers (for the human body) which means we cannot absorb or break them down and they travel safely down to the gut for the probiotics to absorb. Prebiotics are just as important as probiotics for protecting and rebuilding a healthy flora. You can also get prebiotics from your diet, and sources such as bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat foods. Soluble fiber is a great source of food for good bacteria to grow. Foods high in soluble fiber include carrots, squash, starchy tubers, turnips, parsnips, beets, plantains, taro, and yuca, and raw chicory root and jerusalem artichokes.
Don’t rely on supplements alone to get the job done. To help with immunity, and rebuilding the gut flora, you can also eat a supporting diet filled with probiotic foods. This includes eating generous servings of fermented foods and drinks, as they naturally contain a high amount of probiotics. These include kefir, yogurt, kim-chi, sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, pickled beets and carrots( and other fermented veggies), miso soup, tempeh, cultured non-dairy yogurt (great for vegans and vegetarians), and even refrigerated probiotic chocolate like Attune dark chocolate bars ( they are low in sugar and have a clean ingredient list). By simply taking probiotics, we can greatly influence many aspects of our health! This makes gut health extremely important so don’t overlook it!