You’ve probably heard about probiotics being good for your intestinal health. And it’s true! Probiotics are foods and supplements that are full of billions of ‘good’ bacteria.
We literally have pounds of bacteria living inside of us. They help us digest our food, protect us from harmful microbes, help us detoxify, produce vitamins that are easily absorbed through our gut, and boost our immune system. They do all of this and we’re constantly expelling them. In fact, a healthy bowel movement has an estimated 100 trillion microbes in it. Since we expell them so frequently, it’s imperative that we replenish them as well.
You could likely benefit from taking a probiotic if you have:
- digestive issues (bloating, gas, diarrhea, IBS, alternating diarrhea/constipation, etc.)
- food sensitivities/allergies
- excessive stress
- used antibiotics regularly at any point in your life
- reoccurring yeast or bacterial infections
How should I get probiotics?
The best way to get an abundance of live bacteria is through eating fermented and cultured foods. The most common of these include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso (as in, the soup that’s served at a Japanese (sushi) restaurant) kimchi, sauerkraut, and even some pickles. These foods not only have living bacteria in them, but they are also full of enzymes that help your body digest it well.
If you have a more severe case of gut dysbiosis (some possible symptoms of this are on the list above) you may need a quality probiotic capsule as well as eating fermented/cultured foods.
How do you know which probiotic capsule to buy?
It can be hard to know which probiotic capsule is quality and how many billion bacteria you need, and which types of bacteria are best to balance your gut. Many of these answers are individual. However, here are some basic things to look for when buying a capsule:
- Look for at least 10 billion bacteria per dose. Less than 10 billion is not enough to really make a difference. Remember, we lose about 100 trillion with each bowel movement. So while 10 billion may sound like a lot, it’s the minimum we should use per dose to get a therapeutic benefit.
- Look for Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These are the two we need most. There are many others that are often included in quality probiotic capsules, but these are the kind bacteria our body needs most.
- Look for a strain numbers and letters. This will be listed after the name of the bacteria in the box, on the back of the label. For instance, you may see something that looks like “B. longum BB536” on the back of the label in the box. “B. longum” is simply the abbreviation for Bifidobacterium longum. And “BB536” tells us the specific strain of Bifidobacteria longum. We want to be sure that the laboratory where the probiotic was made was sure about which exact strain made it into the capsule because some strains are beneficial and some are not! Simply knowing that the lab ran the tests and was certain of which strains they use is what is important.
What to know when taking a probiotic-
It’s important to note that while probiotics are generally safe, if you have a lot of the symptoms on the list above, and/or have been eating a refined, standard American diet (SAD), you should be cautious about taking too many probiotics all at once. Ease into it by first starting to incorporate 1/2 cup of fermented/cultured foods a day. Then increase these foods to 3/4- 1 cup per day. If after eating these foods for 4- weeks you still experience symptoms on the list above, incorporate an 8 billion/dose probiotic capsule. You can again work your way up after 4-6 weeks to a higher dosage probiotic if necessary.