Research has shown that probiotics can help and likely prevent certain diseases including weight loss, which can drastically impact the future of your health. Your gut microbiome is home to trillions of microorganisms that play a major role in your health regulation. Taking a daily probiotic can help feed and multiply your healthy gut flora and protect against disease. Since most of your immune system lives in your GI tract, having a strong protective barrier in the gut is essential for disease protection.
Shopping for a probiotic can be confusing as many of them just don’t live up to their expectation. These microbes are sensitive and must endure the harsh environment of your acidic stomach and liver metabolism before they can reach the gut where they belong. If probiotic supplements aren’t made properly, they will not survive the journey to your gut, which defeats the whole purpose of intaking them.
Not all probiotic supplements work the same and they may not all work for you. The key to finding the right probiotic often comes with a trial period. First, identify what conditions you wish to address, such as acne, cholesterol, or digestive issues. Next, research what species and strands have shown favorable results for your specific concerns. Taking a probiotic that helps with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may not address your skin issues as they all work a little differently. Probiotics are not a one size fits all and the ones you’ve tried in the past may not have been the right ones for you. Since probiotics are not FDA regulated, I recommend you do some research before picking a random one off the shelf, which brings us to the good part, the shopping tips!
Probiotic Shopping Tips:
- Type of Species is important when addressing a specific health concern. The two most commonly used species are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Certain species and strains target specific areas and functions of the gut. I’ve made a helpful chart below to guide your search on species types, but keep in mind these are only some of the main ones used as there are many more types.
- Probiotics are living organisms so proper storage of these fragile microbes is crucial to their life and your results. Some can be stored on the shelf as they were likely freeze-dried, while others are heat-sensitive and must be refrigerated. Many are sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture in the environment. Blister packs prolong the lifespan as you’re not constantly exposing all of them to air and moisture every time you open the bottle. Check the label for proper storage instructions.
- Number of CFUs (Colony Forming Units) refers to the amount of live and active organisms per dose. CFUs typically range from 1-200 Billion. To maintain a healthy gut and provide immune support, research suggests that 10-20 Billion CFUs are sufficient. However, if you’re treating an unhealthy gut or other ailments, you’re likely going to need a bigger dose, like 50 Billion CFUs. Start at a smaller dose and slowly increase if needed.
- Large Diversity of strains and species. when trying different probiotics there are many variables to consider. Everyone has their own unique gut and responds differently to different types of foods. The same is true for probiotics. Finding one with a broader diversity in probiotic strains and species will likely offer you more benefits than just taking just a couple of different strands.
- Quality matters. Probiotics need to survive all the way through the digestive process until they can reach your small intestine. If poorly made, the probiotic will be destroyed during digestion and not even make it to the target area, meaning it’s no help to you. If probiotics haven’t helped you in the past it could be that it was unable to withstand digestion. Often a delayed-release capsule can travel further.
- Adhere to the expiration date. Live probiotics have a lifespan and after their expiration date, they are no longer any benefit to you.
- Tablets, Capsules & Gummies. How you take them can affect their health profile. Capsules may offer protection of probiotics from stomach acids, but gummies likely don’t even survive to the intestine. Gummies, although tasty, have added sugars, artificial colors, and gums that are harmful to your gut bacteria. So while you may be doing something good for your gut, you’re also taking it in a form that ultimately destroys more of your healthy gut bacteria.
Finding the Right One for You
Everyone has different types of bacteria in their gut and yours is unique to you. Finding the right probiotic must align with your individual health goals. Each different species will have variable effects on your gut health. Therefore it’s crucial to not only try a few to find what’s right for you but also to do some research to see which strains are going to benefit you the most.
Studies have shown that various strains from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, specifically L. acidophilus, have shown improvement in blood glucose levels (HgA1C) and fasting insulin levels in patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Insulin resistance is what prompts the body to develop diabetes, so taking a probiotic that can help manage blood glucose levels and reduce fasting insulin can not only help with your weight but also likely restores insulin sensitivity and reduces your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
Probiotics may help with:
- Weight Regulation
- Digestion problems, diarrhea, constipation
- Immune Support
- Blood Glucose Regulation
- IBS symptoms: Bloating, bowel changing, cramping
- Skin Health
- Mood Disorders
- Vaginal Health
- Urinary Health
- and More!
Things to Consider
Probiotics are considered to be generally safe with a low side effect profile. Some may experience bloating, gas, or bowel changes that often subside once your body gets adjusted within a few days. However, if you’re severely ill and immunocompromised, exposing your gut to various fungal and bacterial agents could create big problems. Therefore, it’s best to check with your PCP before starting a probiotic supplement.
If you found this interesting check out my Tips on how to get in more prebiotics and probiotics naturally from your food sources.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.