We’ve written before on the merits of probiotics: supplements of “good” bacteria that complete, enhance or mitigate the bacteria already living in your body. These supplements have gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason. They can cure or treat a variety of gut problems including diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as improve immunity and skin health. While probiotics are typically known for their effects on the gut, ongoing research has shown that many strains of bacteria also benefit other areas of the body. From gingivitis to high cholesterol, many health conditions can be treated or improved by taking probiotics.
Almost as important as taking your probiotic, though, is taking the right probiotic; the options are daunting. However, a few guidelines can make it easy to narrow down your selection:
•Look for labels with a “GMP” or Good Manufacturing Practice stamp. This ensures that your supplements are manufactured safely and adhere to strict quality standards.
•Select a probiotic with an expiration date listed on the bottle. Bacteria that provide these beneficial effects are alive, just like the bacterial cultures in yogurt. Probiotics are formulated to give you a specific dose of bacteria, so an expiration date is necessary to know that, at expiration, you are getting the full dose listed on the bottle.
•To avoid allergic reactions or gastrointestinal upset, make sure the supplement has a vegetable base (no soy, dairy, gluten, or wheat).
•Feed your probiotics! Look for probiotic supplements that include fructoligosaccharides or “FOS,” also known as “prebiotics,” which are fibrous feeding materials for the microbes. Often probiotics do not include FOS, however, there are other supplements you can take which will ensure your bacteria are happy and well-fed.
•Choose a probiotic supplement with as many strains of bacteria as possible (greater than 10 is preferable). This will increase the scope of positive effects you receive from taking the supplement.
•Take your probiotics with a cold drink. Taking them with a hot drink may destroy the live bacteria.
Any probiotic will improve overall wellness, however, many people benefit most from taking a probiotic that includes Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii). This specific strain of good yeast helps to combat bad yeasts and other fungal infections throughout the body, and frequently can eliminate yeast or fungal infections not otherwise treated by prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Additionally, taking a supplement with S. boulardii is extremely important during antibiotic treatments. Antibiotics kill off vast amounts of the “good” bacteria in your gut, allowing “bad” strains of bacteria and yeast to overpopulate, upsetting the normal bacterial balance. Supplements including S. boulardii will help to prevent this accumulation of “bad” bacteria and maintain your natural microbe populations.
For those who are looking for condition-specific relief, some evidence suggests Lactobacillis reuteri (L. reuteri) has been shown to help improve gingivitis and lower high cholesterol. Studies have shown that supplements including L. reuteri significantly decreased moderate to severe gingivitis, as well as general plaque in the mouth. L. reuteri (strain 30242) also shows some evidence of removing the extra cholesterol in the blood and increasing cholesterol metabolism. These effects help to decrease cardiovascular disease risk and other cholesterol-related health issues.
Once you have chosen the right probiotic, it is important to consistently take your supplement at a high enough dose to reinforce the target populations of bacteria. In order to maintain these positive health effects, we recommend taking a minimum of 25 billion CFUs (colony-forming-units) per day. As stated previously, antibiotics can decrease all populations of bacteria in your body, including any probiotics being taken. If you are taking antibiotics, take a supplement with Saccharomyces boulardii, and double the dose to 50 billion during the treatment period to prevent the antibiotics from killing off “good” bacteria. Also, probiotics should be taken a minimum of two hours after any antibiotics for maximum efficacy.
While most people can smoothly integrate probiotics into their diet, sometimes the transition can cause mild stomach aches. Most of this discomfort can be avoided by making sure the probiotic has a vegetable base. However, if symptoms persist, don’t give up on your probiotics! Decrease to about half the dose recommended, and then slowly increase the daily amount to ease your body and digestive tract into interacting with these new bacteria.
Probiotics can have numerous and far-reaching effects on the body and your general wellness. If you have questions about what types of probiotics may be right for you, please contact us and we would be happy to speak with you! Enhanced Medical Care can test the strength and presence of your bacterial flora. To schedule a test email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (617)-777-4080.