Last week, I wrote about the most commonly available probiotics and some of their benefits. This week, I'll debunk some common probiotic myths and share what you might expect when you begin taking a probiotic.
As I also mentioned last week, you may benefit from taking a probiotic if you've taken antibiotics in recent years, you eat processed foods (or have in the past), or you live or grew up in an urban area.
Even if you're generally healthy, you may benefit from taking a probiotic. Because of our Western lifestyles and diet, most people have a compromised microbiome.
Also, please keep in mind, if you have SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth), you may not benefit from taking a probiotic. You would want to remove the overgrowth before taking a probiotic.
If you are immune compromised, you will also want to avoid taking a probiotic. Even good bacteria could overload the body.
Probiotics are a preventative, not a treatment for any condition. Please see your medical provider to see what's best for you.
Common Probiotic Myths
Myth #1 Probiotics don't survive stomach acid.
True, most probiotics won't survive stomach acid.
Look for encapsulation technology and/or look for strains that do survive the intestinal tract.
Spore forming bacteria are dormant until food is available for them and are able to survive high temperatures. They are thought to easily colonize the colon.
Also, transient bacteria (those that don't colonize the gut), are also beneficial. However, transient bacteria need to be taken regularly since they don't stick around.
Myth #2 Adding a few more bacteria to the stomach won't make much of a difference since there are already so many.
Yes, there are already trillions of bacteria in the stomach and we're only taking about adding a few more billion. However, colonizing the gut is not necessarily the goal.
Supporting a healthy microbiome is the overall goal. Probiotics can actually swap genes with existing bacteria, and can also stimulate the immune system.
Probiotics can also influence inflammation and can neutralize toxins that my contribute to a "leaky gut."
So even though the bacteria may just be passing through, they will support a healthy microbiome if introduced on a regular basis.
Myth #3 Adding more cultured foods such as yogurt is fine, supplementing isn't necessary.
Most commercial yogurt is pasteurized and contains a ton of sugar. The extra sugar feeds the wrong type of bacteria in your gut and pasteurization actually kills the good bacteria in the yogurt.
Natural or homemade yogurt is a great addition to the diet but still doesn't contain the large amounts needed to stimulate the immune system.
When my kids were younger, making homemade yogurt was part of my regular weekly routine. The kids loved it and it was a great snack for them.
Myth #4. Supplements are inferior to fermented foods since fermented foods have more bacterial variety than probiotics.
Probiotic supplements contain the strains of bacteria that have been scientifically shown to be beneficial to the microbiome. They also contain the therapeutic doses needed to help the gut rebuild and attain balance.
At the same time, I still think that eating fermented foods such as, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, and kombucha are a great addition to your diet.
What should you expect when taking a probiotic supplement.
1. You might feel a little worse before you feel better.
You may experience gas, bloating, or other discomfort.
This may be the good bacteria killing off the bad bacteria, which is experienced as detox symptoms.
If it's too uncomfortable you may want to reduce your probiotic dose.
If that doesn't work, you might want to try a different probiotic supplement. Remember, we are all different, which is where bio-individuality comes in. What works best for one person may not work for someone else.
Pay attention to your body to find out what works best for you.
2. A benefit of taking a probiotic is having more regular, well formed stools...but at the beginning, you may experience either loose stools or constipation.
Either of these could be due to the changes happening in your microbiome. Again, if it's too uncomfortable try reducing your dose and work up to the recommended dosage or if that doesn't work try a different probiotic.
Because our Western diets and lifestyles aren't optimal for creating a healthy microbiome, probiotic supplements can be beneficial.
I still recommend including fermented foods in your diet in addition to supplementation. Fermented foods have benefits beyond their "good bacteria count."
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