If this is the first article of you’re reading, welcome to the FKD Blogosphere! There are many other topics we’ve covered already, so reading them all is a great idea! You’ll find an article in the archives called “Good Health Takes Guts!” in which we discussed the basics of the microbiome - the community of beneficial bacteria (with a sprinkle of harmful bacteria) that lives in and on you.
When you are in balance, only a small percentage of this bacteria is harmful and we now know how to prevent most of these harms. The rest, on the other hand, actually number in the billions and billions and each perform a task that helps support your every single bodily function.
In that article, we also talked about why these little critters are helpful. Today we’ll explore methods for supporting those beneficial bugs, and how to increase the diversity of the bacterial community...which could possibly turn you into superwo(man)*
Like any other product you buy, you want assurance that it is of the highest quality. Probiotic supplements are no different. Here are a few things you should know about buying probiotic supplements:
- The first and most effective step to increasing the probiotics in your gut is to eat probiotic foods on a daily basis. Things like sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented vegetables, miso, yogurt, kombucha and kefir. Your body is much better able to absorb not only the probiotic cultures from whole fermented food but is also much better able to digest and pull nutrients from these foods. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the pallet or access to these foods...if that’s you, read on
- Probiotic supplements are made with specific probiotic strains, sometimes with one strain and others with many. Each strain supports you in different ways, so look into which strains can help what ails you. Pay attention to the diversity of strains included in the supplement you get. It’s not about the dose with the highest count of bacteria (aka CFUs), it’s about the highest number of different strains that can help with your specific imbalances.
- A number of researchers and health specialists recommend these as the most important strains to seek out:
- L. Acidophilus - common strain, does its work in the intestines
- B. Longum - also common strain, maintains integrity of gut walls
- B. Bifidum - breaks down dairy, complex carbs, protein and fat
- L. Fermentum - takes care of the byproducts of digestion which leave you feeling yucky
- L. Reuteri (LR-1 or LR-2) - binds to teeth and gums, fighting bad breath
- Pay attention to the delivery system, or what form the probiotics get into your guts. A lot of supplements are mixed with a substance that can kill the living bacteria when the pill comes in contact with your stomach’s juices. According to Dr. David Williams, leading researcher in probiotics, “The best probiotic supplements will use delivery systems that ensure a significantly high percentage of bacteria will reach your intestines alive. Because this has become a notable selling point, look for details on the product’s packaging or marketing materials. A company that is willing to explain how their product works most likely has a product that will, indeed, work.”
- Know exactly how the company you choose packages and transports their product to your store or home. Probiotics are living things and are sensitive to moderate to extreme conditions. Dr. DW has this to say: “You may remember a time when you had to refrigerate probiotic supplements. New delivery systems have mostly done away with that requirement, but you still need to protect the bacteria from too much exposure to light, heat, and moisture. Look for packaging that ensures these elements will have minimal impact. Thick, opaque bottles with desiccant pouches are most preferred.”
- Since expiration dates are not mandated for probiotics, it is especially important you find one that has an expiration date. This is a great indication that the manufacturer stands behind that date as truth. Remember, probiotics are living things and definitely have expiration dates! Why pay for and take a supplement that is doing nothing for you?
- Similar to expiration dates, if a manufacturer offers a money back guarantee, you can be sure they believe in what they are selling and don’t want to give you a bad product.
- Gut bacteria colonize and live on in your guts after you ingest them, so keep them healthy and fed with prebiotics: nondigestible fiber from things like garlic, whole grains, artichokes, bananas or honey. Some supplements will list inulin as an ingredient which is a built-in prebiotic. This is why eating fermented veggies is so very effective, they have built in fiber for feeding the probiotics for a long time after you consume them!
A huge part of a healthy lifestyle is finding out as much information as you can about the things you feed the machine that is your body. Find someone at a local supplement or natural foods store who is knowledgeable about their products and can find answers to all the things you need to know before you buy.
As always, Knowledge is Power! Check out these websites for more great info:
*This statement not confirmed by the FDA or any other person or organization with the authority to deep such statements true and verified. At FKD we definitely believe that consuming probiotics brings on superhero powers.