You may have heard of them … probiotics? Probiotics are the next “trendy supplement”, but this time rightly so. They are your stomach’s bff - best friends forever!
Here are a few answers to help you navigate the whole new world of probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live, friendly bacteria that reside in your gastrointestinal tract a.k.a. flora. These bacteria are classified by species and strains using scientific Latin names, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. A healthy body contains thousands of billions of these “good” bacteria in almost 500 different strains.
Probiotics have a beneficial effect on digestion, allowing you to breakdown starches, sugars and fibers better; they benefit elimination, allowing you to reduce the stress on your liver and immune system; they help maintain the barrier of the small intestine lining; and they protect the bowel from harmful bacteria and fungi that can cause infections; and they reduce the risk of “bad bacteria” and yeast overgrowth that causes gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and other stomach and bowel problems. That’s a whole lot of benefit in a little capsule.
Which is the right probiotic for me?
The question to ask when searching for the right probiotic becomes which one of the 100’s of strains to choose. Because there are multiple strains, a supplement with a higher number of varied strains is better than a single strain. Research conclusions thus far suggest your probiotic should at least contain a mixture of acidophilus and bifidobacteria.
Despite the claims made by commercials and manufacturers of probiotics, many formulas are not effective. Just recently an independent evaluator of nutrition products, ConsumerLab.com, noted that 5 out of the 19 probiotics products selected for testing contained only 16% of the 56% of the probiotics claimed on the label.
Sadly many over the counter products, some of which are ‘quality assured’ and sold at premium prices, don’t have live, active cultures and do not work! Clearly not all probiotics are created equally. Select carefully.
What’s the right dosage?
Unlike vitamins supplements, which are measured in milligrams (mg), probiotics are measured in cell forming units or CFU’s. Currently there is no definitive research on an ideal probiotic dosage because the need varies widely between individuals. Some people need one a day while others can go every other or less. Since one size does not fit all, we recommend a personal evaluation with Dr. Patrick to match the right amount of probiotics for your body.
When is the best time to take them: With meals or on an empty stomach?
To avoid the acid and bile that normally rise during digestion, many probiotics products suggest they be taken on an empty stomach.
Most of the probiotics formulas we use at the Digestion Relief Center use however have a protective coating or contain acid and bile resistant strains that make it possible to take anytime and are therefore more convenient. We often recommend you take your probiotics with your evening meal to give the bacteria a chance to work overnight.
How long do I need to take a probiotic?
The duration of dosage depends on several factors, such as the nature of your condition and the severity of your problem. Some people may need to keep taking them while others may only need to do so on a short-term basis. (If you are taking antibiotics, see below). In my clinical practice most people benefit from routine probiotic supplementation and particularity if their stomachs and bowels have become compromised.
Do I need to take probiotics after a round of antibiotics?
It is highly recommended that a daily dose 2 hours after taking your antibiotic
is necessary for at least 3 months while taking medications, particularly antibiotics. (Think about it: All medications taken orally, lands in your stomach first). Because antibiotics often indiscriminately wipe out the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria they are trying to control, it is important to reestablish your good bacteria to prevent yeast and fungal overgrowth.
While taking antibiotics, you may want to consult with Dr. Patrick to help you find the right formula for you to minimize the antibiotic effect on your flora.
What about probiotics and kids?
Most healthy kids are born with a unique balance of friendly bacteria until about the age of two. After two years of age, children’s bacteria balance is similar enough to an adult that adult formulas can be used. We suggest a half or quarter dosage of an adult formula for children who are having problems with their digestion.
Some probiotics are made especially for children who may have the need to supplement. Look for formulas that contain Bifidobacteria , especially the B infantis strain.
What about probiotics and older people?
With today’s industrialized food processing, pasteurization and frequent use of pesticides and herbicides, much of our food no longer contains enough beneficial soil based microorganisms. As we age, our bodies get out of balance. Studies show people over age 60 have 1,000 times fewer good bacteria then younger adults in their twenties.
Can I find probiotics in natural food?
Yes, no and maybe.
Many people think eating yogurt will fulfill their probiotics needs. Consumers beware. Some yogurts “made with active cultures” are no longer active or alive after heat treatment and processing. When sugars and sweeteners are mixed with bacteria, the sweetening process oftentimes kills the bacteria.
Lactose intolerance can be a problem for some people. Plus, dairy products in general can be congesting to the digestion system. But if you can eat yogurt without any problems, then plain yogurt labeled “live and active cultures” is best.
Fermented foods are helpful because they naturally contain beneficial probiotics. Pacific Culture makes a variety of unpasteurized fermented foods, full of good probiotics. Visit www.pacificculture.com
Is refrigeration important?
Proper packaging is important when purchasing probiotics. Because probiotics are live organisms (i.e. they can die) heat, moisture and light make them far less friendly. We recommend you refrigerate your probiotics as refrigeration preserves strength.
Part of what makes the products we recommend quality products are that several products we offer use matrix-encapsulated capsules to prevent damage to the probiotics by stomach acid. This method of encapsulation also helps to maintain their bacteria potency without refrigeration for times when keeping them cold is not always possible.
Are you taking the right probiotic for you? Here’s how to find out.
The benefits of the right probiotic formula outweigh any time, money or effort required to find it. We can help.
If you are not taking a probiotic formula, and think you need one, call our office to find out how Dr. Patrick can get you on the probiotic path that is right for you.