Choosing The Right Probiotic Supplement

The GI tract is home to trillions of bacteria with over 1000 different species. It's like a bustling city within us, teeming with diverse microbial life! However, not all residents are friendly. Among them lurk pathogenic species—viruses, bacteria, and other germs capable of causing disease.

When the balance tips, and the number of beneficial bacteria is reduced while pathogenic bacteria proliferate, this can cause a condition known as dysbiosis. In this imbalance, the risk of disease escalates. Dysbiosis has been linked to many health issues, including inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, autoimmune disorders, and even obesity. 

Understanding and maintaining the delicate equilibrium of our gut microbiota is crucial for our overall health and well-being.

Why Are Beneficial Bacteria Important?

The beneficial bacteria in someone’s GI tract are extremely important! Here's why and how:

  • They support the immune system.
  • They protect the body against pathogenic bacteria that may cause disease.
  • They ensure proper digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.
  • They maintain the gut barrier.
  • They keep inflammation in check.

Do Probiotics Work?

Probiotics work in these ways:

  • Modify the gut microbiota.
  • Inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
  • Maintain the gut mucosal barrier.
  • Restore balance to the intestinal flora.

How To Select A Probiotic Supplement

The criteria for selecting a therapeutic probiotic include:

  • The Strains Matter. Probiotics supplements differ in the variety of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species offered. Each strain has a different and unique action on our gut, immune system, brain, metabolism, mood, hormones, detoxification, and more.
    Bottom line: choose a probiotic with as many different strains as possible.
  • Numbers Count. Think BILLIONS. When you read labels, you'll see numbers as "CFUs" or "colony forming units." Dosage varies depending on what's going on with you or your child and whether they have a specific health concern. But throw out those chewables with only 1 million cfu per chew. They're not packing as much punch as you think!

    Bottom line: Infants aim for 5-10 billion cfu/day; people over 2 years old aim for 10-25 billion cfu/day or more if they have a chronic health concern.

    The main reason for supplementing with a probiotic is to establish the bacterium in the intestinal tract. The stomach and intestinal tract represent a hostile environment that can easily discourage the growth or survival of microorganisms. The viable strain should have the ability to adhere to the intestinal wall. The manufacturer should provide assays attesting to the type of strain and any research on the attributes of that strain.

    Recommendations For Using Probiotics

    Probiotics are often viewed as a low-risk intervention for most patients, especially for the following:

    • Maintaining a healthy gut
    • Taking antibiotics
    • Traveling to foreign countries
    • Eating at suspicious restaurants
    • Straying from a healthy diet, especially excess grains or sugar
    • Treating a condition or disease that responds to probiotics

    It's hard to go wrong with a good probiotic supplement. Each person’s mix of GI flora varies, but the person they inhabit are extremely important to a person’s health and well-being.

    Feed Your Gut With Food

    In addition to supplementation, don't forget to support you and your child's gut with FOOD!

    Focus on these foods:

    • Clean, unprocessed, phytonutrient-dense, whole foods
    • Prebiotics to feed those probiotics (garlic, onions, chicory root, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, fermentable fiber, resistant starch)
    • FERMENTED FOODS! yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, "real" pickles, kimchi, natto, tempeh, fermented veggies, etc.
    In Health and Happiness,
    Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

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