Probiotics: Choosing with Confidence

Many people find benefits from taking probiotics these days. There are many types available and many options.

Let’s talk about the benefits of probiotics and then we’ll talk about the varieties. It’s good to understand what you are looking for in a probiotic.

A quick recap of the microbiome. The human digestive system is full of bacteria, fungi and yeast. It’s part of life and part of the human experience. You can’t escape it, and frankly, you really wouldn’t want to. These bacteria are critical components of our GI tract and they contribute to our health. Without them, our bodies would suffer from chronic illness and may not even have much of a chance of survival.

The bacteria in the gut are meant to be balanced. Good bugs are important, but so are some opportunistic bugs as well. These opportunistic bugs help challenge the good bugs and keep them robust. The opportunistic bugs aren’t necessarily bad because they have work to do, too. They help make some of our nutrients and break down our food for easier absorption. The keyword is opportunistic. They look for opportunities to take over and will, if given the chance.


Balance in our microbiome is very important for keeping the body healthy. Pathogens can make their way into the system and when they do, they can wreak havoc. These pathogenic bacteria, parasites and others release toxins that contribute to the inflammation in the body. Joint pain, brain fog, fatigue, skin problems, muscle pain and other uncomfortable things like gas and bloating can all result.


Taking a probiotic makes some people feel better because they, in fact, are supporting a healthy microbiome as long as they are taking the probiotic. Why is it that the benefits only last as long as you are taking the probiotic? Why is it that some people benefit while others do not?


Let’s tackle the first question first. Taking a probiotic, if it is right for you, may help during the time you take it but the benefits don’t last past the last capsule. This is because most commercial probiotics are composed of transient species. These bugs do good in the body while you are taking them, but if you don’t consistently take them, they leave the system. If you miss a dose over a couple of days, you may notice a recurrence of the problems for which you began taking the probiotic. It’s really helpful to take them daily and try your best not to miss any days for the best results.


The second question has to do with bio-individuality. Why do some people feel better when taking a probiotic, but some people don’t? Just like there are many different breeds of dogs, there are many different strains of gut bugs. The bacteria in probiotics, much like those that reside in the gut, are categorized into strains. Strains are like dog breeds. While all breeds are still dogs, some are hounds, some are hunting dogs, some are herding dogs, but they are all dogs. Bacterial strains are classifications. Different strains do different things.


Not every strain will benefit every person. It comes down to bio-individuality. By the way, bio-individuality is basically the idea that each person has unique needs due to their own unique chemistry, genetics, toxic load, etc. That’s why variety in probiotics is important.


I like spore-based products best. The bacteria in these spore-based items are native to the human gut and environment, are selected from a wide variety of locations, and will take up residence, which means they are long-lasting.


When choosing your probiotic, do your homework. Don’t just grab the first bottle you see at the store. Know what you want to get out of the probiotics you will be taking.

Some strains support immune health, some relieve gas and bloating. Others help reduce inflammation while still others are great at clearing out the bad bugs that may be in the gut. Still, others can help with specific conditions like arthritis. Knowing what you want before you get to the store will save you time and money.

Here are some points that are important.

  1. Quality counts: you pay for what you get.
    • That means expect higher prices for the better-quality probiotics.
    • Scientific backing is important.
    • Certified organic is a must.
  2. Numbers are important.
    • The CFU or Colony Forming Units is the power or strength of the probiotic.
    • Look for a product that has at least 15 billion CFU and maybe as much as 100 Billion CFU if you can afford it.
  3. Like I mentioned earlier, strain is important. You want diversity in the strains that the product has
    • For the best “fit” you need diversity. If you choose one strain and it isn’t the right one for you, you’ve spent a lot of money on a probiotic paperweight.
    • Speaking from experience as a practitioner, I see a high amount of the genus bacillus in my clients with bacterial imbalances. This is a common probiotic variety, however, it is an opportunistic bug. Be aware that you may not need that specific genus because most people already have plenty of it. 
  4. Survival strength
    • When you take the supplement, you want it to survive the stomach acid and make it into the intestines where these critters will live.
      • Is this product one that ensures the survivability of the probiotics through the gastric juices?

Take your time introducing probiotics to your gut. If you take them and feel cramping or just not well right away, you could be adding it in too quickly. It is important that you go slowly. Take one capsule every other day at first. If you tolerate it well, increase to daily. Listen to your body. If it doesn’t make you feel good even after adding it very slowly it is best to discontinue that probiotic and try another.


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