Probiotics: Do you need to take them?
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Who needs a probiotic, and why?
Pretty much everyone can benefit from taking a probiotic. Our minds immediately go to digestion or maybe digestive "issues," such as constipation, diarrhea, IBS, Chron's, etc... however, there are MANY other reasons to take a probiotic.
Our gut flora, aka our microbiome, can be a mirror to our overall health. The bacteria in our gut an have an impact on our ability to fight infections, detoxify, digest food, and assimilate nutrients. When the bacteria in our gut is out of balance (either the flora is wiped out or there’s a bacteria overgrowth), we can experience bloat, inflammation, chronic illness, frequent congestion/colds, UTIs, food sensitivities, breakouts and other skin conditions, etc.
How does our gut flora get “out of wack” and how do we know if it is?
If you have frequent breakouts or other skin conditions, if you have frequent or sporadic constipation or diarrhea, if you drink alcohol, if you get bloated frequently, if you get sick semi-regularly, if you consume processed foods, if you regularly take any prescriptions or antibiotics, or if you feel fatigued regularly, or if you have a reaction (like bloat or belly pain) to particular foods, aka pretty much EVERYONE... you could use a little help in that microbiome of yours.
Benefits & How you know it’s “working”
When our gut flora is in-balance (“good” bacteria flourishing and “bad” bacteria minimized or not present), our bodies are better able to assimilate nutrients, excrete toxins, more easily digest food, and fight infections. Paired with a diet that includes a variety of seasonal produce and after giving your high-quality probiotic a month or two, see if you notice any of the following:
-regular, normal bowel movements
-less inflammation (belly bloat, puffiness in the face, etc.)
-clearer, smoother, brighter skin
-stronger immune system/less sickness/congestion
-higher energy levels/less fatigue
-better elimination of toxins
-improved mental health (YES. 90% of our serotonin resides in our gut and our gut is equipped with the neural connections to literally serve as our “second brain”)
-potential improvement or treatment of chronic skin conditions, i.e. eczema, rosacea)
-potential improvement or treatment of chronic digestive conditions, i.e. IBS, chronic, ulcerative colitis)
-minimize or prevent UTIs
*Another way to know for sure if it's "working" is to take a probiotic for several months and then quit taking it. If you start to notice your bowel movements are no longer... on point, you get a skin breakout, you feel more bloated, or you notice a change in your energy, that's a good sign your probiotic was helping you!
What should I look for when choosing one?
In short, always read the back label and don’t be fooled by big culture counts advertised on the front. You don’t need the highest culture count (I.e. “3 Trillion Live Cultures!”). It’s more important to have a variety of bacteria strains, which will be listed on the back... ya know, the ones that sound all science-y.
It’s also nice if you can find one with prebitoitcs. Prebiotics help feed the probiotics. If yours doesn’t have prebiotics, that’s ok, as a lot of healthy foods in our diets contain prebiotics naturally (ex: sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, legumes, asparagus, bananas). However, if you take a probiotic without recently having a meal including prebiotics, you may not get the optimal benefit.
Ideally, you want to look for a combination of a few of the following super beneficial probiotic strains:
Bacillus coagulants, bifidiobacterium infantis/breve/longum, lactobacillus frementum/gasseri/acidiffilus.
When should I take it? Does it matter?
It is not recommended to take with a meal, and some probiotics specifically work best first thing on an empty stomach (like Seed). Our stomachs can be very acidic when trying to digest meals, and that can interact with the survivability and effectiveness of the probiotic.
Probiotics need some food and a warm environment to survive and thrive, so you may have heard to take them with a light meal. However, it is actually best instead to take a probiotic that has a pre-biotic built in (the pre-biotic serves as the food/fuel for the probiotic), and take in the morning when you don't have as much stomach acid. It is perfect to take as a part of your morning ritual with your hot lemon water.
As mentioned, high quality probiotics that contain prebiotics will do their job just fine (or even better) without a meal, as the prebiotics help feed the probiotics and facilitate optimal functionality. So, if you practice intermittent fasting like we typically do, it’s totally OK to take your probiotic in the morning if you have one with prebiotics, but ideally after having hot lemon water, as the hot lemon water will help improve the environment for the probiotic as discussed above.
If it works for you and your routine, and if you are taking a probitoic without a prebiotic, you can take it at night after a healthy, simple dinner. The gut and liver are connected, and the liver does lots of cleansing at night, which sometimes wakes us up. Ever notice you routinely wake up in the middle of the night around the same time (for many of us it’s between 3:00 and 4:00am)? It could be that your liver is at its most active, optimal cleansing time. With help from probiotics in the gut, we can “quiet” the liver a little bit by giving it some help, so you might actually even sleep a little better!
Our favorites brands:
*These contain a good variety of the most beneficial strains.
**If you use a probiotic that’s sub-optimal and/or you don’t regularly eat a variety of in-season produce, you should consider rotating your probiotic every 4-6 months or so. This way, your gut continues to be refreshed and replenished with a variety of bacteria strains. Give your typical probiotic a break for a month or two, take a different probiotic during that time, then you may back to the original for another 6 months.
1. Seed (BARE15 for 15% off)*
2. Just Thrive Spore-Based (BARE15 for 15% off)*
3. Solluna SBO probiotic by Kimberly Snyder
5. Mary Ruth
6. Activated You Restorative Probiotic
*affiliate link: we only choose to affiliate with brands we personally use, trust, and love.
*Includes Amazon affiliate links to products
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