Should You Take a Probiotic?
Probiotics are made up of the bacteria that live naturally in your gut to help protect you from anything that could disrupt your body’s homeostasis. The bacteria that line your gut can be damaged, or even killed, with antibiotics and other medications, and can also be affected by the other things we consume (food, alcohol, etc). There is research that suggests Probiotics can help with balancing the gut bacteria after illness or disease, as well as strengthen the gut lining in the case that is has been compromised so that harmful substances cannot pass through. Because Probiotics are a newer idea, there is not a lot of conclusive evidence that supports the use of them for all populations, however if you are a generally healthy individual,a Probiotic may contribute to your immune and digestive health. In our daily lives, we come in contact with so many toxins, even if we are avoiding the ones in our food- there are still toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink (unless you have a heavy-duty filter that takes out EVERYTHING), and literally anything we touch.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I can’t stress enough that supplementation and adding these “extra” things into your daily routine are only going to bring you further if you have a strong base of support, aka a well-rounded diet, stress management protocol, and a healthy relationship with food. If you’re eating all the right things, you still might feel like shit after every meal if you’re burying the stress you’re drowning in at work. No amount of probiotics- or any supplement for that matter- will help that situation. However, if you are confident that you are eating predominantly whole, unprocessed foods, and you are managing your stress (through meditation, journaling, mindful breathing, etc), and you feel like you have control over your food choices, and it doesn’t add extra stress into your life to add something else onto your plate that might help you level up, then you might want to consider taking a Probiotic.
Probiotics can come in the form of supplements, but they can also come in the form of different foods. If consuming the whole food appeals more to you than taking a supplement, by all means PLEASE eat the real food. For some people, kimchi or sauerkraut are not particularly appealing, so a probiotic supplement in the form of a capsule or a powder might be more appealing.
If you’re looking to go the “more natural” route, here’s a list of foods that are natural probiotics:
When looking for probiotic foods, quality is super important to keep in mind. Check the label for added sugars, as well as any fillers or preservatives. If you’re the DIY-type, you can also make your own probiotic foods!
If you are not the DIYer, or you’d rather get your probiotics in supplement form, there are a few things to look for when picking one up:
Number of Strains: You want to look for a Probiotic that has multiple strains to ensure that you’re not just filling your gut with one type of bacteria- this will help promote balance in your gut.
Type of strains: There are two main categories of probiotic strains, and each has their own sub-strains that can promote different pieces of health. These two main strains are Lactobacili and Bifidobacteria, and you want to look for a probiotic that includes both of these.
Number of CFUs: CFU refers to the potency of the probiotic, meaning how many cultures of each strain are included in the supplement. This is super important to pay attention to, because you can possibly buy a probiotic with too little CFUs, and it may not give you the benefits you’re looking for, but you can also buy a probiotic with too many CFUs for your needs, which may lead to bloating and digestive discomfort. The number of CFUs also typically helps to determine the price of the supplement within a brand, so you’ll want to play around with the numbers and see where you feel most comfortable. You also want to look for the “number of CFUs at expiration” because over the course of time, from production to packaging to consumption by you, the number of strains slowly will decrease, so you want that guaranteed number of CFUs at expiration, because then you’ll know your probiotic will have at least that many CFUs by the time you take it.
Allergen-free: If you are someone who is sensitive to gluten or dairy, you may want to pay attention to the packaging of your supplement to ensure that the supplement itself is allergen-free.
Expiration Date: Keep in mind the expiration and “best by” dates of your supplements. These are recommendations, these are substances that have live bacteria, so please don’t chance it and pay mind to the expiration dates.
I have to admit, I went a little back and forth while researching Probiotics for this post, because I believe probiotics can be so incredibly helpful, especially for those of us who have digestive woes, or brain fog, or even just generally stressful lives. That being said, there is no bandaid that will fix all of those issues, and there is definitely no magic pill or superfood that will do it either. If you do not address the root cause of your digestive issues, stress, and lack of energy, no amount of probiotics will help either in the end. Nutrition Coaching is not just for people looking to lose weight or gain muscle. It is for the people that are looking to feel good in their body.
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Have a favorite probiotic? Let me know!