Health is not valued till sickness comes.
In my previous posts, we have learned of the far-reaching ramifications of poor gut health and that something you can do to repopulate your gut is to take probiotics. I am often asked how to choose a probiotic. I’m not an expert, but I have learned some important tips to help you make a good choice with your money.
Strains: We don’t want to spend our money on something that doesn’t even work. This is an area that hasn’t been tested a lot, and when it has, cheap OTC probiotics didn’t rate well. If a bottle is $5 or under, I would question its worth. Dr. Mercola mentions some testing done where only 13% had all the strains they claimed and 1/3 had no live strains.1 So buyer, beware.
First, look for strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (L. & B.) at doses (CFU’s) of 8 billion or more.2 If numbers follow the name, that means the company has bought the rights to a pure strain. You don’t have to have numbers, but it can be a sign of a good product. Also, look for several strains—the example on the right shows 6.
One of the strains should probably be L acidophilus. Nourishing Traditions quotes a study which found a link between allergies and a lack of lactobacillus acidophilus—every allergic child who volunteered to be tested was found deficient in this friendly bacteria.3
Refrigeration: Check if there is an expiration date and if it says to keep refrigerated. If not refrigerated, there will likely be at least a certain percentage of die-off over time. If the bottle is unrefrigerated and on a shelf, you don’t know how long it’s been there, or on the warehouse shelf before that.
Stomach Acid: Another thing to be aware of is if the probiotic can survive the digestive process and make it to the intestines to begin repopulating the gut. Some probiotics have an enteric coating. This may help, but adds to the cost. Probiotics in our foods make it through the process, so this may be unnecessary. If you take the probiotic on an empty stomach (at least 15 minutes before eating) the stomach acid level will be neutral then, and you should be okay. For this reason, don’t take it with food—stomach acid will be high. Some brands will state that they are digestive-resistant, which is good.
Sensitivities: If you have food issues, look for dairy-, wheat-, soy-, gluten-, corn-, and GMO-free.
Frequency: If your gut is healthy, it’s a good idea to take probiotics for a week or two, once or twice a year, just to make sure your gut flora has all the help it needs. If you know you are struggling with your health, are showing signs of gut problems, or have never taken any probiotics, start slowly.
Probiotics will start killing off the bad guys, and when they die, they give off a toxin. Too much of this at once can make your stomach hurt or give you rashes/acne. This is not a bad thing—it’s a sign of good things happening—but there’s no need to work too fast. If you have stomach aches, just back off and go a bit more slowly for a while.
If you have a probiotic with low CFU’s (around 10 billion or less), start with 1 pill a day for about a week, then go to 2 for a week (spread pills out throughout the day), and then when you reach 3 a day, continue for a total of 3 months. Your gut is 25 feet long and takes a long time to be repopulated properly. This is called a therapeutic dose—you are healing, not maintaining. Some may ask, can’t I just eat yogurt? You would have to eat several cartons of yogurt each day to get the same amount of acidophilus as is in one capsule. Once you are healed, you can maintain your health through eating good foods like yogurt and taking probiotics periodically. (Note—if your probiotic has from 20-40 billion CFU’s, you most likely only need to take one per day, unless a health care practitioner has directed otherwise. If it has below 20 billion, you can probably take it from 1-3x/day. Check with the label to see what it recommends.)
What Brand? There are a lot of good probiotics out there and they will range in price from about $25 to $65 per bottle. Some which I have used or heard good things about are Thera-Biotic Complete by Klaire Labs, Complete Probiotics by Dr. Mercola, Jarrow-Dophilus (cheaper, though not very many strains), and Dr.Axe Probiotics. But these are only a few of the many good options.
I recently discovered Gut Pro. It is recommended by the GAPS people and is reasonable in cost…$50 for 120 capsules, or an even better deal is their bottle of loose powder for $100, which is the same as 10 bottles of the capsules. You can also buy their set of measuring spoons and use it for dosing your children.
I would also add Grapefruit Seed Extract, following the same regime of slow introduction, working up to 3x per day for a few months. Become established on one before introducing the other. GFSE is known for anti-viral and anti-bacterial agents. It is not as expensive as probiotics. I recommend the brand Nutri-Biotic. Vitacost sells them online, 100 capsules for about $7 (not recommended during pregnancy).
You will have to do a little probiotic research of your own.
It’s also a good idea to pack your bottle of probiotics along when you travel, especially overseas. We all get a little “off” when we eat different foods when traveling. Probiotics can keep you healthy and feeling good.
This is not intended as medical advice—talk to your health practitioner to see if probiotics are right for you (you might want to find someone who knows about gut health.
For more ideas on how to keep your gut health, watch for the next articles on how to make kefir, kombucha, and bone broth.
1 “Help Support Your Immune System with Probiotics” http://probiotics.mercola.com/probiotics.html
2 “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Probiotics” http://whole9life.com/2012/04/probiotics-101/
3 Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions. New Trends Publishing 2001.