Choosing a probiotic is about improving gut health. A probiotic is meant to improve the gut microbiome that in turn improves many bodily systemns including your digestive and endocrine systems.
When looking at probiotics, you want to evaluate diversity, quality and its ability to survive the digestive tract. Probiotics have to travel past the stomach's highly acidic environment to impact the gut, but most don't make it.
Diversity is king according to the Knight Lab's American Gut Project. A diverse set of genus and species in your probiotic will add more value over time.
Signs that your gut microbiome might be out of whack and need probiotics to help to get back on track:
- Yeast infections
- Stomach aches
- White film on the tongue
- Leaky gut
Basic Terms to Understand Probiotics
Fiber that feeds the gut microorganisms and builds a better microbiome aka microbiome food. This is typically found through fiber and non-resistant starches in our diet.
Directly adding organisms to your gut to increase the prevalence of good gut bacteria
Contains both probiotic and the healthy prebiotic fuel for the good bacteria all in one
The act of the organisms in probiotics taking up residence in your body. This typically happens in the colon for probiotics yet most probiotics will die passing through the highly acidic stomach before they get a chance to colonize the colon.
Organisms that do not colonize but are still shown to be beneficial to health. Their efficacy is dependent on continuous consumption (rather than single or limited use).
How do I pick the best probiotics?
It's about the quality and the type.
By quality I mean the scientific rigor companies follow when testing.
When it comes to quality, look for products that share clinical research on their specific genus and strain results as well and quality testing.
Clinical and scientific studies often document benefits for specific strains, yet many products typically just specify genus and species. As an example, Bifidobacterium longum is the genus and species but Bifidobacterium longum SD-BB536-JP is a specific strain.
Unfortunately, most probiotics only offer 2 genera: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Look for more diversity in your probiotics for a more diverse and higher functioning gut and better health outcomes.
There are two main types of probiotic that are most effective and those are spores and soil-based.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that can provide benefits when they live in side of you. We originally get our baseline microbiome from our mothers through the birthing process. Then we add to that through exposure such as hanging around in the dirt and eating food.
The theory is that humans originally gained most of their non-maternal microbiome from spore-based organisms that originated in soil.
The spore is a resistant casing that helps the organism survive its journey through the digestive tract until it reaches its long-term home in the colon. Just Thrive Probiotic is my favorite spore based probiotic.
Because that's where our original microorganism exposure came from and is thought to provide the organisms that will best serve our internal gut microbiome needs. Prescript-Assist Soil Based Probiotic and Prebiotic is my favorite soil-based synbiotic.
Studies often indicate the strain when explaining the positive benefits of probiotics. Often, probiotics sold in stores do not share the strain. To ensure we get the benefit indicated in the studies, we need to use the same strain that was studied.
My Favorite 2 Probiotics
Picking the best probiotic is all about quality and type. There are two main types of probiotics that are most effective and those are spores and soil-based. I personally use a mix of these because they provide different benefits.
This is my favorite spore-based probiotic that has high-quality testing and quality control. I've personally experienced not having to take this as much because it actually colonizes, I think because of the spores.
This is my favorite soil-based probiotic, mainly because of the diversity! It has species in here that are not common in many probiotics and as we know: diversity is the key to microbiome health!
How to customize probiotics to work for you
Determine if you want to take probiotics, and if so, how much and by which method.
Today we talked about probiotic pills, but there are natural ways to feed your microbiome like fermented foods and resistant starches!
If you're a yes to pill probiotics, figure out what your approach will be.
Here are a few approaches I've taken before and to be honest, I switch between these depending on if I'm in a phase where I need to heal my gut or just maintain.
Routines that work
- Take one daily every morning
- Take a transient organism in the morning and a spore-based in the evening
- Take some periodically when you feel like you need to get back on track.
When I feel like my gut needs more stabilization, I'll take both Prescript-Assist Soil-Based and Just Thrive in the evenings for a week or so because I think they're better at colonizing.
Microbiome Health is about more than Probiotics!
While you're working to improve your gut health, make sure you aren't sabotaging gut health with other household routines!
- Choose organic foods and textiles.
- Avoid pesticide exposure which damages the gut microbiome.
- Look here for ways to clean up your beauty routine and bedroom for gut health as well.
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