Wow! The response from last week’s post on supplements and immunity hacks was HUGE. We can definitely start discussing this topic more regularly, because I, too, am fascinated by and a little obsessed with health and wellness. I didn’t talk much about probiotics because I was still testing a new one at the time, and I wanted to give you a full report. So, what exactly is a probiotic, and why do we need to take them? Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Let’s talk about this country’s obsession with cleanliness and sterilization. Stop the madness, people. Our bodies need to be exposed to dirt and bacteria, the good and the bad, daily. Get your kids outside, and stop using conventional hand sanitizer (not only is it toxic, but it’s also creating superbugs). Health starts in our microbiome, the gut. It’s where good and bad bacteria coexist, but if it’s not balanced, you’re going to be uncomfortable, depressed and sick – seriously!
So, what can we do? It all starts with food. Now, what is healthy for you may not be healthy for me. Due to personal food allergies and sensitivities (that you might not even know you have), there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For example, yogurt has been marketed to be the best source of good bacteria, but that’s an overstatement, especially if you have a dairy sensitivity like I do. As a rule of thumb, the best way to gain good bacteria is to eat fresh and fermented plant-based foods. Food that comes in a package generally contains nasty preservatives. Preservatives kill bacteria so that the food lasts longer on the shelf. Guess what else they kill? The good bacteria in your gut. Startling, right? Also, sugar, and starchy foods are to be avoided, per usual. (Whyyyyyy???) Another enemy of good bacteria, as most of us already know, are antibiotics, especially broad spectrum ones like Z-pacs. They kill off both good and bad bacteria, and leave your gut raw and exposed. There just isn’t enough good bacteria left behind to fight off the bad. If you’ve ever caught the stomach bug right after you’ve recovered from Strep, this is the reason why.
What can you expect after taking a good probiotic for 60 days? Oh my goodness, there are soooo many benefits. Probiotics have been proven effective in supporting immune function, reducing inflammation, promoting healthy digestion, as well as maintaining beautiful skin, especially when combined with prebiotics. This article by Dr. Josh Axe, a leading naturopathic doctor, is a perfect summary of the importance of probiotics and the various ailments that they can relieve (everything from diabetes to high blood pressure to food allergies). I also highly recommend the book Clean Gut by Dr. Alejandro Junger.
So, probiotics. Basically, the entire American population needs to be taking them, and I’m not talking about the ones you can find at the drugstore chain down the street. Not all probiotics are created equal, and the good ones can be hard to find.
What to look for:
- At least 10 Billion CFU’s (colony forming units) of live bacteria (There are exceptions to this rule, but I find this a good rule of thumb.)
- Multiple strains of living organisms (between 10 and 30) – they should each be listed on the ingredient label
- An expiration date! Old probiotics are dead probiotics.
- Price: a good probiotic costs at least $25, and can go up to $80, depending on how many strains and CFU’s are present.
- Refrigeration is preferred, but not always necessary (I refrigerate at home, but I don’t worry about it when I’m traveling).
I’ve been using Ther-Biotic Factor 6 for more than 7 years. My Naturopath, Dr. Sherri Jacobs, recommended it after I told her that I suffered from terrible recurring urinary tract infections. (Both my conventional general practitioner and my urologist suggested I wipe front to back. Gee, thanks, guys. Because I haven’t thought of that and a million other things that I could be doing wrong.) Dr. Sherri said that not only were the antibiotics I was taking all the time wiping out the good bacteria in my gut, but elsewhere as well, and they could actually be the reason that I suffered from UTI’s so often. Guess how many UTI’s I’ve had since taking There-Biotic Factor 6? ZERO. It is a pricey probiotic, (it has 100 Billion CFU’s) but if you’ve taken a lot of antibiotics in your lifetime, I can attest that this supplement is literally life-changing. I take 1-2 capsules per day.
I do like to switch up my probiotic from time to time. It’s important to feed your gut a variety of strains of living organisms. Here are two other excellent probiotics that are great for adults:
Another favorite is RMS Beauty Within Probiotic + Prebiotic. which is great for both digestion and to support skin health. RMS Beauty founder, Rose Marie Swift, is passionate about health and wellness, and wanted to create a probiotic that creates beauty from the inside, out. While the margins on this formula are slim, she spared no expense, (many pharmaceutical companies are known to cut corners for profit) and wanted to make a high quality probiotic that considers a woman’s diet – emotional eating included! This formula contains 8 strains of living organisms as well as prebiotics, which allow the body to absorb the probiotics more efficiently. I take 2 capsules per day. I am also obsessed with RMS Beauty Within Women’s Digestive Enzyme which helps the body absorb nutrients more efficiently and breaks down hard-to-digest foods faster than the body can do on its own. These are particularly helpful to take after a big or late meal. I take 1 capsule after meals, or 2 after a bigger, indulgent meal.
Most recently, I tried the very affordable Bio-Kult at the urging of Dara Kennedy, founder of Ayla Beauty. Bio-Kult’s parent company, Protexin, sent me a folder loaded with information, which I found fascinating and impressive. This formula has 14 probiotic strains to support immunity, digestion, aid those with lactose intolerance, decrease inflammation, and inhibit the growth of bad bacteria. Also, this formula doesn’t have to be refrigerated, which is great if you are always on-the-go. (The beneficial bacteria are encapsulated with a protective coating during a freeze drying process.) I take 2 capsules per day.
It’s very important that kids take a quality probiotic, too. At birth, an infant’s gut flora is obtained from the mother (via the birth canal, skin, breast milk, etc.) and the environment around them. Over 70% of immune cells are located within the gut and their development in infants is profoundly influenced by gut flora. These bacteria offer a degree of protection to the infant against infection and support a protective gut lining. Issues such as eczema, asthma, hay fever, food allergies, and colic are on the rise and interestingly, they are all associated with an altered or less diverse gut microflora. When I stopped breastfeeding each of my children, I put them on an infant probiotic immediately, which gave me peace of mind, and it could be a coincidence, but they’e both been pretty healthy kids so far.
Annabel takes MetaKids Probiotic (formerly called UltraFlora Children’s Chew – the packaging has changed, too, just fyi, but it’s the same formula). Children 3 years and older can chew 1 to 2 tablets per day. (I give Annabel 1 when she is well, and 2 when she is sick). Woody takes HLC Neonate, which is in powder form, so you can add 1 level scoop to breastmilk, formula, juice, water, etc. This formula can be taken by infants and children as old as 4 years.
So, whether you are looking for improved gastrointestinal health, beautiful skin, or a stronger immune system, the answer could be as simple as taking a good probiotic. Do you have a favorite that we should know about? Do you have questions? Let me know!