Which probiotic is best?
Which probiotic is best?
This is an easy question to answer if you understand how probiotics work. They are strain specific for certain actions, and they not interchangeable for different symptoms. The best way to think of them is like dogs. Yes, a chihuahua and a pit bull are both of the same species, but would both breeds be good for the same jobs if one was protecting your house, and the other was cuddling with grandma?
Probiotics are so specific that if you have GERD for example, the best strain of probiotic to take is Lactobacillus reuteri MM53 which is found in these 4 products in the U.S.:
- Biogaia Protectis Straw
- Fleet Laboratories Pedia-Lax Probiotic Yums
- Gerber Soother Colic Drops
- Biogaia Protectis
If you want a probiotic that is clinically proven to work for your GERD, than you need to take one with the appropriate strain until the gut bacteria is working appropriately again. If you were taking Fem Dophilus, an excellent probiotic for UTI’s, and not noticing any difference in reflux, this should not come as a surprise to you. You should try again with the appropriate strain.
It also doesn't mean that you need to be a baby to take colic drops or a child to take the Yums. These formulas are meant for individuals with trouble swallowing pills and they all have the correct strain for colic or GERD. If your probiotic comes in a capsule, no problem, simply open it and add it to some yogurt or apple sauce. For babies, they can be applied directly to the nipple before breastfeeding.
If you can tolerate dairy, taking your probiotic with yogurt can boost the potency and reduce the amount you need to take. Other foods that boost the potency and potential of probiotics to work efficiently in your gut are prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that make it to the colon and benefit the immune system by stimulating the growth and activity of your existing bacteria. We say they are "food for your good bacteria", but the best part is, they are specific too, and not often able to be “eaten” by the bad bacteria.
The three main prebiotics are:
- FOS - fructooligosacchararides
- GOS - galactooligosaccharides
We will discuss these prebiotics and what they're good for in another blog, but for now you may see +FOS on your probiotic and now you'll know that it's the “food” to help that probiotic stay in your gut a little longer. And if your probiotic stays around, there's no room for the freeloading bad bugs to stay around. See how they work now?
Probiotics are live microorganisms which contribute to the health of your intestinal bacteria and aid in specific health benefits. They are well proven to compete with pathogenic bacteria, reduce hypersensitivity in the colon, reduce eczema, improve constipation, diarrhea, travelers diarrhea, GERD, ulcerative colitis, weight gain, UTI’s, IBS, infections, improve nutrient absorption, colic, etc.
They do not permanently colonize your GI tract and grow in your colon. They are temporary habitants that can be on your team. Pretend your colon has a parking lot, probiotics can park temporarily and block other pathogenic species from parking there. They can also compete for “food”. Like a tail gate party, if some bad guys are lurking about, but there is no food at any of the cars, the passerby’s will have to move on.
For example, Clostridium difficile, the notorious C. Diff, often picked up by hospital dwellers who have succumbed to multiple courses of antibiotics, needs to eat monosaccharides (which is anything with glucose in it). Kind of like the food they feed you in hospitals, but I digress...
Many beneficial strains found in probiotics use up all of the monosaccharides and can starve out the C. diff strains. Thus if you are fighting C. Diff or about to spend some time in a hospital on a course of antibiotics, I highly recommend the best strains for you to be:
Probiotics for C.diff.
- Lactobacillus plantarum 299v found in the Goodbelly probiotic drink
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae variety boulardii (Biocodex strain) found in Florastor
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG found in Culturelle Digestive health
There are several more that are more specific, but these are your general resource stealers for gut infections like C.diff. and stomach viruses caught in hospitals.
Most probiotics do not need to be refrigerated, however like any live microorganism, the cool temperatures can help the strains go dormant and last longer. They are meant to withstand stomach acid, so a few nights left on your counter at room temperature is perfectly fine, just don't bring them out to the beach to go sunbathing. Manufacturers would love you to toss them and buy a new bottle, but you simply don't need to waste your money.
They are best consumed with a meal because food lowers the acidity of your stomach and gives it an advantage to slip through into the intestines. If you are taking them along side your antibiotic, which is clinically proven to help reduce your side effects from the damage they cause, you will want to wait a few hours and take them at separate meals. An antibiotic will kill off the beneficial bacteria, and can completely eliminate some of your resident strains that will never come back.
However, taking a probiotic after the course of antibiotics can help recover and re-grow what strains you have left in your gut. This can take anywhere from 2 months to 4 years depending on the antibiotic, so a few months of probiotics and then a prebiotic course specified by your health practitioner may help you recover from the damage.
Some probiotics come in foods, some capsules, some drops, or tablets, but the strain is what you should be looking for. For example, Nancy’s Organic Greek Probiotic Yogurt is one of the only yogurts in the US that has a therapeutic dose of lactobacillus acidophilus La5 which is great for yeast infections. You can read my blog to see how to tolerate dairy enough to take a probiotic yogurt.
There are so many more specific ways probiotics can help you. If I haven't listed your specific need to lower cholesterol, lose weight gained from metabolic syndrome, or recover from SIBO, you can do the research or come see me for some personal planning. I do phone consultations too, so don't hesitate to ask if you are out of the SF Bay area.
Until then, eat wisely!