You’re probably familiar with probiotics, and with the importance of having a proper balance of them in your body for achieving and maintaining optimal health. But did you know that an imbalance of them – called gut dysbiosis – can adversely affect every aspect of your health?
Today we’re going to talk about what a lot of those adverse effects are, the best food and beverage sources of probiotics (with links to recipes and products), how to choose your probiotic supplements and doses, and my favorite probiotics.
First, What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live, beneficial micro-organisms (gut bugs, in layman’s terms) that are present throughout your digestive tract, from top to bottom (mouth to anus).
Having a robust and well-balanced community of probiotics throughout your digestive system is essential for maintaining the health of your microbiome, which is the complex ecosystem of several hundred species of beneficial micro-organisms that live in your digestive system. These micro-organisms perform hundreds of critical functions for your digestion, immune system, hormone balance, and nervous system .
The balance of micro-organisms in your gut has far-reaching consequences for your health.
And when that balance is off, this is called gut dysbiosis – meaning you’ve got either not enough good gut bugs, or too many bad ones, or both.
And gut dysbiosis doesn’t just lead to digestive symptoms, but can negatively impact:
- and much more.
And, conversely, the good bugs from probiotic foods and supplements can help improve all of those things, by helping to restore and maintain a healthy balance in your gut microbiome!
Why We Need Probiotics Now More Than Ever
People in traditional societies had far more exposure to live bacteria than most of us do today. Natural childbirth, breastfeeding, contact with animals and dirt, and consumption of unprocessed and cultured foods all helped to maintain a diverse gut microbiome.
Not so nowadays.
In these modern times, our level of beneficial micro-organisms is typically much more limited. This is due to many factors: more Cesarean births, shortened or absent breastfeeding, less consumption of cultured foods and beverages, more limited contact with animals and dirt, and the use of anti-biotics and anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners. And, diets that are inflammatory, high in carbs (sugars and starches), and low in nutrient density compound the problem, as do a sedentary lifestyle and less than ideal sleep. [2, 3]
Another important reason that we need more probiotics in today’s world is our increased exposure to toxins. Sadly, we are being bombarded with toxins through our air, water and food, all day every day, and thus, we now have an increased need to help our bodies detoxify. And probiotics are an important player in the detoxification process, as they help to bind, deactivate and eliminate toxins from our bodies. But at the same time, our gut microbiome’s ability to help us detoxify is damaged by exposure to toxins, so the need for added probiotics is even higher now than ever!
So, how do we go about getting more probiotics into our bodies and balancing that oh-so-important microbiome ecosystem?
Probiotic Foods and Beverages
Diet can be a great source of probiotics, and there are lots of yummy, healthy options to choose from. The very best dietary sources of probiotics are homemade low-carb, non-dairy cultured foods, which are inexpensive, easy to make, and delicious. Follow these links for my recommended recipes and products:
- Coconut Yogurt
- Coconut Kefir
- Coconut Sour Cream/Crème Fraiche
- Cultured Butter (butter is the only exception to the non-dairy rule in eating for optimal health)
- Cultured Vegetables
- Fermented pickles
- Beet kvaas
- Apple Cider Vinegar (I love Fire Cider – also a great immune system tonic! Just make sure it’s Keto-friendly, as in, no sweeteners like honey in it)
- Wine (if clean, organic & low carb)
However, while food sources of probiotics can be helpful for maintaining a healthy microbiome once it is achieved, it is difficult to obtain the dosages needed for balancing gut dysbiosis and reversing disease with food alone. For the therapeutic doses of probiotics needed for that, dietary supplements are a better choice.
Taking a good quality probiotic supplement can have a significant impact on overall health, and there is good scientific support for the use of probiotics for a huge range of ailments, including:
- Digestive disorders
- Abdominal pain
- Leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
- SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
- IBD (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Low mood or Depression
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Probiotics help improve stress resilience (the ability to respond appropriately to and recover quickly from stressful events)
- Cognitive Function
- Short term memory
- Long term memory
- Word and name recall
- Focus and concentration
- Immune Health
- Susceptibility to or difficulty healing from acute and chronic infections
- Bacterial (ex. strep throat, ear infections, vaginal and bladder infections, UTIs)
- Viral (ex. flu, Covid, herpes, meningitis, pneumonia, HPV, Epstein Barr, HIV)
- Fungal (ex. yeast infections, Candida, mold sensitivity, ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch)
- Parasitic (ex. malaria, giardia, toxoplasmosis)
- Tooth decay/poor oral health
- Susceptibility to or difficulty healing from acute and chronic infections
- Auto-immune disorders
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
- Graves’ Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Type 1 Diabetes
- and more
- Hormonal Imbalances (aka endocrine disorders), including but not limited to:
- Thyroid disorders
- PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome)
- Hot flashes
- Bone density
- Insulin Resistance
- Metabolic Health
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
- Weight maintenance
- Food sensitivities and intolerances
- Seasonal allergies (hayfever)
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Dream-disturbed sleep
- Sleep Apnea
Given that huge list, you can see now what I mean, when I say that probiotics affect everything!
So now let’s talk about how to choose them and how to take them.
Choosing Your Probiotics
When it comes to choosing your probiotics, there a 3 main considerations – the type, the strength, and the quality.
The Types of Probiotics
Scientists classify all living things into 7 levels, with each level having more detailed characteristics that all living things in that level share in common. The 7 levels are: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species.
There are 3 main Families of probiotics, and within those Families, the information you’ll find on most probiotic labels is their genus, species, and strain. So for example, you might see “Lactobacillus Plantarum (Lp-115),” where lactobacillus is the genus, plantarum is the species, and Lp-115 is the strain.
The six types of microbial organisms most often used in probiotic products are: Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and Bacillus. And each of these falls within the three main Families of probiotics:
|Family 1: Lactobacillaceae||Family 2: Saccharomycetaceae||Family 3: Bacillaceae|
|Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, Enterococcus species||Saccharomyces species (healthy fungi / beneficial yeasts)||Bacillus species (Soil-based probiotics); and unrelated but also soil-based: Humic & Fulvic acids|
A fourth family, Enterobacteriaceae (genus Eschericia, species Coli, strain Nissle), has shown some promising results, but is not readily available commercially.
What I have seen the best results with re probiotic supplementation is to rotate through these 3 Families (plus humic & fulvic acids) over time, getting as many units as possible and as many different species from within each family as possible. The overall goal is to improve both the sheer quantity of beneficial micro-organisms in the gut, as well as the variety, as this approach is what tends to give the most health benefits for most people.
Probiotics come in a range of strengths, and the strength is measured in CFUs, or “colony forming units”. This measure tells you how much probiotic you’re getting in each dose. How much you need will vary with different types and what you want to treat, and will also vary within your body over time. Most doses range from 1 to 100 billion CFUs, taken once or twice a day.
Probiotic products are not highly regulated in the United States. Several studies have shown that a surprising number of probiotic supplements do not contain the species and concentrations listed on their label, or contain unacceptable micro-organisms.
Usually, with probiotics, the rule “you get what you pay for” applies, with inexpensive ones being low in quality and not worth buying, and expensive ones being your best bet. However, this is not always the case.
So, when shopping for probiotic supplements, look for these indicators of quality:
- A clearly stated list of genus, species and strains
- A clearly stated number of colony-forming units (CFUs) in the billions
- A manufacture date or expiration date
- Labeled as free of common allergens and other unwanted substances (ex. gluten-free, non-GMO, no fillers)
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification
- Lab-verified for probiotic species and potency by third-party analysis (independent lab testing)
My favorite brands of probiotics are:
- Klaire Labs – especially Ther-Biotic Complete*
- OrthoMolecular – especially OrthoBiotic, OrthoBiotic 100, and Probio 225
- ION Biome – Gut Support, and Sinus Spray, or a bundle of those two
- Garden of Life RAW – all types; shelf-stable
These are the ones I use most often in clinic, with the best and most reliable positive results.
*Clinically, for digestive disorders, I have seen the best results with Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Pro IBS Relief.
How to Take Probiotics
What I typically recommend for people who are new to taking probiotics is, start with a high-quality probiotic that is at the lowest end of the CFU range, and gradually increase over time.
For people who have some experience taking probiotics, my preferred probiotic regimen is a rotation through a large number of probiotic species from all three families, at a relatively high dose, for 1 month, 2-4 times per year.
For the details on my protocol, go to https://wellevate.me/dremilyfranklin and set up a free account (if you haven’t already), and then you’ll be able to access my 30 Day Probiotic Rotation for Gut Rebalancing.
Note: When you place orders through my Wellevate dispensary, you will automatically get a 5% discount on all Wellevate orders, for everything in Wellevate’s vast product catalog. 😊
[However, keep in mind that this does not create a doctor-patient relationship between us; meaning, it doesn’t make me your doctor/healthcare provider. For that, we have to have officially created a doctor-patient relationship via my clinic.]
In the next article in this series on boosting your digestion, I talk about herbal antibiotics – the uses and benefits, and my favorites! See you there. 🙂
Disclosure: I receive a small commission for qualifying purchases made using some of the links provided in this article.