Probiotics are one of the most popular topics discussed today. So often my clients ask me, “which probiotic is best?” Many are already taking one, and those who aren’t believe they probably should. What’s the answer? There’s research to support trying a probiotic for gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and even anxiety and depression. Which one is best? Well, it depends.
Probiotics are “good bacteria.” We all have tens of trillions of microbes in our guts, and some keep us healthy, while others can make us sick. When we have the right balance, the good keep the bad ones in check. The benefits from probiotics can be from adding more types of good bacteria, or it may be from the metabolites these bacteria produce. Metabolites are substances created from the bacteria’s metabolism, and some of these can be good for our health. So, we may be helped by the bacteria themselves, or it could be from what they produce.
Taking a probiotic is like taking medicine. You wouldn’t take just any random medication for your headache, right? You need to know which type of medication you’re taking, and what it’s been studied to help with. It’s the same with probiotics. It’s important to know if the probiotic you’re taking has been researched for the specific problem you’re trying to improve. And sometimes there are even side effects. For instance, some people find probiotics really help with their GI symptoms, and for others, they make gas, bloating, or diarrhea worse.
Research continues to show that a greater diversity in gut microbes is better for our health. Recently, two different studies have shown that maybe taking a probiotic actually reduces this needed diversity. In one study, those who took probiotics after taking antibiotics, which is so often recommended, took considerably longer for their normal gut microbes to recover. In another study, those undergoing immunotherapy for cancer while taking a probiotic actually did worse than those who did not take the supplement.
We still have a lot to learn when it comes to probiotics. In some cases it may be worth trying a particular probiotic, while in other cases it may be best to hold off. No matter what, the best advice is to make sure your diet includes the variety of foods that feed the good bacteria you already have. The greater the diversity in your diet, the greater the diversity in your gut microbes. What you eat is the best solution!
Kim Kulp, RD
Gut Health Nutrition Expert
I am a registered dietitian that specializes in gut nutrition to improve digestive and mental health. I help my clients harness the power of nutrition to support their bodies delicate ecosystem, so they can feel better. I have seen hundreds of lives transformed through the power of nutrition. I want to help you harness the gut health connection in your life so you can get “back to good!”
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