What is the best probiotic to use? A probiotic provides health benefits when consumed. This article explains everything you need to know about probiotics and how to pick the right one for you. Probiotics are all the rage in “gut health” world…but did you know that NOT all probiotics are created equal? Here’s all you need to know about probiotics and 5 steps to choose the best probiotic for you. Probiotics 101: What Are They? Probiotics are live organisms (i.e. bacteria) found in foods in supplements that are similar to a variety of healthy live organisms (bacteria) that you naturally have in your gut. 3 Problems with Probiotic Supplements First things first—it’s good to know what NOT to buy when it comes to probiotics. Problem 1: Labels Lie A vast majority of probiotics on shelves do NOT contain the probiotics they claim? For instance, a study conducted by ConsumerLab.com, an independent testing service, found that over 25% of the probiotic supplements tested contained fewer microbes than advertised, delivering 16 to 56 percent of the listed number of organisms. Beyond transparency issues, a big reason this happen is because probiotics can be fragile to manufacturing processes—in other words: the supplements may have had probiotics before formulation, but the formula gets watered down if not manufactured appropriately. Problem 2: Many Probiotics Don’t Survive Stomach Acid The majority of probiotics belong in the colon or lower GI. Unfortunately, if a probiotic supplement is not a quality one, many cultures won’t survive stomach acid. A major issue in probiotic therapy—particularly lactic acid and bifidobacteria formulas— is the ability of supplements to protect the probiotic bacteria from the harsh stomach acid environment with as much as 60% of probiotic bacteria being killed prior to reaching the intestine where the bacteria will exert their health benefits. Most quality formulas I recommend either contain spore forming organisms (“soil based”) OR if they are lactic acid producing probiotics, the capsules contain special coatings that have been shown to supply protection against the harsh gastric environment. These coatings included enteric coated tablets and capsules that site-specifically deliver the administered probiotic bacteria to the intestinal system. These enteric coats are pH selective and allow for protection against the harsh acidic conditions and subsequently dissolve in the intestinal system. Problem 3: Probiotics Are Useless without Pre-biotics Probiotics are like putting gas into your car tank—you fill your tank up, but eventually it runs out and you have to refill it again…unless you have pre-biotics. In fact, pre-biotics are arguably MORE important and necessary because they help your probiotics stick around and increase probiotic counts in your gut. (i.e. Pre-biotics feed your probiotics). Probiotics serve as “maintainers” or gatekeepers of the “good” gut bacteria that you have already in your body—but they don’t produce more bacteria; whereas pre-biotics do increase the beneficial bacteria in your gutbecause they provide food for those beneficial species in the first place. When you consume pre-biotics, you help multiply your probiotics, so you can increase your beneficial bacteria over time. In other words: Without pre-biotics, you may as well flush your probiotics down the toilet. Where to Find Probiotics Pre-biotics are starches and fiber (found in foods like green-tipped bananas, plantains, cooked and cooled sweet potatoes and squashes, onions, leeks and powders)—that serve as food for your probiotics. The bottom line: Chances are, the probiotic from your local Kroger or CVS are all they are cracked up to be—even kombucha and sauerkraut sold in stores is not always legit. 5 Steps to Choose the Best Probiotic for You. 1. Know What You’re Getting: Two Primary Different Types of Probiotics: • Soil Based Organisms • Lactic Acid Bacteria As a general rule of thumb, most soil based organisms last longer on shelves and survive manufacturing as well as the digestive process. Lactic acid bacteria are best consumed via fermented foods and select supplements made with quality control processes and clinical trial testing. 2. If you Get a Lactic Acid Probiotic, Look for This. • Strains: Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus plantarum,and/or Bifidobacteria infantis, and possibly Saccharomyces boulardii (yeast) • Clinical Trials & Studies: Do your own research. Has the probiotic been tested? Call the company if you need to do some more digging. • To Fridge or Not Fridge? Many people will claim you need to put your lactic acid forming probiotics in the fridge, but thanks to some cutting edge capsule technologies, this may not be the case. Yes, storing them in a cool place is recommended, but not necessarily the fridge. 3. Vary it Up. Variety is the spice of life and probiotics are like snowflakes—no two are alike. They contain hundreds and billions of different strands that can be beneficial for the sake of all-around gut micro biome balance. Just like your body would miss out on multiple nutrients if you were to eat only eggs everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day as your protein source, the same goes for the bacteria you feed your gut. Every 1 to 3 months, rotate your top brands of probiotics to keep your body guessing. 4. Be Picky with Your Fermented Foods. • Fermented foods should be in the refrigerated section. If any sauerkraut is on a shelf in the aisle, it’s not the real deal. • Taste the “zing.” Many quality fermented foods will have a “zing” or “buzz” you feel when you eat or drink them. Due to the live and active cultures, your belly comes alive. This is completely empirical, but you can tell a difference in a kombucha that brings a little warmth to your stomach vs. a kombucha loaded with sugar. • Sugar is often an ingredient in fermented foods, but if the product has 10-12 grams+, you may be eating more candy than fermented food. • Shop local—visit the farmer’s market • Make your own! There are tons of recipes online 5. Add in Pre-biotics. Once you’ve selected the best probiotic, don’t forget the pre-biotics! Our ancestors ate upwards of 9 to 10 times MORE fiber than we do today and they were relatively free of modern disease. In short: Eating carbs does a body good. Some probiotic formulas do contain pre-biotics, but for those that do not, be mindful to consume at least 1 to 2 servings per day pre-biotic foods (as tolerated), and consider adding in a small dose of a pre-biotic supplement—especially if you’ve been eating a low-carb diet for a long time. Check out the food list below. Warning: If you have “gut issues” like candida, SIBO, or dysbiosis, fiber may make you feel worse (not better), UNTIL you address the underlying root cause with your functional medicine doctor. A practitioner can help you with a proper protocol to help you first eliminate the overgrowth before “rebuilding” your gut with healthy bacteria. Top Probiotic & Prebiotic Picks Probiotics Supplements • Soil Based Organisms • TerraFlora Symbiotic*** • Megaspore Probiotic*** You can find these in my “Best Probiotics + Prebiotics” recommendations in the FullScript Store HERE. • Lactic Acid Bacteria (especially with: Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus plantarum,and/or Bifidobacteria infantis) • Seed Probiotic • Bifido Maximus • Align Probiotic • Elixa Probiotic • Saccharomyces boulardi (technically a yeast, ideal for loose stools) • RestorFlora You can find this in my “Best Probiotics + Prebiotics” recommendations in the FullScript Store HERE. Pro Tip: Mix your probiotics up! But, if you tend to have gut issues (like yeast overgrowth or SIBO and IBS), then soil based organisms are the best place to start) Fermented (Probiotic) Foods Condiments (fermented mayo, ketchup, mustard) Fermented Veggies (Barrel Creek Provisions) Kefir (coconut, water, goat’s milk) Kimchi. Kombucha (Health-Ade) Miso. Kvass. Sauerkraut. Yogurt (coconut, goat’s milk, fermented full fat organic) Prebiotic Supplements* Acacia fiber: may be used as an alternative to psyllium husk. Beta-glucan, or \ud835\udefd-glucan. Chicory Root. Fructo-oligosaccharides. Galacto-oligosaccharides. Glucomannan. Inulin. Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum (Like Sunfiber) Pectin. Psyllium husk powder. Resistant Starch (potato starch, green banana flour) Prebiotic Foods Apples. Arrowroot. Artichoke. Asparagus. Beans & Lentils (soaked and dried) Beets. Berries. Cabbage/Sauerkraut. Carrots. Cassava (Yuca, Tapioca) Chia Seeds. Cocoa & Cacao. Coconut Flour. Cooked & Cooled Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes. Cooked & Cooled Rice and White Rice. Dandelion Greens. Flaxseeds. Cruciferous Veggies (cooked, softened) Garlic. Ginger Root. Green bananas & banana flour. Jicama. Onions. Leeks. Plantains (green), plantain flour & dehydrated plantain chips. Potato starch. Pumpkins. Raw Honey (Manuka Honey) Rutabaga. Seaweed/Algae. Taro. Winter squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, kabocha, delicata) *Pro Tip: It is recommended to incorporate prebiotics slowly into the diet, limiting it to 1/2-1 tsp when you start since these fibers can cause bloating or discomfort in those who have an underlying gut pathology. Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum and Glucomannan are typically the best tolerated.