What Your Doctor or Nutritionist Never Told You about Probiotics

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

4440509 Orig 2 | What Your Doctor Or Nutritionist Never Told You About Probiotics

All long-term gut healing protocols should include both Probiotics and Pre-biotics for optimal results.

Why Probiotics Are Good For You Anyway

We often hear probiotics are “good for our gut,” but no one ever really tells us why.

Sure , they help with healing from constipation and leaky gut, but they also…

  • Protect your gut lining
  • Influence the amount of antioxidants in your body
  • Impact your brain health (balance your mood, improve concentration and function)
  • Guard against stress in your gut (from bad foods to low stomach acid)
  • Promote anti-inflammation
  • Fight off SIBO
  • Limit carbohydrate malabsorption (aid in FODMAP intolerance)
  • Aid in nutrient absorption (i.e. omega-3 fatty acid absorption, mineral absorption, and absorption of phytochemicals)
  • Reduce histamines (allergies)
  • Guard against limit gastric or intestinal pathogens (parasites, fungi and viruses)
  • Fight inflammation (pain)

Way more than just giving you “good gut bacteria.”

Probiotics & Pre-biotics: How They Work Together

Probiotics DO get a lot of hype in the media, BUT pre-biotics are arguably MORE important and necessary because they HELP YOUR PROBIOTICS STICK and increase in your gut.

(i.e. Pre-biotics feed probiotics).

In fact, taking probiotics ALONE does NOT “boost your gut bacteria” or make more in your gut.

For a long time, we’ve thought that taking probiotics is like putting gas into your car tank—you fill it up and there’s more gas.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Instead, probiotics only serve as “maintainers” or gatekeepers of the “good” gut bacteria you have ALREADY in your body—but they don’t necessarily produce more.

Sure, your body certainly welcomes probiotics—and these probiotics help keep your current state of healthy bacteria operating (i.e. regulating your immune system, promoting anti-inflammation and creating a healthy environment for your current gut bacteria)—BUT you DON’T get MORE or increase the numbers of “good gut bacteria” in your gut.

And if you STOP taking your probiotics, your “healthy gut” bacteria no longer has someone else helping it out to stay “healthy”—so all hell could break loose…Unless you take and eat a Pre-Biotic.

Pre-Biotics DO increase the beneficial bacteriabecause 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 YOU beneficial bacteria over time.

The bonus? Even if you stop taking your prebiotic, those probiotic numbers would stay increased (provided you eat enough fermentable fiber to feed those bacteria in your daily diet).  

So how do you choose the “right one” (probiotic and pre-biotic) for you?!

Like the difference between conventionally-raised Tyson Chicken and sustainably pasture- raised chicken from your local farmer, the quality and type of BOTH your probiotics and pre-biotics matter.

Generally, you get what you pay for (pay for cheap “pro-biotics,” get cheap probiotics), but there is a little more to the story than just that.

Here are a few tidbits and strategies for “shopping smart” at the store and getting the biggest bang for your buck with your probiotics:



Get the Real Thing

As mentioned, NOT all probiotics are created equal. For a probiotic to perform its necessary function, it must naturally survive the stomach’s harsh environment and arrive to the intestines alive. A true probiotic, designed by nature, is a species found in our environment, as well as in our digestive system. Approximately 95% of probiotic products on shelves today do NOT meet these criteria (including the yogurts that claim they have probiotics. In actuality, you’d have to eat about 25 servings of that one yogurt to get the probiotics they claim).

How to Choose a Probiotic?!

When choosing a probiotic, I have seen clients experience great success in their gut-healing with both:

  1. Lactic-acid bacteria (commonly found in fermented foods and some quality pharmaceutical grade probiotics) PLUS
  1. A Broad-spectrum Soil-based Product (especially since soil-based probiotics are not consumed as easily in the diet as the lactic acid bacteria that we get from fermented foods and most commercial supplements).

Soil-based organisms are also more like the healthy bacteria in the gut that tend to be well-tolerated by most people (as opposed to other strains of bacteria in lactic acid-based products that contain similar strains of bacteria, found your poop.

When looking at the labels of probiotics and pre-biotics, look for a variety of bacteria strains, with these names in particular:


Soil-based Organisms

Lactic Acid Bacteria ( especially with Saccharomyces boulardii and possibly Lactobacillus  rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus plantarum,  and/or Bifidobacteria infantis)

Fermented Foods

*Make sure your probiotics list the strains. If they don’t then you already know it’s no bueno.


How to Choose a Pre-biotic?!

In addition, don’t forget your pre-biotic. Pre-biotics come in both supplement and starch form. Choose one pre-biotic supplement to take with your probiotics, and incorporate pre-biotic foods into your diet

Choose one:

  • Acacia
  • Prebiogen
  • Unmodified potato starch
  • Glucomannan powder
  • Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum
  • Psyllium husk powder
  • Modified Citrus Pectin
  • Food sources: Eat throughout your week

How to Take Them: Pair Up

For maximum absorption, aim to take a probiotic supplement once in the morning and once at night, along with a pre-biotic (if you don’t have SIBO; if you do have SIBO, see the SIBO protocol section)—preferably away from meals (at least 15-30 minutes before or after).

Vary It Up:

Each different type of probiotic strain, food and types of pre-biotic fibers encourage the growth of different beneficial bacteria in the gut (and we NEED a variety). The main tactic with taking probiotics is to consume wide variety of microorganisms and strains, including soil based organisms, plus lactic-acid producing bacteria (unless you have elevated D-lactate) and other beneficial strains of yeast (like fermented foods). For gold-star gut health, you’d take a:

  • Soil-based probiotic (1 in morning, 1 at night) & a quality lactic-acid probiotic (1 mid-day)
  • Pre-biotic supplement with your probiotics
  • Aim to eat a medicinal dose of fermented foods and pre-biotic foods daily

Integrate Slowly

As “healing” or die off reactions happen, some people may experience GI upset, increased gas and/or bloating as they incorporate these new supplements (generally, this improves in a few days). Start slowly with the amount of both probiotics and prebiotics that you take, and gradually increase the dose of both as tolerated, based on symptoms of gut distress.  For instance: Take one capsule daily for seven days, then increase to one capsule twice daily.


Foods vs. Supplements

Can’t I just get all my probiotics from foods and supplements?

It’s true, fermented foods and real-food fibers have many advantages over commercial probiotic products. For instance, the concentration of probiotic organisms is significantly higher in some fermented foods. However, for your gut-healing protocol, BOTH (foods and supplements) are important and useful in a treatment plan.

While fermented foods provide huge amounts of lactic acid bacteria, probiotic supplements include other varieties of bacteria too that may not be found in all fermented foods that you eat.

Probiotic supplements can be used to achieve more specific gut-healing goals—such treating constipation or diarrhea. In addition, some people simply don’t tolerate fermented foods as well, especially if they are amine intolerant or histamine or tyramine intolerant.

Probiotic & Prebiotic Suggestions

Alright, now that you know ALL about probiotics and pre-biotics, here’s your hit list to shop and eat up:

Probiotic Suggestions

  • Prescript Assist (soil-based)
  • MegaSpore
  • Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra (some soil-based strains; except if you have SIBO or elevated D-Lactate)
  • Primal Flora
  • AOR3
  • FloraMyces

Probiotic Foods

  • Fermented Veggies
  • Fermented Tofu, Miso, Temepeh, Natto (not processed)
  • Full-fat Organic Plain Yogurt (Grass-fed Yogurt, Goat’s Milk Yogurt, Coconut)
  • Kavas
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Raw Cheese
  • Relishes (Fermented; Apple + Beet, Carrot, etc.)
  • Sauerkraut

Ways to Eat Pro-biotic Foods

  • Eat 2-3 forkfuls of sauerkraut or fermented veggies—straight from the jar
  • Use kefir (goats milk, coconut, water) as the base of a smoothie
  • Add blueberries to kefir or full-fat yogurt (goat’s milk, coconut) and eat like a dessert
  • Sip 2-4 oz. of a low-sugar Kombucha (max 2-3 grams per serving)
  • Drink beet kavas

Pre-Biotic Supplement Suggestions approximately 1 tsp to 1-2 tablespoons per serving (gradually increase dose)

  • Acacia
  • Prebiogen
  • Unmodified potato starch
  • Glucomannan powder
  • Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum
  • Psyllium husk powder
  • Modified Citrus Pectin
  • Food sources: Eat throughout your week

Pre-Biotic Foods

  • Asparagus (al-dente)
  • Coconut Flour
  • Cooked & cooled potatoes/sweet potatoes and squashes
  • Cooked and cooled Jasmine white rice & lentils
  • Garlic
  • Green tipped plantains/bananas
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms (reishi, shiitake and maitake)
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Potato Starch or Plantain Starch
  • Seaweed/Algae (Beta-glucan, or -glucan—a soluble fiber)

*Not all fibers in foods have pre-biotics (grain fibers in particular are indigestible, making the fiber in them negative)

Ways to Eat Pre-biotic Foods

  1. Mix psyllium husk powder with the unmodified potato starch into water, unsweetened almond milk or a smoothie
  2. Add Glucomannan powder to water, almond milk or a smoothie
  3. Make plantain “pancakes” or with green-tipped plantains, plantain flour or potato starch
  4. Eat half a green-tipped banana dipped in coconut butter or raw nut-butter as a snack
  5. Add a cooked-and-cooled sweet potato or regular potato to your dinner
  6. Add artichoke hearts to your salad
  7. Cook with fresh onions
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