Which Probiotics Are Right For You?

Which Probiotics Are Right For You?

BY DR. TARA DUNNE, BS, MA, ND

Which Probiotics Are Right For You?

There are hundreds of probiotic products on the market these days. It’s no surprise, given the impact of probiotics on our digestive health (aka “gut Health”) and the impact of our digestive health on our overall wellness. Research seems to consistently point back to a healthy gut as the root supporter of general well-being and disease prevention, or to an unhealthy gut as the root cause of most disease. Many diseases including depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even high cholesterol among others can stem from an unhealthy gut. Did you know that around 80% of the body’s immune system is found in the gut? It’s incredible to think how taking care of our digestive health can lead to wellness in so many other areas. The great news is some of our gut health can be fortified and supported simply by taking a good quality probiotic.

So what exactly are probiotics?

Probiotics are supplements that provide good bacteria that are found naturally in our guts or we can take in supplement form to house them there. The intestines specifically house literally trillions of good bacteria that grow naturally and assist the body with nourishment and immune defense. But bad bacteria can also take up residence in the intestines. This is where the trouble begins, if the balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria gets out of whack. When an imbalance occurs between this good and bad bacteria, then health is compromised. The imbalance is called, “dysbiosis.”

Dysbiosis can be caused by a number of different things:

  • Antibiotics - often prescribed to kill off bad bacteria, these prescription drugs end up killing off good bacteria at the same time and completely disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. It is important to refortify the gut with good bacteria after being treated with antibiotics. You can do that by eating clean and taking a good quality probiotic supplement.
  • Antacids disrupt the acid levels of the gut. Normal pH (acid) levels provide a perfect environment for good bacteria to grow. Antacids change the pH of the gut to a level that harmful bacteria can thrive in instead. If you suffer from an acid related condition, diet changes can help. Try completely eliminating sugars from any source (even artificial/natural ones) and see how differently you feel! You’ll be amazed. With these diet changes, add in a probiotic supplement to really help change the biome (bacteria balance) in your gut.
  • Aging changes the flora in the gut. Levels of good bacteria start to decline after age 50. It is important for the older population to take probiotics for this simple fact, if not for any other reasons.
  • Diet and lifestyle have a huge impact on the gut. It’s no wonder your mother said eating too much sugar would make you sick! The typical North American diet of high sugar, high processed foods, high animal proteins, and low vegetable or fermented food consumption has drastically hindered our ability to maintain healthy gut flora (bacteria). Eat a diet that is rich in organic vegetables, fermented foods and lots of clean purified water. This is the most important way to revitalize your gut health. A good diet plus a probiotic supplement will get you living your best gut health life sooner than ever!

So how else can these little bacteria critters help you?  If you already eat a clean diet and have a healthy lifestyle, having extra good bacteria from a probiotic supplement can still help the body do a number of things including, but not limited to:

    • Synthesizing vitamins that are crucial to cell function, including vitamin K, B1 thiamine, B6 pyridoxine, and B9 folic acid.
    • Aiding in absorption of calcium, magnesium and iron among other vital enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
    • Building a protective layer in the intestines to prevent toxins and chemicals from being absorbed.
    • Strengthening and supporting the immune system.
    • Controlling inflammation.
    • Regulating bowel function and health.
    • And much, much more.

How To Find The Right Probiotic For You

Keep in mind, there are several factors that go into maintaining a healthy gut. Diet is key! And keeping other products in your home as clean and organic as possible is hugely important. Adding in a probiotic won’t do you much good if you are still eating a high sugar + high refined carb + high fats diet. They will make the biggest impact on your health as part of an overall total health plan.

Here are a few important things to look for when choosing a probiotic:

Culture Count

For general health, taking a lower potency probiotic (between 2-6 billion bacteria per serving) will give you a good total amount of bacteria per serving. Therapeutic strength probiotics (if you are trying to treat a condition) are higher count bacteria (between 50-100 billion bacteria per serving). Make sure your total serving size is somewhere in the billions of CUF’s (colony forming units).


Type and number of strains

The probiotic that you chose should include as many different strains of bacteria as you can find. Strains of bacteria will have names starting with “B” or “L” most likely. Some examples of names are:

    • Bifidobacterium bifidum
    • Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis (formerly Bifidobacterium lactis)
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus
    • Lactobacillus salivarius.

Using a multi-strain product will help you achieve general health in as many areas as possible, whereas single stains tend to target different specific areas.


Targeted Products

There are some probiotics that are targeted for specific health concerns, but most people will benefit from a high potency, multiple strain formula when trying to treat any specific condition. But here is a breakdown of a few strains that recent clinical trials have found useful for treating/preventing certain conditions:

STRAIN GOOD FOR

Bifidobacterium Lactis

- Immunity

Bifidobacterium Longum

- Constipation, Mental Health (stress/memory)

Bifidobacterium Bifidum

- GI (gastrointestinal) Support, Immunity

Bifidobacterium Breve

- GI Support, Anti-aging

Lactobacillus Acidophilus

- Acne, Diarrhea, Vaginal health

Lactobacillus Rhanmosus

- GI support, Eczema

Lactobacillus Plamtarum

- Inflammation

Lactobacillus Casei

- Diarrhea, Mental Health (anxiety/depression)

Streptococcus Thermophilus

- GI Support, Skin Health


Shelf Life

The most highly recommended probiotics are the ones found in the refrigerator and must be stored that way to keep the bacteria cultures alive, such as the Genestra line of probiotics that are stored in a refrigerated section of the Pure Feast warehouse. However, some companies such as Genuine Health and CanPrev have come out with some fairly comparative shelf stable products. If you travel often or simply need the convenience of a shelf stable product, make sure you find one you find is free of gluten, soy, corn and other preservatives or chemicals that will only add to dysbiosis.  



I hope this post is helpful as you search out answers to questions about probiotics. These little bacteria can have a huge impact on your health!

In Health,
Dr. Tara


About the author

Dr. Tara Dunne is a licensed naturopathic doctor who received her degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She also holds a master’s degree in Health and Wellness and a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She is passionate about natural wellness and helping people achieve optimal health.

Her special medical interests include atypical neurodevelopment, pediatrics and biochemistry. Tara spent several years training under some of the world leaders in these specific topics, and she now uses that training coupled with natural therapies to help people overcome illness and achieve optimal health. She is dedicated to making sure the best possible care, outcomes and information is available to everyone. In a world of health information overload, she's committed to helping people navigate their own personal health journeys. Her other interests include caring for her family, triathlon training and fitness, volunteering for people living with special needs, major league baseball, and cooking.

You can follow her on social media on Instagram @bodyandminddoc, Facebook @drtaradunne, and Twitter @bodyandminddoc


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