18 Sep How to Choose Probiotics for Gut Health
Healthy digestion and a healthy gastric biome are arguably the foundation of good overall mental and physical health. Research connects your gut biome with your gut health, brain, immune system, and heart, and, of course, your ability to absorb and use the nutrients that fuel all the mechanisms that keep your body functioning optimally.
There’s probably hundreds or more probiotic products out there to keep your gut microbiome in tip-top shape, but when you really look at the research, you can consolidate probiotics into three primary categories.
Understanding Your Gastric Biome
Before you can choose a gut health supplement, such as probiotics, you need to understand the influence the gut microbiome has on your performance and your body.
The microbes in your gut mainly live in the colon, this is the last portion of the digestive tract, and therefore, only have access to items that you eat that are poorly digested by digestive enzymes and are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.
Complex dietary fibers and complex carbohydrates escape digestion in the upper portions of the digestive tract, make their way to the colon, and then they are consumed and serve as the primary fuel for propelling the metabolism of your microbiota.
Digestion of these complex foods is probably one of the significant functions attributed to and been proven to be really important for the community of your microbes.
An extension of this is the influence of these microbes in gut health. We know that these microbes can make us feel good or bad concerning digestive health — they can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can also be induced by these microbes.
What startles researchers and healthcare practitioners in this field and indeed people outside this field, is just how much of human biology outside of the gut is being regulated by these microorganisms. Studies show that metabolism that’s going on all over the body — for instance, in the liver — is directly influenced by what is happening with the gut microbiota.
Research shows that your brain can be affected by chemical signals that these microbes secrete. So really the gut microbiota can be thought of as a control center for so much of your biology.
The critical connection to make here is that you can have a gut problem that’s not manifesting as gut symptoms, but it may be causing other external symptoms, whether it be brain fog or skin issues.
Furthermore, when determining if a probiotic is working for you, you need to listen to and monitor your body as a whole — your gut, skin, brain, heart, inflammation, performance, etc.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi, and yeast, that are thought to have an abundance of health benefits when administered in adequate amounts. Products sold as oral probiotics include gut health supplements and probiotic foods, such as yogurt.
Categories of Probiotics
There are hundreds or more of probiotics out there, but when you look at the research, you will find three primary categories. When you understand this, you don’t have to try the hundreds of products, but instead say, “Let me try a probiotic from category one, and see how I do. Now, let me try a probiotic from category two, and see how I do.”
This is where it is critical to listen to your body.
When you do this, you cut through the confusion of, “Oh, I heard about this one supplement, and someone told me about this other one.” If you don’t cut through the clutter, you’ll keep trying the same product, just with a mild derivation of the same product.
Category one. Lactobacillus–Bifidobacterium species predominated blend, meaning you’ll have multiple strains, but the majority of those will be different strains of Lactobacillus (e.g., Lactobacillus acidophilus probiotic) and Bifidobacterium (e.g., Bifidobacterium longum probiotic). This strain is used commercially in many dairy products. Data supports the treatment of constipation, acute infectious diarrhea, inflammation, and much more.
Category two. Saccharomyces boulardii probiotic, technically a good fungus. Saccharomyces boulardii is shown to mediate responses that resemble the protective effects of the normal healthy gut flora. This probiotic is often taken to rapidly re-establish the gut microbiome(3) after a round of antibiotics.
Category three. Soil-based or spore-forming probiotics. There are a few different formulas here, and there’s some derivation and some detail there, but mostly this is predominantly Bacillus strains probiotics (e.g., Bacillus cereus, Bacillus clausii, Bacillus pumilus). Research indicates spore-forming bacteria may provide myriad health benefits, such as helping with food digestion, diarrhea, inflammation, and vaginal health, to name a few.
Sometimes people do not do well on any probiotics, and that’s okay. There are specific gut issues, such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut, that may warrant a different approach.
Not all probiotics are right for all diseases. The important thing is not to keep trying certain strains of probiotics if you have an adverse reaction. Your gastric biome changes based on the food you eat, your activities, and supplements you’re taking; therefore, your specific probiotic needs may change over time.