Did you know you have more bacteria living in your body than you have cells? In reality, we are all just super-evolved giant bacteria walking around feeding, breathing, multiplying, and unfortunately often leaving a trail of destruction behind us.
Our gut is home to over 100 trillion bacteria, both good and bad. Collectively, these bacteria are known as our gut microbiota or microbiome. Healthy gut flora is crucial for optimal health. It affects every body system we have from our nervous system to detoxification.
There is a growing field of research focused on the microbiome and new discoveries are made every day regarding the effects these microbes have on our health and the role they have in disease.
We know too much bad gut flora (including parasites, yeast, and unhealthy microbes) or not enough good microbes create an imbalance in our body. Imbalances lead to inflammation which ultimately leads to disease.
Our microbiome gets depleted and out of balance over time due to many lifestyle and environmental factors. It is therefore vitally important we make a conscious effort to look after it so it can in turn look after us.
One of the simplest ways to support gut health is by taking a daily probiotic.
What is a probiotic?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when ingested, make a home in our gut and provide multiple health benefits. We have a very symbiotic relationship with the microbes in our gut. We give them a happy place to live and they then provide us with what we need to stay healthy. We can get probiotics in the form of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kefir but for optimal gut health supplementation is recommended for broad spectrum microbe diversity.
How to choose a probiotic
When choosing a probiotic, look for one with the following qualities:
1. Microbe diversity: The more strains of bacteria it has the better. Look for a broad-spectrum probiotic with 10+ different strains. Common strains to look out for are:
a. Lactobacillus acidophilus (especially good for weight management),
b. Bifidobacterium lactis
c. Bifidobacterium bifidum
2. High CFU: Not to be confused with strain count. CFU is the number of Colony Forming Units the probiotic contains. This should be an incredibly high number somewhere in the billions. All it means is that each tablet contains X billion bacteria of different kinds that each form their own colony in our gut thus promoting the growth of good gut bacteria. Ex: A probiotic containing 28 strains and 50 billion CFU means each tablet contains 50 billion microbes made up of a mix of 28 different species.
3. Requires refrigeration: Probiotics are LIVE species therefore they should always be kept in the fridge. It does not make sense that live cultures can thrive on a shelf long term in varying temperatures. Depending on the strain of bacteria and the process it has gone through to get it in pill/powder form, some species will be ok at room temperature. To be on the safe side, and ensure you are getting the most effective probiotic, make sure you purchase one that has already been refrigerated and continues to store it in the fridge at home.
4. Added ingredients: Many probiotics come with a blend of added prebiotic fiber and digestive enzymes. If you can get your hands on one that contains all 3 then you have found yourself a winner. The prebiotic fiber will help feed the new colony-forming microbes now living in your gut and the digestive enzymes will support the better breakdown of food.
There are many great brands I have come across in the past. I personally like to use the brand Garden of Life. They have a variety of refrigerated probiotic blends. I use Colon Care which is a 33-strain, 50-billion CFU with a multitude of prebiotics and digestive enzymes included. They are readily available at most health food stores or online. A little more pricey but great quality are probiotics from Dr. Axe. He has a whole range of gut health supplements on his website.
Please note if you are required to take antibiotics for any reason your probiotic intake should be increased. It is recommended to take a double dose of probiotics whilst on the medication as well as for 10 days once the antibiotic course is completed. This will help re-balance the gut and minimize the side effects of medication.
I cannot overstate the importance of looking after your gut. If you would like to learn more about probiotics and gut health, reach out to me, and together we can bring you back into balance and unleash an UNLIMITED YOU!