“What is the best probiotic supplement” and “Should I always take a probiotic for good health” are some of the common questions that I get asked, and along with nearly everything relating to your health the answer is going to be different for each person.
Before we look more closely at what are the best probiotic supplements to take (hint - I will let you know what I do at the end), let's look at exactly what probiotics are, and when you might need to take them.
Also don't forget about prebiotics, these come from the foods we eat as well as specific prebiotic supplements and they help to promote the growth of the beneficial bacteria. In many ways prebiotics are more important than probiotics.
Plus there are "postbiotics", these are the short chain fatty acids (SCFA's) like butyrate that the beneficial bacteria make, the SCFA's are the main reason that the good bacteria are good for us.
Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics all help us to improve our gut microbiome and this is a key factor in our overall health.
- Personalized Approach to Probiotic Use: Find out the best probiotic supplement for each individual, highlighting the importance of understanding one's unique health needs and conditions.
- Understanding Probiotics and Prebiotics: Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms crucial for gut health and overall wellness, and prebiotics as the necessary 'food' that fosters their growth.
- The Significance of Microbiome Health: A healthy gut microbiome influences various aspects of health, including skin, mood, immune system, and chronic health conditions, underlining why maintaining a balanced microbiome is vital.
- Individualized Probiotic Selection: Understand the importance of choosing the right probiotic strains for specific health needs, cautioning against a one-size-fits-all approach and underscoring the need for tailored probiotic supplementation.
What Are Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that can enhance the health of our digestive tract, this can also lead to a wide range of health benefits including improved skin health, mood, immune system, heart health and improvement in many health conditions.
This wide range of benefits is all because of the connection that a healthy gut “microbiome” has on our overall health.
The best supplements will contain the right Genus e.g. Lactobacillus, the right species e.g. Rhamnosus and the specific strain of the species e.g. GG so in this example it would be Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG which is one of the best researched probiotics out there.
Just because there is lots of research on the benefits of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG, this does not mean the benefits apply to all Lactobacillus probiotic supplements, and it does not even apply to other types of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, like the DR20 strain which would have different benefits.
This is important information when choosing the best probiotic supplement because different strains will exert different effects on your gut health, and health overall.
What is the Microbiome
Our digestive tract contains over 100 trillion bacteria, and most of these are in the large intestine, this bacteria is collectively known as your microbiome. This means that you have about 10 bacteria for every human cell in the body!
In the last 10 years in particular there has been a huge amount of research going into the gut microbiome, and how this can affect nearly every aspect of our health, not just gastrointestinal disorders.
Improving the health of our gut bacteria can improve everything from weight loss to depression and chronic health issues to proper hormone balance.
The bacteria in our gut microbiome come under 3 different categories:
The best probiotic supplements and foods will improve the beneficial bacteria to help crowd out the opportunistic bacteria, boost the immune system to protect against pathogenic bacteria, as well as break down fibrous foods into more digestible components and help your body produce vitamins such as K and B12.
What Causes an Imbalance in Your Gut Bacteria - Also Called Dysbiosis
Why would you have an imbalance in your gut bacteria so that you would need to supplement with probiotics, and how would you even know?
While signs and symptoms of dysbiosis include digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas and reflux, there are also many other signs that you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria.
This includes skin problems, mood disorders, weight gain, autoimmune conditions, arthritis and many other health conditions.
Here are some of the common causes of dysbiosis
If you have the signs and symptoms and answered yes to one of the above causes the chances are you will benefit from increasing probiotic foods, or adding in a probiotic supplement, so let’s work out what the best probiotic supplement is for you.
Do you need Probiotics? The best way to test your bacteria levels
My favourite test to measure the health of your beneficial bacteria, levels of opportunistic bacteria and whether you have any pathogenic bacteria, parasites, worms or yeast infections is the Gut Zoomer test from Vibrant Wellness, it is similar to other advanced stool tests like the G.I Map test.
The reason I like the Gut Zoomer the best is that it tests for a wide range of beneficial bacteria, as well as gut pathogens and intestinal health markers. The GI Map mainly focuses on the pathogenic bacteria and opportunistic bacteria.
The Gut Zoomer test also assesses your levels of digestive enzymes, fat absorption, inflammation and immune markers, as well as Zonulin to assess leaky gut.
I use the Gut Zoomer test because it gives some great actionable information that can help me optimize the digestive health of clients.
Noteworthy: Not all probiotics are created equally, there are many probiotic supplements that are using strains of probiotics that have no proven benefits!
Another test that is available is the Viome DNA analysis of your digestive tract.
Viome developed a proprietary technology that offers an ultra-high level resolution analysis to identify all of the living microorganisms in your digestive tract, including bacteria, viruses (including bacteriophages), archaea, fungi (including yeasts), parasites, and more—at the species and strain levels.
The Viome test focuses on helping you improve your diet by giving you guidance on the best diet for you, this includes what foods to eat and what to avoid.
Using artificial intelligence the Viome software analyzes your gut microbiome and can make specific recommendations on diet, supplements and exactly what the best probiotic supplements are for you to optimize your digestive health and overall health.
Are Probiotic Foods or Probiotic Supplements the Best?
This depends if you are trying to maintain good health, or if you are wanting to address a particular health condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS), or if you have just taken a course of antibiotics.
If you are in good health and you would like to optimize your beneficial bacteria, levels then incorporating probiotic and prebiotic foods into your diet would be the best idea.
This can be done through drinks like Kombucha and Kefir, or foods like traditionally made sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, pickles and of course the most well known and widely used which is yogurt.
Noteworthy: A quick word of warning on yogurts, the majority of commercially available yogurts only contain L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus which do not have beneficial health benefits.
You will need to seek out yogurts that have other strains, usually they will promote this as a big selling point, and they should have the actual strains on the label.
Don’t forget prebiotics
Prebiotics are the “food” for the beneficial bacteria, and by eating prebiotic foods this is another way of increasing your beneficial bacteria levels. The chart below shows you all of the best prebiotic foods.
Prebiotic supplements include Sunfiber which is one of my favourites to combine with probiotic supplements to enhance your microbiome. Sunfiber is FODMAP friendly and this is usually better tolerated than other prebiotic fibers.
Prebiotic foods and supplements will help to improve your overall beneficial bacteria, plus if you are taking a probiotic supplement they will help to enhance the benefits of probiotics.
The probiotic bacteria need a good “fertile” environment to survive in the digestive tract and the prebiotic foods will help to provide this.
Word of Warning on Prebiotics:
If you add prebiotic foods into your diet and it causes an increase in your digestive symptoms, especially bloating and gas, then there is a good chance that you have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth which is commonly known as SIBO.
Prebiotics will also feed the unwanted bacteria in the small intestine which is what we don’t want, so if you get these negative symptoms towards prebiotics, or even some probiotics then it is important to address SIBO first.
The best probiotic supplements to improve your health
If you have a particular health condition that you are trying to improve by increasing your beneficial bacteria then I recommend a probiotic supplement, that is because you can seek out a particular strain of probiotic that is proven to address your symptoms. Or if you never eat fermented foods you may also benefit from a probiotic supplement.
Noteworthy: Unfortunately there is not one single probiotic supplement that is the best in every situation, there are many great probiotic supplements out there, so let’s assess what is the best probiotic supplement for each situation.
Best Probiotic Supplement after Antibiotics
We all know that antibiotics destroy the health of our beneficial bacteria (and hopefully the pathogens we are trying to kill), and while in certain circumstances antibiotics are life saving they are way over prescribed, and many bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics.
The research shows that it is beneficial to take a probiotic supplement while you are taking antibiotics, just take them at a separate time of the day.
After taking antibiotics I recommend a short course of very high dose probiotic to help restore the levels of beneficial bacteria, one of the best is Elixa which contains 500 billion cfu per dose, this is about 50 X’s more potent than most probiotic supplements out there.
It is not always a case of more is better but after antibiotics the best probiotic supplement is going to be Elixa.
Usually a 12 day course is all that you need, and then switch back to a lower dose probiotic supplement to maintain the beneficial bacteria levels. You can Order Elixa Here.
The Best Probiotic Supplement for Candida
Candida is a yeast infection that can cause many of the classic IBS digestion symptoms, as well as neurological symptoms like brain fog, anxiety, plus skin problems, especially itchy skin, also low energy.
Candida overgrowth can also cause thrush, and while the symptoms of candida can change with severity they are enough to affect your overall health.
Controlling candida overgrowth can make a massive difference to your health, and as well as taking probiotics you will also need to focus on diet and anti-fungal herbs to get it under control quickly. So let’s look at the best probiotics for candida overgrowth.
Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) is my number one go to choice, this is actually a beneficial yeast that acts as a probiotic, and there is a huge amount of research on Saccharomyces boulardii for many different health conditions besides candida.
SB is also my go to probiotic for travellers diarrhea, acute diarrhea from food poisoning and effects of antibiotics.
I normally recommend a specific Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) supplement like Florastor, this has a well studied form of SB, for the treatment phase.
Dual Action Helps Flush Out Bad Bacteria & boosts The Good with Our Unique Strain Saccharomyces boulardii - for adults and kids.
The Best Probiotic Supplement for Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are quite common in women, especially if there is an imbalance in the beneficial bacteria.
This is why antibiotics often eliminate the UTI but a few weeks or months later the infection returns as the underlying bacteria imbalance has not been addressed.
The Best Probiotic for I.B.S
If you have SIBO, beneficial strains will include the spore forming probiotics like the Bacillus species, d-lactate free probiotics like lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG and Saccharomyces boulardii (this is good for a lot of conditions).
If the IBS is caused by food intolerances and inflammation I recommend the Lactobacillus plantarum 299V, with changing the diet of course.
The Best Probiotics to Improve Mood
Your gut health has a major influence on your emotional health, anxiety and depression. I have seen many times with client that once they address the SIBO or bacterial overgrowth that their anxiety and depression either disappear or greatly reduces.
Once again addressing the cause is the key but there are some probiotic supplements that have been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety, the best researched probiotic strains include Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175.
Lactobacillus casei is another well studied strain to improve mood by reducing inflammation and improving GABA levels.
The Best Probiotics for Weight Loss
A number of studies have shown that having a healthy gut microbiome can influence weight, satiety as well as cravings for particular types of foods (think junk food).
It can become a vicious circle as the more processed foods that you consume you are influencing your gut bacteria in a negative way.
There is no magic pill for weight loss and any probiotic supplement will also have to be combined with diet and lifestyle changes, but some probiotics can help.
Some of the better tested strains include Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG, Lactobacillus gasseri BNR17, Lactobacillus paracasei plus Bifidobacterium animalis and Bifidobacterium breve.
The Best Probiotic for Kids
Kids don’t need special probiotic formulas, most of that is just marketing by the supplement companies, and you still need to give the best probiotic supplement for what they need.
This will include some of the specific strains and brands that I have already mentioned.
Noteworthy: Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG is one of the best researched probiotics and can help with eczema, asthma and other immune related problems.
I would focus on quality probiotic foods (kids often love them) along with prebiotics to ensure a health gut microbiome in your children.
So there is no one probiotic that is the best for everything, this is why I like to switch around the probiotics that I am using. Plus I like to focus on prebiotic foods to help promote the growth of the right bacteria.
There are many other health conditions that can be improved with probiotics and improving the balance of your gut bacteria.
This does not mean that you need daily probiotics but if your digestive health is not optimal they would be something to consider.
I think doing a gut test like the Vibrant Wellness Gut Zoomer is a great idea to understand if you need to focus on addressing bad bacteria, or improve your friendly bacteria levels.
This type of testing can help to give you personalized supplement recommendations.
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