According to a recent survey, probiotics are now more popular than multivitamins.1 More products containing probiotics are in grocery stores than ever before – from supplements and sauerkraut to beet kvass and kombucha. And our culture’s acceptance of probiotics is well-earned – these beneficial microorganisms have been shown to help with a score of maladies, including gastrointestinal problems, yeast infections, cholesterol and blood pressure issues, and other health conditions. Probiotics may also help boost the immune system, enhance brain function, and aid with weight maintenance. 2
But how do you make the most of your probiotics, so they work effectively? First, you need to understand…
How Probiotics Work
Before you can understand why probiotics might not work, it’s important to understand how they’re supposed to work. Your gut microbiome is home to a diverse network of more than 100 trillion bacteria, yeast, and fungi – some designed to help you, some which destroy your health. And without those beneficial microorganisms, you couldn’t digest all the nutrients from your food or have a healthy immune system. 3
Probiotics are the same – or similar to – some of the beneficial microorganisms already present in your gut microbiota. Taking probiotics helps your existing gut microorganisms to function correctly. They do this by helping populate your digestive system with beneficial bacteria, so the good microorganisms in your gut overpower the bad. 4
If you’re taking probiotics, but not getting the results you want, there are a few things you can try… After all, probiotics are living things, and you need to nourish them in order for them to thrive.
1. Your Diet Doesn’t Support Your Gut Microbiota
The foods you eat can positively or negatively influence your gut microbiota. This can also support (or not support) the probiotics you take. Some foods that don’t support a healthy gut microbiome include saturated fats and artificial sweeteners. 5 A western diet, which is high in red meat, processed foods, and white flour, does not foster a healthy gut.
To make your body a welcoming climate for your existing gut microorganisms, as well as the probiotics you take, eat prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are like fertilizer to help probiotics live and grow.
Prebiotics are made of dietary fiber, so make sure to eat plenty of fiber-containing foods.6 Some prebiotic foods to try include garlic, oats, onions, peas, avocados, jicama, whole grains, and asparagus. Add high-fiber foods to your diet gradually, since too much fiber at once can cause gastrointestinal problems.
Additionally, try to maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil.
2. Your Probiotic Quality is Questionable
With so many people wanting to take probiotics for health, it’s no wonder some of the products out there are not the best quality. When choosing a probiotic, you need to look for three things:
1. A wide variety of strains. Different probiotic strains do different things, so it’s important to look for a probiotic that contains at least 15 strains… I suggest closer to 30.
2. A high CFU count. CFUs, or “colony forming units” is the measure of live, active bacteria in a probiotic… and when it comes to CFUs, the higher the better. Look for probiotics with 20-30 BILLION CFUs of live, active cultures to make the most impact on your gut.
3. A strong, resilient capsule. Here’s the thing about probiotics: they’re only good if they reach your gut alive. Look for keywords like “CA Technology” or “enteric” capsule, to find a probiotic designed to protect the bacteria until they reach your gut.
4. You’re Taking the Wrong Strain
There are over 500 different strains of probiotics. 7 Probiotics aren’t one-size-fits-all – different strains can be taken for different things. For example, Lactobacillus GG has been shown to help ease diarrhea and stomach issues, while Bifidobacterium bifidum may help to manage anxiety. 8 To make sure your probiotic is doing what you want it to, you need to take the correct strain. Check your probiotic to see what strain or strains it includes, and then research the benefits of that strain.
When in doubt, shop for a probiotic with a large variety of strains – 20-25 minimum – so your needs, whatever they may be, are covered.
5. You’ve Not Taking Probiotics Regularly
To reap the benefits of probiotics, you need to take them habitually. This means every day, at the same time of day. Most probiotics benefit you only when taken regularly, so you’ll need to keep taking them to keep enjoying the benefits. 9
6. Your Expectations Aren’t Realistic
While probiotics can benefit your health in many ways, they don’t work instantly. Expect to take probiotics for a least a few days before you start to notice the effects. Some people might need to take them for several weeks to a month before seeing results.
Also, it’s important to note that probiotics don’t replace any type of medicine. While you’re taking probiotics, keep taking all medicines that have been prescribed to you by your doctor.
If taken correctly and from a quality source, probiotics can be very beneficial to your health. Try these simple tweaks, so you can get all of the health benefits from these amazing microorganisms.
For more helpful information, keep reading:
2. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264721.php, http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics
8. https://www.clinicaleducation.org/resources/reviews/lactobacillus-gg-a-potent-immune-regulator-effective-in-many-disorders/, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201602/probiotics-depression