They say if you can’t laugh at yourself, life just isn’t much fun.
And you know what? We think the wellness industry could learn a thing or two about that!
We’ve been known to throw a few jabs at its expense — calling out snake oil salesmen, keeping it real about skeevy marketing tactics, et cetera. But it’s not because we want to burn down the natural health world. We just want to raise the bar a bit.
But before we get stitches in our sides, let’s cut through the funny business — there are some serious health benefits at stake. So, with Dr. Neal’s 20+ years of clinical experience leading the way, we’re diving back into the world of probiotics.
Read on, wellness seeker, to transform your probiotic pursuit from a wild goose chase into a strategic, research-guided mission that saves you time and money.
In This Article:
- When you should take probiotic supplements
- What kind of probiotic supplements to take
- What probiotic strains are best for gut health
- How many billion CFUs to look for
Should I Take Probiotic Supplements?
Speaking of jokes — the one we hear the most around these parts is, “My gut is great, I don’t need a probiotic!”
First of all, it’s not nice to brag. And second of all, if you’re living in the modern world, your gut is in an endless battle against environmental toxins, external stressors, and inflammatory agents.
“Because of our ever-changing food quality, varied diets, stress levels, medications, and supplements, our gut is constantly under attack.”Dr. Neal Smoller
This isn’t meant to freak you out though — just to help us all recognize the challenges our bodies are facing every day. The scariest part is that we’ve normalized a lot of gut-related things that are definitely not normal.
Ignoring the warning signs emanating from your tummy is a dangerous game to play considering how much the gut influences our overall health and well-being.
Despite what you might have learned in school, your GI tract isn’t just responsible for digesting Twinkies and turning that fluff into energy. Its role expands far beyond the limits of the abdomen.
In the canals and caverns of your gut live hundreds of millions of neurons — the cells that send and receive electrical signals in your brain. These neurons are connected to your brain via the nervous system, the backbone of which is the vagus nerve.
When your stomach is in distress, those SOS signals get sent straight up to your brain, where they’re interpreted as anxiety, stress, and depression.
Your gut health is inextricably linked to your overall quality of life because nothing in the body exists in a vacuum.
Plus, your gut lining is one of your most important defenses against disease and infection, because a big chunk of your immune system is found in or around there, too.
You should probably up your probiotic intake if:
- You don’t eat perfectly 100% of the time
- You have chronic gut issues like constipation, gas, or diarrhea
- You have an inflammatory gut disease
- You currently have or frequently get UTIs
- You have or are going to be taking antibiotics
- You want to bolster your immune system, GI tract, and/or mental health
- You are exposed to the routine toxins and stressors of the modern world
Should I Tell My Doctor I’m Taking Probiotic Supplements?
These guidelines are generalized and they don’t account for the possibility that your stomach issues are connected to a larger issue.
The underlying cause of your tummy troubles might be addressed by probiotics — by healing your gut barrier, for example — or it might be masked. Symptoms aren’t a whole lot of fun, but they are important messages from your body.
What Kind of Probiotic Supplements Should I Take?
Moral of the story: If there’s one bandwagon to jump on, it’s the daily probiotic supplement train.
Probiotic supplements and their widespread benefits have gained popularity, but like many vitamin-related conversations, the nuance is lacking. Clever phrasing and even cleverer marketing have led the general public to believe that all probiotics — whether from kombucha or a supplement — can change your life.
But that’s not really the case.
The truth is there are some strains of probiotic bacteria that have been shown to have a positive effect on bodily systems by recent research. And there are some that don’t do anything at all.
So when you’re shopping for probiotic supplements, don’t equate more CFUs with better results. Unethical manufacturers and vitamin drop-shippers aren’t above dumping cheap, useless strains in their formulas to bolster the product’s image.
Specific probiotic strains have specific benefits.
Do your research — and not just a quick Google search, please — to figure out which particular cultures are proven to help with your particular issue. And then, when you find supplements that contain those probiotic strains, be exacting.
“Look for probiotics that have a first, middle, and last name, like Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. Only by using specific strains in our probiotic can we know if we are matching our problem to the right solution.”Dr. Neal Smoller
Which Probiotic Strains are Best for Gut Health?
There are tons of reasons for wanting to improve your gut health. Putting your newfound knowledge of how the gut interacts with your immune system and mental health is just one, but it is a big one.
The latest research has shown that these bad boys are a major boon for your belly:
- Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus La-14
- Lactobacillus Plantarum Lp-115
- Bifidobacterium Longum Bl-05
Probiotic Supplement Dosing: How Many Strains and CFUs Do I Need?
To recap: We don’t buy probiotic supplements that contain ineffective strains. Pretty easy!
But there’s another marketing tactic to be wary of, too. The billions and billions of CFUs scheme that is, in fact, a scheme.
In America, we tend to think that more always equals better. With probiotic supplements, more can actually be way, way worse. As Dr. Neal always says, capsules aren’t clown cars — you can only fit so much inside of them. More strains typically translate to fewer CFUs or smaller doses.
Generally, we want as many active, colony-forming units in our probiotic supplements as possible — around 30 billion is great.
But as long as those strains are backed by clinical research and not just tossed in for fun, we should be good with however many billion, right? Right…kind of.
When choosing a probiotic supplement, make sure the product’s labeled dosage is guaranteed through the expiration date. Otherwise, the “billions and billions of CFUs” advertised is nothing more than a record of how many active cultures were present at the time of manufacture.
Probiotic supplements can lose potency — AKA active CFUs — quickly due to improper shipping and storage conditions so this is a pretty common sales tactic.
Pro-Tips for Choosing the Best Probiotic Supplements
“Remember, everything that we read — the label, the website, the flyer — is marketing. The only source of relative truth is on that Supplement Facts Panel.”Dr. Neal Smoller
Now that you’ve got the brains for strains, your probiotic pursuit is perfectly primed for palpable results. Take your scrutiny a step further by only supporting supplement companies with rigorous standards and a commitment to sustainability.
After all, the health of your body and our world depends on it!