I love probiotics! As a naturopath, I use probiotics with a lot of my clients and not only for gut related conditions (although they do work great for supporting the gut!). In addition to the gut, I use probiotics in immune cases, skin conditions and mood related conditions. No, I am not going crazy! Probiotics and the gut can have massive impacts on other parts of the body (more on this in coming posts!) So what am I talking about when I talk about probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.
How do probiotics work? This depends on the type of bacteria but probiotics as a whole can support the following: * Reduce pathogenic bacteria * Increase beneficial bacteria * Reduce digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, gas, abdominal pain
* Support and heal the lining of the digestive tract and reduce inflammation
* Rebalance bacteria levels throughout the entire body such as the skin, vagina, urinary tract and the list goes on… * Support mood disorders such as anxiety and depression * Support asthma and hayfever * Skin support in eczema, contact dermatitis and acne * Probiotics are also used for obesity, type 2 diabetes, allergies, food intolerances and are continued to be studied for a wide range of conditions
Strain specificity is really important in relation to probiotics. Not every probiotic is alike. Each strain and species work on different aspects of not only your digestive system but also the remainder of the body. The important part to remember with probiotics is that the strain matters! When I am discussing strains I am talking about the letter/number added to the end of the probiotic name. For example Lactobacillus rhamnosus, the strain is shown below: Lactobacillus (genus) rhamnosus (species) GG (strain) Strains of probiotics has been shown by clinical trials to have different uses in the body. So not every Lactobacillus rhamnosus will work in the same way. Which is why we need to look for specific strains that have clinical research. Another way to look at it is that all dogs are part of the one species. However we are aware that there are a huge variety of dogs and also their function differs quite significantly. We all know that an Old English Sheepdog differs greatly from a poodle. We pick dogs based upon their function (do we want a sheep dog or do we want a dog to live in an apartment). This is the same with probiotics – we need to look at the strain and make sure you are picking the strain which is specific for what your health concerns are.
Why are some probiotics fridge stable and some shelf stable? This will depend on the particular strain in the product. Some strains are stable at room temperature and others are not. This does not mean one strain is “better” than the other, it is just the environment they thrive within. Personally, I want my probiotic to be thriving and not dead within the product I purchased.
So which strain should I purchase for my health concern? Well that depends on your health concern, however, anyone who is taking antibiotics should be taking a probiotic at the same time, not only to support you gut bugs during the course of antibiotics and also support your gut lining to reduce antibiotic related symptoms.
If you hear about a particular probiotic and decide to give it a try, make sure you are using the strain that was specified.
Otherwise I would strongly recommend seeing a health practitioner to get professional advise on which probiotic is most suitable for you.