Could Probiotics be the Missing 'Ingredient' to Your Gut Health?
So, you may have heard about probiotics and could be wondering, “should I take a probiotic”
In this video today, I'll explain exactly what a probiotic is and what conditions a probiotic can potentially with. How should you read a probiotic label? What should you look for? I'll give you my thoughts as a GI expert on probiotics. And at the very end, I'll give you my recommendation on what I would recommend to you that may be better. Yes – better than taking a probiotic for your gut health.
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Probiotics. My goodness. It is probably the most common question I get from Facebook, YouTube emails, Instagram, and DMs from my patients. It is all over the place. It is a multibillion-dollar market. So, what exactly are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that you ingest that can hopefully change your gut microbiome and enhance some conditions you may be suffering from. The whole goal is to help support the bacteria that's already inside of us. It doesn't add new bacteria in there. It helps to nourish the bacteria currently inside our GI tract.
There are some conditions in which probiotics help out with, things like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, dysbiosis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Sometimes we can use them for a condition called pouchitis or C. diff diarrhea as well. Now I say potential because the studies, when it comes down to a probiotic, are not that great. We don't have very good clinical studies. We don't have a lot of good information. And it's very hard to treat somebody with a probiotic and see the response.
So, we don't have great data. We have a little bit of data which suggests some improvement for some people when it comes to a probiotic, any kind that's out there. I don't want to recommend one particular kind. There's something that I would recommend to look for, especially when you're trying to find a good probiotic.
What to Look for in Probiotics
1. Colony Forming Units or the CFUs.
These are the number of microbes in the actual probiotic. And preferably you can see what strains are there. The higher the CFUs, the better it can be for you, because the more diverse probiotics you can have.
2. Diverse Strains.
The more diverse strains that you have, the better benefit you could have inside your GI tract. Different strains give you different modalities to help heal up.
3. Delayed Release Probiotic
This way you can bypass the stomach acid, go all the way through the small intestine and get release in the colon where all the bacteria is here.
4. Free of Allergens
Milk allergy, dairy allergy, eggs, fish, nuts, trees, wheat, peanut and soy. Make sure it's completely allergy free. There's no point in taking a probiotic if it causes a lot of gut issues to occur. Next, I want to make sure it's vegan free, gluten free, dairy free and non-GMO. These are really the purest types of probiotics that you can get.
5. Serving Size
This will give you the amount of probiotics that you have to take for that bottle to get the best benefit.
6. The Manufacturer
Make sure it is a well-known manufacturer, a company that has a lot of clout, a big company, a company that's known to make good quality because there are a lot of companies that are out there that can make really crappy probiotics that actually may hurt you.
Now, I've been training in GI for all my life, and so I've seen a ton of information when it comes down to a probiotic. So, when it comes to taking probiotics, the data is not that great. It's more hype and marketing with very little science behind that.
Now, I'm not telling you that it’s not going to help you. For some people it does. For some people, the bloating and gas and the irregularity can get better when you take a probiotic.
But it's not for everyone. Not everyone's going to get a lot of benefit from that.
Keep in mind, the probiotic industry is a multibillion-dollar industry. Yes, billion. There are tons and tons of people who are making money on people trying to take a probiotic to help out with their health.
And the vast majority of people who tell you to take a probiotic get some sort of financial gain from that.
Yes, they do. The sixty or seventy dollars you pay to get that probiotic is going to the person who is actually telling you to take that particular probiotic.
So, here's the gist when it comes down to a probiotic. So, when it comes to our gut microbiome, every single one of us is uniquely different. My gut microbiome is different than yours, different than my parents, different than my wife, and different from my kids. It's just like a fingerprint. Every individual person's fingerprint is unique to them alone.
It's the exact same thing when it comes to your gut microbiome. Mine is very different than yours, and because of that it is very hard for one generic probiotic with generic strains to have an effect on my unique gut microbiome. The hope is that a generic medication may make a difference when it comes to your unique, your personalized, your own gut microbiome. In fact, the matter is its most likely not going to make that much of difference when it comes to you.
In fact, in some people it could actually cause harm, especially if you're immunocompromised.
You take medication to help suppress your immune system. That actually may be worse for you than anything else. So instead of taking a probiotic, here's my approach. This is the hierarchy that I recommend to get the best help you can have and also to get the benefit you may get from everybody.
1. Diet and Lifestyle
By far, this is going to have the biggest impact when it comes to your gut health. One little probiotic bill is not going to make a difference if you're eating a whole bunch of macaroni and cheese, Big Macs, hamburgers, Taco Bell and things like that. You're not going to make a dent when it comes to your gut health. The best thing that you can do is change your diet and your lifestyle.
2. Take probiotic foods.
There are actual foods that can nourish what is going on inside your GI tract, much better and more effectively than a generic probiotic. And the best way to do this is to have a diversity of plants. All plants have fiber, which is a prebiotic food.
This fiber acts as a superpower to the gut microbiome already inside you and helps enhance the good guys and helps to suppress the bad guys. Every single plant has their own prebiotics in them. Those prebiotics can be tailored uniquely to what is going on inside your gut itself. And if you don't do this, there's no way that a probiotic can compensate for that there. Probiotics that you take will help to enhance your unique microbiome and to change in a way that will help out with your gut health.
Here are some of the prebiotics that I recommend. And for a lot of these, you can take them and mix them with your morning coffee. The first one is we dextran. It is a soluble fiber, and it dissolves in coffee. Now, if you have celiac disease, this is something you should not take. But it's a fantastic way to add prebiotic fiber into your gut. And I notice the difference in myself. Acacia powder, which is a tree from Senegal, is also a soluble fiber that you can mix into your coffee that's also dissolvable and tasteless. It is a fantastic prebiotic fiber. So, for this try to get organic.
3. Psyllium Husk
This has both soluble and insoluble fiber. Because of that it has a little bit of a gritty taste to it. So, this I would not recommend adding to your coffee because it'll make your coffee a little bit grittier than what you may be used to.
4. Partially Hydrogenated Sorghum
This also is a soluble fiber, very similar to we dextran or acacia powder. It's soluble and you can add it to your coffee as well.
5. Glucomannan & Beta Glucan
These are two fantastic prebiotic foods that are very effective. They work really, really well. In fact, glucomannan are fantastic for weight loss and basically is great for your immune system. But, both are super, super thick. And so, I would not add this to anything. It's best to take these as a capsule. Now, the best way to take it prebiotic is to take it any time. I would recommend setting routine added to your coffee is typically tasteless and it'll add a superpower to your gut microbiome. Whereas if you take a probiotic, I'll recommend taking that at night so they can go through your whole system where you don't have any interference with any other foods.
These are my thoughts as a GI doctor when it comes to a probiotic. In my opinion, probiotics are OK. It's more hype than anything else. The best thing that you can do is really change your diet, go more towards a plant-based, diverse diet and add in a prebiotic fiber. This I am fully for. I feel like it's going to be much more helpful than taking a probiotic,
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