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Should I Be Taking Probiotics?


 

Good question! Yes – most people benefit from the positive effects of Probiotics. Probiotics, which are live “good” bacteria, are often consumed to support and build health, specifically gut health. Studies have shown that gut health is strongly correlated with our overall health and wellbeing. In fact, chronic diseases, anxiety, depression, autoimmune diseases, and eczema are a few conditions that are related to a dysfunction between the gut-brain axis1. If our gut isn’t healthy, it communicates that message to our brain and as a result we begin to experience uncomfortable symptoms.

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Our gut is comprised of many bacteria and yeast that aids in the process of digestion, the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and is responsible for hormone production and health of the immune system. If our microbiome (all the bacteria that reside in our gut) is imbalanced, meaning there are too many “bad” bacteria that produce toxins and make us sick, and not enough “good” bacteria that are responsible for proper digestion and hormone production, the body starts to produce symptoms. A few signs that you may have an imbalanced gut microbiome are: gas, bloating, diarrhea, anxiety, moodiness, sugar cravings, bad breath, skin conditions, irritable bowel syndrome and more2. These symptoms are definitely not comfortable, and it might be worth looking into taking probiotics to help your gut become more balanced.

Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when purchasing probiotics:

  • Food sources are a great source of probiotics: kim chi, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, yogurt.
  • Probiotic supplements tips:

o   Read the label! Prices can vary and so does the quality. If the bottle is cheap, the quality is most likely cheap as well. Choose a brand that is reputable.

o   Pick a probiotic that has bacteria strands in the BILLIONS, this will be the most beneficial for your gut.

o   Pick a probiotic that has a variety of bacterial strands. This way you will populate your gut with multiple strands of bacteria which increases the “good guys”.

o   Once finished with a bottle, for your next purchase choose a probiotic with different strains than your previous bottle to help populate the gut with more good bacteria.

o   Always make sure to check the expiration date and be sure to adhere to storing instructions. Many probiotics require refrigeration.

  • Most beneficial strands of probiotics3:

o   “Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum – bacteria that reside in the small intestine and upper GI tract among your immune cells.”

o   “Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium bifidum that reside in the large intestine or the lower bowel, which are critical areas for health.”

Other important tips to keep in mind:

  • The bad bacteria thrive off of sugar and processed foods. Nourish your body with healthy foods to provide an environment that the good bacteria can flourish!

Studies show that our diet, our lifestyle and overall stress play a crucial role in our ability to handle incoming stress1. While probiotics can help balance the microbiome, ultimately it is our nervous system that is responsible for effective communication with our gut, and helping the body adapt to the stressors we encounter on a daily basis.

Resources:

  1. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis
  2. A guide to probiotics…
  3. A Gastroenterologist’s Guide to Probiotics

 

 

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