How to Choose The Best Probiotic For Your Gut To Help Stop IBS, IBD, UTIs
A common misconception regarding bacteria and other microbes is that they are all dangerous pathogens. However, probiotics are actually considered good bacteria. Strong probiotic colonies in the human microbiome are crucial in keeping pathogenic bacteria at bay and reducing the risk of common infections, including gut and respiratory infections. Good bacteria in the gut are also critical in digesting certain plant fibers (prebiotics) that we would are unable to digest otherwise. They also manufacture vitamins essential to human health, like Vitamin B and K.
Latest Research on Probiotics and Gut Health
The idea of restoring your microbial balance is relatively new. Although Elie Metchnikoff, the “father of probiotics,” proposed the health benefits of probiotics in the early 20th century, interest on how they affect health—specifically gut health—only recently began in the mid-1990s. Other topics that have peaked scientific interest recently include oral, vaginal, and skin microbiomes and how they might help treat and prevent disease.
The microbiome, a largely unexplored part of the human body, and ultimately probiotics, might revolutionize the way we diagnose or even treat diseases. Research, although extensive, is only at the brink of understanding how these microbes affect our health. At the moment, many scientists are focused on how probiotics affect gut health and diseases like obesity and related metabolic disorders, irritable bowel disorders (IBD), depression, and even cancer; however, other microbial environments within and on the human body could hold links to potential therapies and preventative measures as well. The list of potential links between the microbiome and health is endless.
Benefits of Probiotics
Because probiotics are considered dietary supplements, the FDA does not regulate the industry. Therefore, the only health benefits a probiotic label can currently claim are occasional relief from diarrhea, bloating and gas. However, specific strains are undergoing research to understand whether they can be used for treatments of specific diseases. There are other benefits that you might notice while taking a probiotic, including relief from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs), improved oral health, clearer skin, and common illnesses in children.
It is likely that probiotics will play a role in emerging therapeutic treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Mounting evidence has indicated that B. infantis might be the most effective treatment for IBS. Patients in studies experienced relief from abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and constipation.
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Other strains that might prove effective in future studies for IBS treatments include other Bifidobacterium strains as well as Lactobacillus, and Streptococcus species.
The vaginal microbiome, when healthy, should have abundant communities of Lactobacillus spp. communities. Lactobacillus spp. in the vagina produce natural antibiotics that help modulate pH and microbial balances. When cultured, urinary tract infections typically reveal a lack of Lactobacillus and an increased abundance of E. coli levels.
Researchers acknowledge many specific species of bacteria particularly efficient at defending feminine health, protecting against shifts in communities that may cause pathogenic yeast and bacterial overgrowth.
Studies have indicated that Lactobacillus acidophilus may treat bacterial vaginosis when used as a vaginal suppository or in yogurt. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 have revealed powerful effects in reducing the risk of and treating bacterial and fungal vaginal infections.
Lactobacillus crispatus CTV-05, a novel probiotic, as a gelatin vaginal suppository may also modulate vaginal microbiota health by reducing the risk of and treating recurrent bacterial vaginosis and other similar infections.
Scientists believe that the overuse of mouthwash and fluoride might be a contributing factor to oral health. However, recent discoveries within the oral microbiome might change the future of dentistry. Two targeted strains for oral health, S. salivarius BLIS M18 and S. salivarius BLIS K12, have been proven to maintain ear, nose and throat (ENT) health, as well as maintaining dental and gum health. S. salivarius BLIS M18 in studies has also shown to reduce the risk of dental caries in children. Additional research has shown that another strain, Streptococcus A12, might be an effective probiotic used to prevent the development of cavities.
The research on the skin microbiome is somewhat lacking. However, we do know that our microbiome compared to our ancestors’ are somewhat lacking in diversity. Overuse of products like antibacterial soap and bleach has destroyed many of the bacteria that once lived on our skin, potentially aiding health. Small studies have also shown that some probiotic strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum might be useful in the treatment of acne. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has also reduced the risk of developing eczema in children.
One company, MotherDirt, manufactured a skin probiotic that includes ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), which convert ammonia into essential byproducts and help the skin maintain a healthy pH. These bacteria were wiped from the modern day human’s skin microbiome from the overuse of antibiotics, so reintroducing them might be a good way to keep skin infections and unwanted acne at bay.
Previous beliefs held that the womb was sterile and that an infant began developing its microbiota during childbirth. However, we now know that microbiota development begins in the womb. Other research has noted that vaginal birth is extremely important to a child’s developing microbiome: c-section babies are often missing important microbes they would have acquired if born naturally. Some studies have gone as far as slathering c-section babies in a mother’s vaginal microbiota directly after birth. A healthy diet during pregnancy might be more important than already thought, as obesity and other chronic illnesses might be the result of a dysbiotic microbiome since birth.
Research has shown children that received a daily Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic supplement suffered significantly less from diarrhea and respiratory infections. Lactobacillus reuteri has also been proven effective in reducing risk from infant colic. Yet another study indicates that L. reuteri may also be efficacious in preventing acid reflux and constipation as well.
When considering probiotics, search the label for Colony Forming Units (CFUs), which are the number of viable (live) bacteria or fungal cells found within a probiotic. Some probiotics have as little as 1 million CFUs while others have upwards of 50 billion CFUs.
It’s extremely difficult to overdose on probiotics. However, for therapeutic dosages, it is a good idea to start adding probiotics to your diet slowly if you don’t already eat fermented foods and leafy greens or take probiotic supplements. You might start with yogurt or another cultured dairy with live cultures then eventually add higher potencies found in supplements.
Some people with an unhealthy gut might experience die-off, which can include side effects like diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Although these symptoms typically aren’t serious, they can be annoying.
If you feel your gut is already healthy, you can try starting out at a higher CFU. When using a time release capsule, CFUs matter less. Neither veggie or enteric coated probiotics protect the bacteria from stomach acids, and might actually compound inflammation as they release probiotics all at once in the stomach. Time-release probiotics are delivered to your intestines, where they are most effective, over a period of least eight hours.
Some veggie probiotics claim to have over 30 billion CFUs. Science has shown that typically only four percent of the live strains actually make it to your gut. However, a time-release capsule like Power-17 may only have 6 billion CFUs, but 60 percent of these bacteria have been shown to make it to your intestines alive.
Probiotic Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Probiotic for You
It’s important to remember that not all probiotics are created equal. For example, if Bifidobacterium infantis is effective for you and you find a new yogurt or probiotic supplement containing Bifidobacterium lactis, these are not the same bacteria and do not offer the same benefits.
Choosing the right probiotic to suit your needs can be overwhelming. Whether you are looking for a probiotic for maintenance or therapeutic needs, things to consider includes strains, CFUs, pill type (time-release, veggie, or enteric coated), storage requirements, prebiotics, and other ingredients.
Power-17 has more strains than any other probiotic on the market today, created on the idea that a diverse gut microbiome correlates to better overall health. It is a time release, all natural, vegetarian pearl that is easy to swallow. It also has a patented technology, LiveBac, that protects the probiotic strains from environmental factors like heat and moisture, which gives it an extended expiration of 18 months.
Strains: L. fermentum, L. plantarum, B. lactis, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum, B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. gasseri, L. helveticus, L. paracasei, L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus, L. salivarius and S. thermophilus, which are all naturally found in the gut.
CFUs: 6 Billion CFU
Other Information: Contains prebiotics, Non-GMO, allergen free
Culturelle, one of the most studied probiotics on the market, has various products with different CFUs targeted for women’s, digestive and immune health. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been included in over 1,000 clinical studies, which prove its safety and efficacy in maintaining gut health.
Strains: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
CFUs: 15 Billion
If you suffer from IBS, this probiotic might be the best choice to relieve your symptoms. It contains Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, which has been shown to be beneficial for treatment and reducing symptoms like constipation, pain, and gas.
Strains: Bifidobacterium Infantis 35624
CFUs: 1 Billion
Other Information: Contains milk
TruBiotics’ proprietary blend of Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12® and Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5® are two of the most studied probiotic strains in combination. These bacteria support gut health and boost the immune system. Trubiotics capsules have time-release technologies, which allow their strains to survive past stomach acids. In addition, TryPreserve, their packaging, guarantees the expiration date of the probiotics.
Strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5 and Et Bifidobacterium lactis BB12
CFUs: 1.5 Billion
Other Information: Contains milk
The strain included in Floraster, Sacchromyces boulardii lyo CNCM I-745, has undergone extensive studies that indicate it is effective at treating diarrhea. The probiotic is all natural and allergen free. In addition, because this probiotic is a yeast and resistant to antibiotics, it is especially effective for antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Strains: Sacchromyces boulardii lyo CNCM I-745
CFUs: 5 Billion
Other Information: Three-year shelf life
Digestive Advantage includes a proprietary strain Bacillus coagulans BC-30, which has been shown to maintain digestive health and provide relief from abdominal pain and bloating. In addition, it may reduce daily bowel movements. This strain may prove effective for treating Crohn’s disease, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. Although this probiotic is in a veggie capsule, label claims imply that it is able to survive 100x times better than the average probiotic because the specific strain is capable of living through harsh stomach acids.
Strains: Bacillus coagulans BC-30
CFUs: 2 Billion
Other Information: Contains soy
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