Top Tips for Taking Probiotics
by David Perlmutter, M.D., Board-Certified Neurologist, #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition
There’s no question that probiotics have proven themselves when it comes to health and vitality. And for those of us involved in reviewing the ever-evolving science related to probiotics, the number of supportive research publications now being published may, at times, appear staggering.
Nonetheless, there are some fundamental points that remain well established in terms of deciding on the best choices when it comes to selecting a probiotic that will offer up the top resource for enriching and enhancing your gut bacteria. These include:
- Always choose a probiotic supplement with at least 10 billion live organisms per dosage. Keep in mind that the probiotic supplement should ensure (in writing) that you’ll continue to receive this number throughout the shelf life of the product.
- Avoid taking probiotics with chlorinated water. Chlorine is added to municipal water systems to kill bacteria, and this could very well impact the effectiveness of your probiotic supplement.
- Probiotics are best consumed on an empty stomach, when stomach acid levels are lower.
- Make sure you provide a nurturing environment for your probiotic organisms by consuming adequate amounts of prebiotic fiber. Foods rich in prebiotic fiber include jicama, dandelion greens, onions, garlic leeks, and there are terrific prebiotic supplements available as well. Look for supplements made from acacia gum and baobab fruit as they are highly effective and well tolerated.
- Look for probiotics with a wide array of different bacteria. There are now some excellent products that contain 14 different strains. Keep in mind that there are five key organisms that should certainly be a part of any probiotic that you may choose. These include:
- Lactobaccilus plantarum: Found in kimchi, sauerkraut, and other cultured vegetables, this bug is one of the most beneficial bacteria in your body. It survives in the stomach for a long time and performs many functions that help regulate immunity and control inflammation in the gut. It also helps fortify the gut lining, fending off potential invaders that might compromise the intestinal wall and sneak into the bloodstream. In fact, plantarum’s beneficial impact on the gut lining is perhaps its most important attribute, for it reduces gut permeability, thereby reducing the associated risks for leaky gut—including an increased risk for virtually every brain disorder. Moreover, L. plantarum can quickly digest protein, and this may reduce food allergies and even treat such allergies when they arise. It’s been shown in experimental animal studies to protect engineered mice from having clinical symptoms of multiple sclerosis and even reduce the inflammatory response typical of that condition. Finally, L. plantarum has an uncanny ability to absorb and maintain important nutrients such as brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants. All of these actions make L. plantarum essential for fighting infection and taking control of any pathogenic bacteria.
- Lactobaccilus acidophilus: acidophilus is the darling of fermented dairy products, including yogurt. It keeps the balance of good vs. bad bacteria in check and in doing so, aids your immune system. In women, it helps to curb the growth of Candida albicans, a fungus that can cause yeast infections. L. acidophilus has also gained fame for its ability to help maintain cholesterol levels. In the small intestine, L. acidophilus produces many beneficial substances that combat pathogenic microbes, including acidolphilin, acidolin, bacteriocin, and lactocidin.
- Lactobaccilus brevis: Sauerkraut and pickles owe a lot of their benefits to this bug, which improves immune function by increasing cellular immunity and even enhancing killer T cell activity. It’s so effective in combating vaginosis, a common bacterial infection of the vagina, that it’s added to pharmaceuticals used to treat it. brevis also acts to inhibit the effects of certain gut pathogens. Perhaps best of all, it has been shown to increase levels of that all-star brain growth hormone BDNF.
- Bifidobacterium lactis (also called animalis): Fermented milk products like yogurt contain this gem, which is well documented to have a powerful effect on preventing digestive ills and boosting immunity. It’s also known to be helpful in knocking out foodborne pathogens like salmonella, which causes diarrhea.
- Bifidobacterium longum: Just one of the 32 species that belong to the genus bifidobacterium, this is one of the first bugs that colonize our bodies at birth. It has been associated with improving lactose tolerance and preventing diarrhea, food allergies and the proliferation of pathogens. It’s also known to have antioxidant properties as well as the ability to scavenge free radicals. In laboratory mice, longum has been shown to reduce anxiety. Like L. acidophilus, B. longum also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
So keep these things in mind when choosing your probiotics.