Bacteria have a bad rap.
Ever since Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovered them back in 1676, we’ve thought of them as a source of sickness. It’s only been within the last 75 years that we’ve come to recognize that they can be helpful, and no one was even talking about probiotics when Roy Fuller coined the term in his paper, Probiotics in Man and Animals, appearing in the Journal of Applied Bacteriology back in 1989.
Since then, the science behind the symbiotic relationship between humans and bacteria has grown rapidly and the number of probiotics available in the consumer market has exploded.
The science is pretty clear. Our gut microbiome is absolutely crucial to our health in a variety of ways.
But how do you choose the right probiotic? Well, that’s a different story.
If you’re struggling to make that choice for yourself or you have clients who could benefit, here’s our guide to sourcing an effective probiotic.
1. Determine your health goals
As with any health decision, having a clear goal is important.
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you don’t have a destination, any road will get you there.” However, that road may be really bumpy and where you end up might not be where you really want to be.
So ask yourself, “What is my goal?”
Is your goal to overcome irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), optimize your cognition and memory, sleep better at night, have more balanced energy throughout the day or improve your mood?
Once you know that initial goal, you can move on to the next step.
2. Know your bacteria
We’re learning that different species of bacteria have different health effects.
For example, Lactobacillus plantarum may improve iron absorption. So, if you’re borderline anemic, a probiotic carrying this strain could be very helpful. Lactobacillus plantarum has also been shown to reduce feelings of sadness, anger and fatigue.
In fact, Lactobacillus plantarum is such a helpful strain, BiOptimizers has created their own strain for their P3-OM probiotic.
Lactobacillus reuteri is another species that scientists have highlighted as having powerful health effects, including reducing inflammation, promoting sleep and dreams, improving skin and hair health and reducing IBS symptoms.
So be sure to think about your goals and then do your research!
3. Finding a quality probiotic
Once you have a goal and you’ve identified helpful bacteria species, it’s time to find a high quality probiotic.
Choose a probiotic that:
- Survives stomach acid and the digestive system.
- Contains viable bacteria at clinical potency (in the tens of billions of colony-forming units).
- Is supported by 3rd-party lab testing and clinical studies.
- Is produced in a certified and up-to-date, and well-maintained manufacturing facility.
When you go to the product pages for probiotics you’re considering, you should see that same kind of information, along with scientific studies supporting their efficacy. Here’s an example of a trustworthy product page.
And of course, talk about your options with a well-qualified health practitioner (such as a CHEK Practitioner Level 3).
Going through that process is the best way to choose an effective probiotic.
4. Be patient
In some cases, people experience beneficial effects from taking probiotics right away. People who take probiotics containing Lactobacillus reuteri often report improved sleep and lucid dreaming after taking their first dose.
That said, remember steps 1 and 2 from above.
Depending on your goals and current health, it can take up to 3- 4 weeks for you to experience positive effects from your probiotics. You may also need to start with small doses and work your way up to a full dose.
Again, work with your health professional to help you set realistic expectations and determine the right way to take your probiotics for maximum effect.
That’s our starter’s guide to probiotics. Give it a try, and it’ll take you a long way toward finding something that really works for you.