Probiotics are a big topic. They’re live bacteria that our digestive systems need to function optimally. Our immune system and hormones even take instructions from the good bacteria (i.e. probiotics) in our body.
Some estimations say that we have about 50 trillion bacteria in the human body – that’s more bacteria than human cells! To keep our health in balance, incorporating a good quality probiotic can be one of the simplest things to help you live your best life. But before we grab any product, let’s avoid the most common mistakes of choosing a probiotic.
Taking the Wrong Type
While this topic could be an entire book on its own, the short-and-sweet of it is that different probiotic types (or ‘genus’), do different things. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
However, there are a few things to consider. The two main genus names in probiotic formulas are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Both have many strains like Bifidobacterium Longum or Lactobacillus Casei. Formulas often contain a balanced mix of the two, but some strains are better for certain health concerns than others.
Lactobacillus is found in higher concentrations in the upper respiratory tract, stomach, and vaginal tract. Bifidobacterium is mostly located in the large intestine (colon). Keeping these factors in mind may help you better understand which probiotic formula is right for your needs. Some are better suited for immune health, while others focus on women’s health or general digestive support. No two formulas are exactly alike, and getting a personalized recommendation from a licensed healthcare practitioner is always encouraged.
Taking the Wrong Dose
More isn’t always better when it comes to probiotics. A general maintenance dose of probiotics is often 5-25 billion per day. Taking higher doses (>50 billion) is best reserved for those who were recently on a course of antibiotics, or those who have intestinal specific concerns (such as inflammatory bowel disease). I often recommend a standard maintenance dose product to be kept in the medicine cabinet (or fridge, since many products need to be refrigerated), and simply double up on the dose if you feel the need for some extra support.
Taking it at the Wrong Time
Did you know that it makes a difference when you take your probiotic? Firstly, most formulas are not resistant to stomach acid. This can be an issue. You may see the term ‘enteric coated’, which means the capsule will not be destroyed by stomach acid and will make its way safely to the lower parts of your digestive tract (where we usually want them to work their magic!).
If your probiotic is not enteric coated, take it with food to minimize the amount of breakdown that occurs in the stomach. Another factor to consider is sensitive digestive systems. If you tend to get bloated or gassy with probiotics it’s important to note that you may have a larger gut imbalance going on (consider working with a naturopathic doctor on this). On the other hand, some people may just feel more comfortable taking their probiotics before bed (especially if you’re consuming higher doses). This can help limit any minor gut disturbances that may occur and can keep you on track with your health plan.
Are you planning to add probiotics to your health regime? I’d love to hear about your favourite probiotics in the comments below!
Dr. Laura Belus is a Naturopathic Doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.