What, When, Why and How of Probiotics
By now, most of us recognize the importance of taking a daily probiotic. A healthy gut is a healthy person. Your gut comprises about 70% of your immune system and is critical for brain function, body chemistry balance, and getting nutrients into a usable form for the body to absorb. When your microflora, or gut bacteria, becomes imbalanced, your health suffers. In a nutshell, probiotics are invaluable because they can replenish and restore your microfloral balance.
If you’re still looking for a reason to start taking probiotics, think about the last time you had to take antibiotics, and how terrible you felt afterwards. Yes, antibiotics can help clear up some nasty infections, but the problem with them is that, in addition to getting rid of the body’s infection and bad bacteria, they also get rid of the body’s good bacteria colonies. This is why antibiotics also come with an array of side effects, like nausea, diarrhea, and IBS. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you should wait until your antibiotics are finished before you take probiotics. People think that antibiotics will kill probiotics, which is true, but probiotics can ease the side effects of antibiotics. When taking both antibiotics and probiotics together, try to wait two hours after taking antibiotics, to take your probiotics1. Also, continue taking your probiotics even after you finish your round of antibiotics, to ensure their effects are out of your system. If you still need another reason to sway you, how about this: probiotics can help to prevent allergies! When probiotics are taken, studies show that they start to down-regulate the production of chemicals called cytokines, the inflammatory chemicals produced by the immune cells that cause most of the annoying and sometimes life-threatening symptoms related to allergies (Probiotics.com: http://bit.ly/2Ji99k8).
To find a probiotic supplement that replenishes and restores microfloral balance, including your good bacteria, choose one that is:
Stable: Make sure the bacteria count is guaranteed through the product’s expiration date, not just at the time of manufacture.
Heat resistant: Probiotics should be stable at room temperature and heat resistant.
Suitable for travel: Look for a probiotic that has no refrigeration required so you can take your supplement with you wherever you are. It should be taken every day.
Packaged in glass: Find a probiotic that is packaged in glass to avoid deterioration. Plastic bottles can allow moisture in, which results in the destruction of live probiotic cells.
Dairy free: Make sure you find a dairy-free probiotic, since dairy by-products used in manufacturing can easily kill off helpful probiotic strains2.
Did you know that there are also some guidelines for when you should be taking your probiotic and even how you should store it?
Let’s first take a look at when you should be taking your probiotic supplement. Should you take probiotics on an empty stomach or with food? Here is what we know:
- In general, probiotics should be taken with food. There are very few strains of bacteria can withstand the harsh acidity of an empty stomach3.
- Food dilutes stomach acid to levels bacteria can withstand.
- Fewer bacteria have been shown to survive in ‘fasted’ than in fed subjects.
- Food enhances survival and growth of bacteria. Especially high fiber foods that help to feed bacteria.
Now, how should you store your probiotic? Let’s remember, probiotics are comprised of living organisms, and as such, they will survive longer when kept in a cool, dry, environment. Your kitchen or bathroom cabinet is a good spot. You may want to reconsider keeping your probiotics stored in your day-of-the-week pill organizer, because it could compromise how effective they are, if they are exposed to light, temperature changes, and humidity4. Best practice is to only keep a few days of servings in a portable pill caddie at a time. Refill from the bottle stored in dry, cool, environment.
Some probiotics may need to be refrigerated, but if possible, try to find a probiotic that is “shelf-stable,” meaning they can be safely stored at room temperature and do not require refrigeration. Taking bottles in and out of the refrigerator exposes them to moisture condensation.
Probiotics are an investment in your health. Choose the right one for you, and take care of it, and it will take care of you!
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.