Ten Things You Need To Know About Probiotics

Ten Things You Need To Know About Probiotics

Probiotics are all the rage. Marketers are shouting about the digestive benefits of their patented bacteria-infused yogurts and celebrities are touting the wonders of probiotic creams and cosmetics.

Why is everyone so excited about the bacteria living in your gut?

Good news is there is ample evidence to show that if we can shift the microbial colonies living on our bodies in favor of certain strains of bacteria, we can reap a range of health benefits.

A significant body of research shows probiotics can counter gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation. Healthy bacteria have also performed well in studies testing immunity, lowering blood pressure in hypertensives, reducing plaque formation that lead to cavities, reducing depression, and balancing blood sugar.

A few studies even show probiotics may promote the loss of belly fat, likely by improving how the body metabolizes energy. Probiotics are also the newest frontier in sports supplements.  A Harvard study found that elite runners have more of certain strains of bacteria that allow them to lower lactate levels (the substance that accumulates during intense exercise and makes your muscles burn) and metabolize energy efficiently.

It appears that the key to improving our health, metabolism, and physical performance is to optimize our microbial environments (known as the microbiome). Probiotic supplementation is part of this equation, but the reality is that it’s not going to save us if we run ourselves ragged and don’t do the little things that can protect our microbiomes. What follows are actions you ten things you know to protect your microbiome.

#1: Set Your Gut Up For Success

Many people are hammering their guts with harmful medications, inflammatory foods, and poor lifestyle habits, resulting in an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. A probiotic may help in this situation by shifting the colony of beneficial bacteria and crowding out the “bad” microbes. But before you go spending your money on a supplement, you need to set yourself up for success.

The first step is to shift your diet so that you are eating plenty of high-fiber vegetables and fruit and removing refined and processed foods. Fiber feeds the “good” gut bacteria, allowing them to proliferate. Plant foods also contain phytonutrients that interact with harmful bacteria and have an anti-inflammatory effect.

#2: Get Probiotics In Food

Healthy bacteria are naturally found in fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kefir, and a range of other traditional foods. Although it’s not guaranteed that these foods will contain live bacteria, some studies show regularly eating fermented foods can improve gut health and reap benefits such as better mood, less inflammation, and increased insulin sensitivity.

 #3: But Yogurt Probably Isn’t Enough

Due to very effective marketing campaigns, many people think all they need for a healthy microbiome is to eat a yogurt a day. Manufacturers of probiotics often select specific bacterial strains for their products because they know how to grow them in large numbers, not because they are adapted to the human gut or known to improve health.  The strains of bacteria that are typically found in many yogurts and pills may not be the same kind that can survive the highly acidic environment of the human stomach colonize the gut.

#4: Opt For Research-Tested Probiotics Strains

Fortunately, scientists have identified probiotic strains that yield measurable health outcomes. Here are four examples of what to look for:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM
  • Bifidobacterium lactis BI-07 or HN019
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

#5: Prioritize Quality When Choosing A Probiotic

Supplements aren’t regulated in the way prescription drugs are, which means that supplement companies can put all sorts of random things into their products as fillers. There are also manufacturing accidents: A few years ago, an ABC Dophilus powder made by Solgar was found to have a fungus that triggered a deadly intestinal infection in an infant.

Therefore, it’s necessary to research your probiotics prior to purchasing and ensure the company exceeds the FDA Good Manufacturing Practices. Don’t buy the cheapest supplement out there—the rock bottom brand is unlikely to have live bacteria or be produced in a safe, sterile environment.

#6: Choose Probiotics Guaranteed Through The Date Of Expiration

Many probiotic supplements are only guaranteed to be “alive” at the time of manufacturing. For them to benefit you, they need to be alive when you pop them in your mouth and then they need to survive stomach acid and make it to your intestinal tract. High quality probiotics have engineered their supplements to do this—and there’s no need refrigerate them either.

#7: Choose A Supplement With A Minimum of 10 Billion Live Bacteria

Millions of bacteria sound like a lot, but research shows that’s just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the trillions living in your GI tract. Studies show best results from supplementing with live bacteria numbers in the billions.

#8: Probiotics May Help Counter Antibiotic Resistance

One reason for the growing problem of antibiotic resistance is that people stop their antibiotics early due to unpleasant side effects. When you quit antibiotics early, the dangerous bacteria have an opportunity to mutate and flourish. By taking probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics, you can nurture the protective bacteria in your gut and boost your immunity. In most cases, probiotics should be taken two hours after taking an antibiotic tablet to give the healthy bacteria the best chance of survival.

#9: Supplementing With Resistant Starch Can Feed Your Good Bacteria

Resistant starch is a type of fiber that is resistant to digestion and will feed the live bacteria in the GI tract. When gut bacteria feed on resistant starch, they produce a short chain fatty acid called butyrate that is involved in promoting the health of the intestinal cell layer in the gut. Resistant starch is found when starchy foods like potatoes are rice are cooked and then cooled. You can also get it by supplementing with 20 to 30 grams of unmodified potato starch.

#10: Probiotics May Help You Reduce Belly Fat

Belly fat is the dangerous fat that surrounds your organs, causes inflammation, and increases risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Probiotic supplementation may help you decrease it by lowering inflammation and reducing the number of calories absorbed from food. For example, one study found that when overweight volunteers drank 7 oz. of fermented milk containing live bacteria (Lactobacillus Gasseri SBT2055) for 12 weeks, they decreased belly fat by 4.6%. Remember, lifestyle habits like exercise and a healthy diet will improve any benefits you get from a probiotic.


Akkasheh, G., et al. Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition. 2016. 32(3):315-20.

Hulston, C., et al. Probiotic supplementation prevents high-fat, overfeeding-induced insulin resistance in human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015. 113(4):596-602.

Kadooka, Y., Sato, M., et al. Regulation of Abdominal Adiposity by Probiotics (Lactobacillus Gasseri SBT2055) in Adults with Obese Tendencies in a Randomized Controlled Trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010. Reid, G., et al. Potential uses of probiotics in clinical practice. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2003. 16(4):658.

Khalesi, S., et al. Effect of probiotics on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Hypertension. 2014. 64(4):897-903.

Michalickova, D., et al. Lactobacillus helveticus Lafti L10 Supplementation Modulates Mucosal and Humoral Immunity in Elite Athletes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2017. 31(1). 62-70.

Mohammadi, A., et al. The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers. Nutritional Neuroscience. 2016. 19(9):387- 395.

Ruan, Y., et al. Effect of Probiotics on Glycemic Control: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Trials. PLoS One. 2015. 10(7):e0132121.

Sarowska, J., et al. The therapeutic effect of probiotic bacteria on gastrointestinal diseases. Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine. 2013. 22(5):759-66.