I have spent a considerable amount of time researching over the past few months on probiotics. Probiotics are supplements that contain the types of bacteria normally found in a healthy digestive tract. These bacterial strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are found everywhere in our environment and help to keep our digestive tracts healthy. They help us to digest our food, create important vitamins such as the B-vitamins and Vitamin K, and make many minerals more bio-available such as iron and calcium. They also help our bodies to detoxify and eliminate toxic metals such as mercury, aluminum and lead. From the moment we are born these billions of bacterium establish themselves in our gut and work together with our body in a mutually beneficial way. In fact, over 90% of the genetic material found in the human body comes from these microorganisms!
Unfortunately, over the past century or so we have drastically changed our relationship with these microbes. Instead of beneficial bacteria many of us have opportunistic and pathogenic microbes in our gut such as Clostridia, Candida, Staphylococci, and more. Instead of beneficial vitamins and nutrients these pathogens create harmful chemicals and toxins that clog up our body and overload our detoxification systems.
In order to restore the balance of microbiota in the intestinal system it can be helpful to use a therapeutic grade of probiotic as a supplement. There are many probiotic products out there on the market and a good many of them are an unfortunate waste of money. Here are some of the most important features I look for in a good quality product.
Superdophilus Dairy Powder from Natren - Lactobacillus Acidophilus is the primary bacteria found in the small intestines. This is a super strain that adheres well to the gut wall. This is what you want to supplement with if you have nutrient absorption problems, anemia, food sensitivities, auto-immune diseases, allergies, indigestion, heartburn, gas and bloating, and other digestive complaints. Start with 1 billion bacterium per day and gradually increase to a therapeutic dose of 15-20 billion. A maintenance dose is typically half of the therapeutic dose although it may vary per individual. Children ages 4-10 should receive no more than 12 billion per day.
Bifidonate Dairy Powder from Natren - Bifidobacteria Bifidophilus is the primary bacteria found in the large intestines, urinary tract and genital area. Supplement with this if you have colitis, Irritable Bowel, Diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, Constipation, Diarrhea, cramping pains in the abdomen, yeast infections, jock itch, prostatitis, frequent urinary tract infections, vaginitis and other reproductive disorders. Start with 1 billion bacterium per day and gradually increase to a therapeutic dose of 15-20 billion per day. A maintenance dose is typically half of the therapeutic dose although it may vary per individual. Children ages 4-10 should receive no more than 12 billion per day.
Life Start Dairy Powder from Natren - Bifidobacteria Infantis is the primary strain found in a healthy infant's digestive tract. This should be used for children up to the age of four years that were born by caesarean, not breastfed, received antibiotics either during birth or afterwards, have frequent ear infections and illnesses, have eczema, allergies, acid reflux, colic, food sensitivities, autism, ADD, ADHD, and more. For an infant up to 1 year of age begin with a small amount and increase to no more than 1-2 billion bacterium per day. Ages 1-2 should use no more than 4 billion per day and 2-4 years should have no more than 8 billion bacterium per day as a therapeutic dose. A maintenance dose is typically half the therapeutic dose.
Trenev Trio Capsules from Natren - This product contains three super strains of bacteria in one product. The bacterium are kept separate by using an oil-matrix that carries them past the stomach acidity and releases them in the small intestine as the oil is emulsified by bile. This product contains a high amount of bacterium and so should be used with caution if you have chronic digestive issues. Use one capsule daily if you are currently on antibiotics or have recently been on them; have been under extreme stress; have experienced a "tummy-bug" or recent food poisoning; or would like to boost your immune system to fight off illness.
As you supplement with probiotics it is not unusual to have a "die-off" reaction as the chemical byproducts of the beneficial bacteria kill off the pathogens in your gut. This can cause fatigue, aching, an off-color feeling, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other digestive discomforts. This reaction typically lasts no more than a few days to one week. Hold at your previous level of probiotic until the symptoms subside.
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.