Probiotics are live organisms (good bacteria) found naturally in yoghurt, and other fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut. These little organisms control our immune system, so yep, you guessed it, the quality of our health is controlled by our gut. without them we will become pretty sick and under nourished! So, are probiotics really worth it? This has been a huge debate across most of the web, some people are all for probiotics and some say they are a load of baloney.
As a sufferer of recurring SIBO for the past 5 years, I think I have a relatively good idea of the effects probiotics have on the gut and due to my experience I’d say that it’s a delicate supplement to recommend.
Everybody has bacteria in the small intestine, it’s friendly and works pretty hard at keeping everything running smoothly. It’s main focus is to break down the nutrients we eat so that we can absorb as much goodness from what our food as possible. However at some point in everyone’s life that friendly bacteria can be disturbed whether it’s because of IBS, food poisoning, SIBO or medication such as antibiotics. This is when adequate amounts of good bacteria are killed off by bad bacteria. But is this really when we need a little extra help from probiotics?
Do they really work or is it just marketing?
The honest answer is yes they can work if taken correctly. They have to be alive when they reach the small intestine in order to feed and multiply. Unfortunately the billions of live organisms found in probiotics are often killed off by the treacherous journey, which is the ‘digestive tract’ . They have to pass through hydrochloric acid found in the stomach for starters. Also if you suffer with sluggish bowels (colonic inertia) it takes even longer for the little blighters to reach home in your small intestine.
This leads me to Yakult. The little yoghurt drink that is supposed to be so good for your digestion, but did you know that one small bottle can contain 11g of sugar! That’s almost half your RDA! They also add flavouring to make it taste good (most fermented things aren’t the most appealing in flavour). For those of us who suffer with IBS, SIBO or poor malabsorption to particular sugars, I would recommend to stay away from these types of drinks as a source of probiotics, and well…anyone for that matter.
SIBO & Probiotics
My experience is this. When my SIBO flares up I give up on taking probiotics. The first reason is I need to kill/starve of the bad bacteria in the gut by either taking antibiotics or taking antibacterial and anti-fungle remedies, (read my post ‘How to Prevent SIBO’ on how to do that), which in turn will also kill off the ‘good’ bacteria too, counterintuitive right? It is only once you have reduced the ‘bad’ bacteria that you can begin to build up the ‘good’.
So how do I get them to stay alive?
The best time to take them is after a meal preferrably at night before bed, this gives them a fighting chance to make it through the digestive tract using food as protection and helping them to be incognito.
The second most important factor is choosing the strand of bacteria, if you suffer with food intolerances such as lactose intolerance choose a supplement with lactobacillus acidophilus this bacteria is found in dairy products and is usually a long lasting bacteria because the *’acidophilus’ acts as a protector and helps to ferment sugars into lactic acid. As a result it has a better chance of reaching your small intestines.
*Acidophilus is a natural bacteria found in the mouth, small intestines and vagina. People who suffer with SIBO may also suffer with yeast infections.
The last factor is choosing a quality probiotic supplement. There are many brands that claim to have 5 billion live organisms that include lactobacillus but not lactobacillus ‘acidophilus‘. I’ve listed the ones I used in the past for you to have a look at.
For my US friends, these are some probiotic Brands that I recommend:
So yes, probiotics are beneficial to your digestive health you just need to know how to take them and for what purpose. Make sure that you are eating right and exercising enough to get the full effects of taking probiotics.