Probiotics are one of several supplements I regularly use with clients, but not much has to do with the store-bought formulas. I’ve seen so many people benefit from taking probiotics and that includes myself but why don’t I use them in supplement form regularly? And why do I recommend to my clients that they not depend on probiotic supplements as well?
Probiotic supplement strains – have a short course of use or efficacy, then they are done. They are either supported by eating good prebiotic foods or not. Just eat right. Dropping a capsule or formula of probiotic, from different strains from different manufacturers of high repute cannot harm, but don’t waste your money, having a complement of the few strains offered in yogurt, supplements and other celebrated probiotics is an incomplete way to fortify or repopulate a healthy gut after antibiotics. Many, many strains make-up a healthy gut; DIVERSITY is primary. Mix-it-up, have several different fermented foods. Also, surprisingly, it seems dirt and the normal exposures pet-owners and rural-living people have from farming, livestock, and nature in general fill their probiotic needs better than any pill, powder of small number of bacteria in Kafir or other supposedly helpful foods (diversity is KING).
The first reason is that probiotic supplements are proprietary strains. That means they are formulated in laboratories by companies so they can be patented and then sold for profit. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Many companies put out effective probiotic supplements for the few major bacteria we need.
Major Points to Must Remember – Summary: The function of probiotics is to break food down or convert molecules into useful vitamins, trace elements and minerals besides their function to metabolize proteins into useful amino acids, digest fats, carbohydrates, etc. High meat diets, high sugar and high processed foods do not nourish helpful bacteria. Prebiotics like fruits and vegetables do. So, if you don’t eat much of the prebiotic foods, you will not metabolize the good stuff when you actually eat it and the bacteria which proliferates serve no good purpose or actually harm.
My probiotic of choice is “Multi-Probiotic 40 Billion” by Douglas Labs or “Prescript Assist” probiotic are a couple which bring consistently great results with it with my clients. They are clinically tested and have many different strains of microflora.
Dozens of studies using probiotic therapy show benefits in treating IBS, constipation, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and many other digestive issues.
However, few studies have ever been done with actual fermented foods. Why?
Because you can’t patent sauerkraut. Or kimchi. Or any food for that matter.
According to Dr. Mercola on his website, one serving of fermented vegetables has 100 times more beneficial bacteria than an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic product!
And let’s not forget that fermented foods are a part of the diet of every traditional culture on this planet. They have been around as long as humans have been around. It is only recently with the advent of refrigeration and processed foods that many industrialized societies have stopped using traditionally fermented foods.
Katz brought up another interesting point regarding probiotic therapy.
Reason #2 to Stop Taking Probiotics: Bacteria are not genetically stable.
In the first chapter of his new book, The Art of Fermentation, Katz conveys the great mystery of the evolution of bacteria on our planet and the incredible ways in which they communicate, evolve and transform all life, including human beings.
“We know more about the stars in the sky than about the soil under our feet” says microbiologist Elaine Ingham.
Katz depicts bacteria as co-evolvers or even co-creationists in the dance of Life and that they are more influential to our lives and all life on the planet than we can ever realize.
We have not evolved separately from bacteria. We have evolved together and sure enough we could not exist without them.
Recent research shows that bacteria freely exchange genetic material.
This flow of genes allow bacteria to rapidly evolve and adapt to new conditions. It’s the inherent problem with the widespread use of antibiotics in both humans and livestock. Bacteria can adapt quickly and become resistant setting the stage for new diseases and health epidemics.
Katz points out that some microbiologists believe bacteria are not truly distinct species but exist as a continuum across the planet, exchanging and utilizing genes which makes them highly adaptable to so many vastly different living conditions. In fact, the human microbiome, that is, the totality of all the microorganisms that reside on and in human beings, contains one hundred times more genes than human beings.
A Not So Appealing Fact About Your Belly Button, A recent MIT study also found that the bacteria that reside on and in humans are 25 times more likely to exchange genes than non-human bacteria. Nobody knows why but we know that just as humans are adaptable to almost every climate and landscape on earth, so are bacteria adaptable to all the micro-climates and micro-landscapes of the human body. Armpits, eyebrows, toenails, gums, stomach and intestines all offer vastly different niches for different strains of bacteria.
Of course, the majority of the human microbiome resides in our gut and the research on these intestinal bacteria is nothing short of mind-blowing, literally speaking. In addition to playing vital roles in our physical health, it turns out they may be able to influence our mental health as well.
Before I get too far out on a tangent, what that means for us is that specific strains of bacteria may not be as important as once thought. In other words, probiotic therapy is based on the belief that certain strains are vital for our health. And so we take these capsules with billions of strains of Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacteria and maybe a few others. Every company has a different formulation of different strains with different studies and reasons why their formulation is best.
However, the genetic fluidity of bacteria suggests that variety and diversity may be more beneficial than specific strains. This is certainly what Katz believes. And it makes sense to me as well. After all, if there are hundreds of newly identified bacteria in our belly buttons, who knows how many have yet to be discovered in fermented foods?
So while a probiotic supplement may offer help, over the long term I think it’s more important to regularly incorporate Nature’s true probiotics, fermented foods.
Reason #3 to Stop Taking Probiotics: Your Digestive Issue is in the Past.
This is why I stopped taking probiotics and this is when I tell my clients to stop taking probiotics. Nevertheless, many people continue to take pricey probiotic supplements for preventative reasons.
While I think that’s safer than taking drugs like statins for preventative reasons, remember, fermented foods give us a far greater variety and complexity of beneficial bacteria than probiotic supplements. While we can’t deny the benefits of probiotic supplementation, over the long term I trust the thousands of years of fermented foods in the human diet more than laboratory formulations.
Give me fermented foods over supplements any day. Much tastier too.
Learn to Make Fermented Vegetables at Home
While you certainly can find good sources of fermented foods in your local health food store, it’s a lot more rewarding (and cost efficient) to make them at home.
All my clients learn about the health benefits of fermented foods. And my absolute favorite module of myonline digestive wellness program is when I teach course members how to make them at home.