Gut Health - Probiotic Myths
In our last blog we discussed the different types of probiotics, in this blog we are going to debunk four of the most popular probiotic myths.
Myth #1: Probiotics do not survive stomach acid
It is true that most probiotics have a hard time surviving the acidic PH of the stomach but there are technologies that protect against this. Look for probiotics with encapsulation technology and strains that have been shown to survive the intestinal
tract. Spore forming bacteria are dormant and able to survive high temperatures. The idea is that spore formers can easily colonize in the colon but another thing to consider is that transient bacteria have great benefits to offer too even if they don’t colonize in the GI tract. Because of this, transient probiotics need to be taken regularly.
Myth #2: There are already so many bacteria in your stomach that adding a few more is pointless
If there are trillions of bacteria in our stomach what good could another billion really do? This line of thinking makes sense, but the end goal may not be for the strains to colonize, the overall goal is to support a healthy microbiome. Probiotics can swap genes with the existing bacteria through horizontal gene transfer and they can stimulate the immune system. They can also influence inflammation. Probiotics can neutralize toxins that may be contributing to a leaky gut. Introducing new bacteria on a regular basis will support these functions even if they are just passing through for a visit.
Myth #3: Supplements aren’t necessary. Why not just eat some yogurt?
Most of our yogurt is commercialized meaning pasteurized so the bacteria are killed, and the product is filled with sugar. Your gut doesn’t need any extra sugar. You may still receive some probiotic effects but yogurt itself is not a probiotic. Natural and homemade yogurt is great, however, for probiotics to stimulate the immune system they must be present in large amounts which cannot be provided by yogurt.
Myth #4: Fermented foods have more bacteria variety than probiotics, making supplements inferior.
Some people prefer to eat fermented foods to get the full range of bacteria that nature intended but not all strains are created equal. At this time there are only a few bacteria strains that are officially considered probiotic, meaning they’ve been shown through research to exhibit health benefits in the gut.
Fermented foods are great, but they cannot deliver therapeutic doses of live bacteria. Many probiotics are based on particularly beneficial strains like lactobacillus that may be lacking in the gut. Adding in these particular strains can help the gut rebuild and maintain balance.
Probiotics have taken off in recent years as a health craze in an attempt to restore our health and nurture a healthy microbiome that has been damaged by our modern lifestyle. Now that we realize the importance of these microbes, we’re starting to pay more attention to keeping our inner and outer ecosystems intact.
With advancements with genomics we’re able to look at strains in a way that we were not able to before and we’re learning that not all strains are the same. More importantly, what a strain creates may be more important than the species itself.
This is why many companies are investing in research around their own patented strains. Anyone one can isolate lactobacillus for example from yogurt and start his or her own culture, but one person’s lactobacillus may not be the same as their neighbors and it may not have the same actions or health benefits. Also, a strains health benefits depends largely on the food it’s given just like us.
We’ve been eating bacteria from our soil on our plants and in our food for a long time. Probiotics are actually everywhere because really bacteria are everywhere. It’s only a recent phenomenon that we’ve become so clean. The idea that we need to add probiotics back in not only makes sense but may be essential for reestablishing our microbiomes.
Take a look at your current lifestyle. Do you think you were deprived of bacteria and may benefit from probiotics? Remember always consult with your doctor before taking or trying a probiotic supplement to make sure they are right for you.