Just as your gastro-intestinal (GI) system is at the very core of your health, the flora that live there is the backbone to the GI system. We have trillions of bacteria cells in our intestines, which is more than all the cells of our body, and of those trillions of cells, there can be hundreds of different species of microorganisms.
So why are these little bugs so important?
They detox and help remove toxic heavy metals from your body, they produce vitamin K along with some B vitamins, as well as help the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc.
They also fight many other microorganisms like E coli, clostridium and H.pylori, the causitive agent for stomach ulcers, helping to keep the numbers of those undesirable bacteria at lower numbers.
(if you want to see a much larger list of what probiotics do, click here to see a very comprehensive PDF I created about my probiotics).
The difference between someone who experiences a lot of gas verses someone who does not is usually from the bacterial balance of the GI system. Probiotics for treating gas- indeed! But know that this can require a few months or more to turn someone around, depending on their situation.
How to Choose Probiotics
I have my own brand of probiotics as I take them very seriously, having so many patients depending on what I prescribe to improve their health. So I know the species in the bottle and know they are viable, I know the manufacturer, and I know that I get fantastic results, or I would be out of business! I can’t trust to have a patient just go to any health food store to get just any probiotic. That said, get your probiotics solely from a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist you trust and work with. (and you can click here to order my brand of course).
But if you are shopping for probiotics at your health food store, know they are not all created equal, and this is where you have to be more diligent.
Each bottle you pick up will contain its own blend, at varying levels of potency. You will see probiotics containing 2 billion per capsule which sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But there are probiotics that contain 25 to 50 billion per capsule and that is what you want to be looking for.
In addition, the species must pass through the stomach without being killed by the acidic environment down there. Certain species will pass through stomach acid nicely, and others may be more vulnerable to it. To further complicate matters not all products have as many live bacteria in them that are promised on the label, or they have species that are contaminants from the growing process that are not listed on the label…Confusing to say the least.
Probiotics are staying inside the gastro-intestinal tract and not crossing over to get into your bloodstream. For that reason they are still part of the outside world. Know that there is absolutely no toxicity involved in using probiotics. You can take any number of capsules for however long you want and never have to worry about negative affects. They are also safe during all stages of pregnancy.
Cultured Dairy and the Like
And lastly, what about yogurt, kefir, and various cultured vegetables? These are excellent and will offer you good results while you are consuming them. However, these are usually more transient bacteria, meaning that the species that culture dairy do not necessarily want to take up residence in your intestines. So three days after eating the cultured products, those bugs are usually gone, whereas three months after taking an excellent quality probiotic capsule, those bacteria are hopefully still there growing, happily taking over the neighborhood and pushing out the undesirables.
And Lastly, When to Take Probiotics:
There has always been an area of controversy about when to take probiotics. Empty stomach or with meals?
Some labels still say to take on an empty stomach, but when the stomach is empty it can be at its most acidic level, somewhere down around pH of 2, which can kill bacteria. When you add food to the mix, the pH goes up, closer to neutral (but still acidic) to anywhere from 3.0 to 6.0.
I suggest about an hour to two hours after eating, as that is when the stomach is emptying, so that should mean the least amount of time in the stomach and the least exposure to acids for the probiotics.
The ones I carry do have a technology to ensure they survive the stomach acid, so you really could take those at any time that is convenient for you, not just an hour or two after a meal.