Updated: Jun 7
The gut has between 300 and 1000 different bacteria species and trillions of different bacteria strains making up the microbiome. More and more studies are proving that the health of our gut plays a huge role in our overall wellbeing – body and mind. Therefore, the more varied the mix of good bacteria in the gut, the healthier and happier you will be.
This gut microbiome helps us to maintain a healthy balance throughout the entire body. Did you know that 70-80% of our immune system is within the gut? This healthy gut bacteria also supports:
Digestion of food
Production and absorption of nutrients
Hormone metabolism and production or detoxifying enzymes
Neutralization of pathogens
And neurotransmitter production (such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine)
We live in synergy with the bacterial colonies that inhabit our intestines. Imbalances in this gut flora, whether it’s an absence of beneficial bacteria or an overgrowth of ‘bad bacteria’, can bring about a wide variety of health complications.
There are many factors that can alter the quantity and quality of the microflora in your gut (and the health of your gut in general) such as:
Medications/drug use (antibiotics & PPIs)
Nutrient depleted diets high in sugar and processed foods
Babies born by C-Section or are unable to breast feed
Inflammation due to pathogenic bacteria (‘bad bugs’)
Lack of exercise
This gut microbiome helps us to maintain a healthy balance throughout the entire body. Many complications due to a lack of ‘good bacteria’ are digestive in nature, but microbial imbalances can influence various aspects of our health. Did you know we can experience symptoms of an imbalance in the gut both physically and mentally? The gut is called the second brain as the brain and the GI system are connected via the vagus nerve. The gut sends far more information to the brain than the brain sends to the gut.
Symptoms Due to a Lack of Beneficial Bacteria in the Gut:
Digestive (bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, cramping, etc.)
Increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
Skin issues or rashes including eczema, acne, and psoriasis
Blood sugar irregularities or Diabetes
Mental, emotional and behavioral imbalances
Sugar cravings, excessive appetite, or loss of appetite
Weight gain or weight loss resistance
Muscle aches/pains or Fibromyalgia
Poor immune system
Probiotics are ‘good’ bugs, which we can constantly replenish through our diet:
Pickles and pickled vegetables
Yogurt (plain, no added sugar, active cultures)
Yogurt (plain, no added sugar, active cultures)
These probiotics also need nourishing food to help them grow. Prebiotics are the fiber-rich foods that probiotics feed and grow on. Some examples of prebiotics include:
Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke)
In addition, a compound called butyric acid is produced when the probiotics break down prebiotic foods in the colon. Butyric acid is the preferred form of fuel for the cells that line the colon, so they can carry out normal functions. It also supports digestion, reduces inflammation, and serves to acidify the environment, making it harder for harmful bacteria to survive.
In the past, regular consumption of fermented foods helped to maintain healthy gut flora, but these foods are increasingly rare in our diet today. The combination of unhealthy lifestyles and a lack of fermented foods in the diet makes it important for most people to supplement with probiotics.
The benefits of taking Probiotics as a Dietary Supplement:
Assists with digestion and nutrient assimilation
Helps inhibit the overgrowth of harmful opportunistic bacteria and yeast
Supports and promotes a normal, healthy immune system
Assists with proper elimination and bowel regularity
Helps restore/maintain balanced flora disrupted by antibiotics, drugs, stress, poor nutrition and toxins
Supports a healthy inflammatory process
Beneficial for GI conditions including IBS, colitis, candida, & dysbiosis
Improves insulin sensitivity, therefore preventing diabetes
Supports mood balance (depression, anxiety, etc.)
Balances cholesterol and blood pressure
Decreases cravings and supports healthy weight
Supports healthy brain function (cognitive health and focus)
Improves skin health
Probiotics are especially beneficial for infants and children that were delivered via C-section, are formula fed or for those unable to be breastfed. Other benefits of probiotics for infants and children include:
Healthy immune system maturation and health (specifically respiratory tract infections)
Improved stool frequency and consistency
Decreased infantile colic
Decreased atopic dermatitis or eczema
Supports infants whose mothers received antibiotics during pregnancy/lactation
Supports children not eating a well-balanced diet rich in dietary fiber (picky eaters)
Supports antibiotic-associated gastrointestinal complaints and decreases need for antibiotic use
Reduces frequency and severity of abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea in children
Decreases chance of food allergies and sensitivities
Improves cognitive function – focus and concentration (ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome reduction)
Improves oral health, decreases cavities
Popular Probiotic Strains and their benefits:
Lactobacillus acidophilus: Boosts the immune system, significantly reduces the incidence and duration of cold and flu symptoms, improves colitis, enables immune maturation in unborn babies, improves microbiome diversity following antibiotic therapy and is effective against C. difficile, candidiasis, and SIBO, reduces constipation and increasing bowel regularity. It a great strain for a variety of conditions, including healthy digestive function and women who regularly suffer with urinary tract infections. (Bottom line: Supports immune health & proper elimination; helps maintain proper gut flora)
Lactobacillus plantarum: Significantly inhibits the invasion of pathogenic E. coli (especially when combined with other probiotic strains), effectively reduces disturbance of the microbiome resulting from antibiotic therapy, reduces abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms associated with IBS and colitis, enhances the IgG response and improves the body’s response to influenza (especially in elderly individuals). (Bottom line: Supports digestive health & proper elimination)
Bifidobacterium lactis: Broadly recognized for its key role in the human intestinal microflora throughout life. Its anti-inflammatory properties are useful in reducing the symptoms of colitis, while supporting the body against allergies and allergic rhinitis. It protects and restores the microbiome following antibiotic therapy and boosts the body’s IgG response. (Bottom line: Supports gut health & immunity)
Lactobacillus casei: Improves systemic and mucosal immune responses, reducing the occurrence of infections (especially in elderly individuals). Its anti-inflammatory properties are noted as it lowers blood inflammatory markers, reduces the occurrence of necrotizing enterocolitis, supports the immune system in those with ulcerative colitis, and repairs aspirin-induced bowel injury. L. casei also improves insulin sensitivity preventing diabetes mellitus. It is predominantly known for improving the digestive system (specifically IBS and regular diarrhea). In addition, it decreases the pH acidity of the gut, supporting good bacteria and decreasing bad bacteria. (Bottom line: Supports proper systemic & mucosal (GI lining) immune responses)
Bifidobacterium breve: Prevents and improves constipation, abdominal bloating, anal itch, burn, pain, and other symptoms of ulcerative colitis and necrotizing enterocolitis. It also maintains fasting glucose, decreases blood inflammatory marker hsCRP, and increases plasma glutathione (mother of antioxidants). Bifidobacterium breve is naturally found within the gut and also within the vagina, making it great for women who have issues with yeast infections and UTIs. B. breve helps support digestion (excessive gas, bloat, IBS, diarrhea) and is useful in fighting E. coli bacteria. (Bottom line: Supports bowel function & proper elimination)
Lactobacillus paracasei: Inhibits pathogenic salmonella, S. aureus, E. coli, and listeria, while protecting and restoring the microbiome following antibiotic therapy. Naturally boosts the immune system and significantly reduces intestinal inflammation. (Bottom line: Supports healthy gut flora & immunity, especially following antibiotic therapy)
Lactobacillus salivarius: Lessens inflammatory symptoms and modulates cytokine production and the cellular response to pathogenic challenges while restoring a disrupted microbiome. It also improves oral health by reducing gum bleeding and physiologic halitosis while increasing resistance to cavities. (Bottom line: Supports gut & oral health)
Lactobacillus rhamnosus: Naturally improves the immune system (as well as fetal immunity and immunomodulatory components of breastmilk). It is effective against C. difficile, E. coli, and S. typhimurium. Beneficial for those that are lactose or dairy intolerant as it eases digestion, but also those that suffer from diarrhea regularly. Also, a great strain to ensure the health and wellbeing of the urinary system. (Bottom line: Supports immunity; helps maintain proper gut flora)
Bifidobacterium bifidum: Improves constipation and symptoms of IBS including abdominal pain, bloating, belching, gas, and diarrhea. Upper gastrointestinal symptoms associated with H. pylori infections also benefit from B. bifidum. It is best for GI support and the immune system. It is another great option for women who regularly suffer from UTIs and from thrush infections. Also known to help the body absorb minerals. (Bottom line: Supports bowel health & proper elimination)
Bifidobacterium longum: Reduces the symptomatic effects of celiac disease, IBS, and constipation. Studies show B. longum significantly reduces inflammation, insulin resistance, blood liver markers (AST) and fat in the stool of those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It helps to boost the immune system and effectively fights ‘bad bugs’ and toxins within the gut. It also helps the body to absorb vitamins (especially B vitamins), supports bowel movement regularity, reduces inflammation and allergies, helps with Colitis and Crohn’s disease, decreases yeast infections. Recent studies also suggest B. longum may help with the reduction of stress, anxiety and mood balancing. (Bottom line: Supports immunity; maintains normal function of gut flora)
Bifidobacterium infantis: Most beneficial for infants and children though adults will find benefit as well for a variety of different digestive system problems (IBS, bloating, diarrhea, gas, stomach pains as well as ulcerative colitis). It helps with the colonization of good bacteria within the digestive tract of a newborn baby helping to reduce the growth of bad bacteria and encouraging the growth of good bacteria. This strain also supports the absorption of B vitamins. (Bottom line: Supports infants and children, immunity, and gut health)
Lactobacillus helveticus: Another great strain for those who are lactose intolerant as it aids in digestion and the break down lactose. May also help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, help improve calcium absorption, balance mood and support stress handling. (Bottom line: Supports mood, gut health and digestion)
Saccharomyces Boulardii: A beneficial yeast that helps alleviate symptoms of diarrhea, binds to enterohaemorrhagic E. coli and Salmonella, protects digestive mucosa, protects against Clostridium difficile toxins (C. Diff), protects against leaky gut, helpful in eradicating H. Pylori and supports immune defense in the gut. Additionally, pathogenic bacteria adhere to S. boulardii resulting in decreased systemic infection. (Tip: Supports digestion and balances specific bacteria that may be causing weight loss resistance)
What are CFUs and How Many Do You Need?
CFUs are Colony Forming Units. This is the number of alive and active microorganisms in one serving of a probiotic dietary supplement (measured in CFUs per gram or milliliter). The average probiotic supplement has 1-10 billion CFUs per serving. Most people will benefit from 1-25 billion CFUs. The important thing to keep in mind is getting an array of different probiotics and switching it up from time to time.
Tip: 1 tbsp. of sauerkraut will have 1.5 trillion CFU, while most probiotics measure potency in millions or billions.
If you have been suffering with more serious digestive issues, have been on antibiotics for a long time, have more serious skin issues like eczema or psoriasis, or have been diagnosed with mental or behavioral disorders you will want a higher CFU. Depending on your specific circumstance 50-250 billion CFUs may be more helpful. However, I do recommend scheduling with us before starting any high dose dietary supplement.
Skin Issues and Probiotics:
If you are experiencing skin issues including acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, or even just very dry skin and blotching - check out our blog post series How to Heal Your Skin from Within as well as our new organic, 100% toxin-free skincare line Pure Haven! Pure Haven offers all-natural skincare with prebiotics and probiotics for more support in the healing of your skin.
Recommended Probiotic Brands:
If you are unsure of which probiotic to go with, I always recommend Designs for Health ProbioMed line - they have great options for children and infants as well. Other brands I like include Garden of Life Dr. Formulated, Klaire Labs, Integrative Therapeutics, Flora, Nordic Naturals (good for kids), Jarrow Formulas, Genestra, Orthomolecular, and Renew Life just to name a few. All are available in the Purely Rooted Nutrition and Wellness Online Store.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us or schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation so we can dive a bit deeper into your experience.
Hasan, N., & Yang, H. (2019). Factors affecting the composition of the gut microbiota, and its modulation. Pubmed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31440436/.
Brady, ND, DC, CCN, DACBN, D. M., & Spear, MS, CNS, N. (2019). ProbioMed. Designs for Health. https://www.designsforhealth.com/.
IFM. (2019). Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods. The Institute For Functional Medicine. https://www.ifm.org/.