By Jill Levy
Most people, including both children and adults, who eat a “Standard American Diet” are thought to be lacking enough probiotics in their diets — due to an abundance of modern processed foods, soil depletion and other factors.
For this reason, whether someone is looking to support digestive health or not, probiotic supplements have become widely recommended for just about everyone in one form or another,
Are probiotics really effective? Many experts now agree that probiotic supplements — which include healthy strains of bacteria, yeast and other microbes — help to support healthy gut transit time, along with healthy immune system function and digestive function support.
There are many different types of probiotics supplements available, all of which vary in terms of their strength, bacterial strains and intended benefits. Let’s look closer at some common probiotic myths and clear up fact from fiction, so you know which types to look for and how to take them in order to maximize the potential benefits.
Myth #1: Probiotics only benefit gut health
In addition to supporting a healthy ratio of microbes in the gut, probiotics also support normal digestion, a healthy immune system and a healthy inflammation response.
That’s because your gut is home to most of your immune system (70 percent or more), which means the types and amounts of bacteria and other microbes living inside of your gut affect many different aspects of your overall health. Even your overall outlook and well-being can be impacted by your gut, since the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin is mostly produced there.
Myth #2: Probiotics don't help relieve constipation
Certain types of probiotics do tend to support healthy digestion, including by promoting healthy bowel transit time and by reducing occasional constipation, gas and bloating.
However, there are many reasons occasional constipation can occur, so it’s best to address this problem holistically with your healthcare professional, as well as by improving your diet to include more fiber and fluids, and managing stress.
Myth #3: Only refrigerated probiotics work
While some types of probiotic supplements are intended to be refrigerated to keep the bacteria alive and active, not all types need to be.
For example, soil-based organism probiotics (SBOs) don’t require refrigeration since they are “hardy” microbes that can survive at room temperature.
Myth #4: The more CFUs a probiotic has, the better
CFUs stands for colony forming units, which describes the strength/potency of probiotics. While a higher number of CFUs is a good thing because it means the probiotics are packed with more microbes, other characteristics are also important to pay attention to when choosing a supplement.
In addition to choosing a product with 20 billion CFUs or more (and up to 100 billion per serving for most adults, and sometimes even more after a course of antibiotics), look for one with strain diversity. When a product provides you with several different probiotic strains, such as soil-based strains, yeasts and those in the Lactobacillus family, this supports your gut in multiple ways.
Another consideration is how resilient the probiotics in the supplement is. Even when you take some probiotics, they may not all make it into your gut to colonize because some of the microbes can get destroyed in your GI tract.
Some types are more resistant to higher temperature and acidity which are features of the digestive tract, so you’re more likely to get the most “bang for your buck” if you focus on maximizing impact and absorption.
Myth #5: Yogurt provides more than enough probiotics
What are live cultures in probiotic foods like yogurt? And are they the same as those found in probiotic supplements?
Live cultures indicate that there are active probiotics within a food, such as yogurt or kefir. These are two examples of fermented foods which naturally contain healthy strains of bacteria that develop during the fermentation process (a metabolic process that produces chemical changes in organic substrates through the action of enzymes). You’ll find strains such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus in these foods.
Live cultures in yogurt/kefir are definitely a good thing, since these work in the same way as probiotics you can take in supplement form. Kefir is especially rich in a variety of different probiotics/cultures.
Unfortunately, some yogurts have been heat-treated, and this process kills the healthy cultures that would otherwise exist in the yogurt.
While the amount of probiotics in different foods varies depending on how they are processed, supplements are more likely to provide you with a hefty dose of probiotics. This really depends on the specific supplement you take, however.
Still, you can generally help to maximize the benefits you’ll get from supplementing with probiotics by continuing to eat a diet that features prebiotics and fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha or sauerkraut, and more.
Myth #6: SBO probiotics are the same as regular probiotics
SBO probiotics are often tougher and more survivable than other types of probiotics and resistant to harsh environments. These microbes are naturally found in the soil and on plants, so they evolved with an array of survival tactics that helps them to withstand a variety of temperatures, including those inside the human gastrointestinal tract.
Because SBOs are capable of enduring extreme conditions of heat, dryness, humidity and acidity, they are better able to make it through your stomach and stomach acid) and into parts of your gut where they can offer the most benefits.
Myth #7: Prebiotics and postbiotics aren't needed
While probiotics alone have some beneficial effects, probiotics are better able to support overall gut health when paired with prebiotics and postbiotics. Together these three work as a “trifecta” that best allows for healthy microbes to populate in the GI tract.
Prebiotics essentially act as “fertilizer for probiotics,” while postbiotics are the metabolites (enzymes and organic acids) created by probiotics.
Ancient Nutrition's line of SBO Probiotics feature SBOs, prebiotics and postbiotics to create a favorable trifecta approach, as well as a fermented organic botanical blend for extra digestive support.
Within our SBO formulas, you’ll find organic botanicals traditionally used to support digestion like organic fermented black pepper fruit, organic fermented ginger root and organic fermented turmeric root. These unique ingredients coupled with probiotics deliver support for healthy elimination; reduction of occasional bloating, gas, and diarrhea; a healthy inflammation response; oral health and more.
The herbs used in our SBO products are also powered by fermentation; we use our own proprietary, patent-pending, dual-stage, live fermentation process to help break down food into more absorbable components in order to help improve absorption.
Myth #8: Women's and men's probiotics are essentially the same
Nope! While they may have CFU counts and general gut support benefits, often probiotics for women differ from probiotics for men.
For example, Ancient Nutrition's SBO Probiotics Women's Capsules is designed specifically for the female body. This unique formulation also features a clinically studied Ayurvedic herbal blend that works to help support a healthy immune system and digestive function, reduce occasional constipation, helps to maintain healthy gut microflora, and more.
Meanwhile, Ancient Nutrition's SBO Probiotics Men's Capsules is designed for men, featuring a clinically studied Ayurvedic herbal blend that works to boost muscle mass, strength, serum testosterone levels and recovery while also supporting digestive and immune system health.
Myth #9: It doesn't matter when you take probiotics
Do probiotics work the same no matter when you take them? Not exactly. Probiotics are best absorbed on an empty stomach when taken before a meal (about 30 to 60 minutes before ideally). This way, your stomach is not as acidic, which can make it harder to absorb the microbes.
A general recommendation is for adults to take two capsules of SBO Probiotics daily with 8 ounces of water. We recommend taking the capsules on an empty stomach, either when you first wake up, or right before bed. However, different products vary in terms of absorption, so read the dosage recommendations.
As always, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to starting any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including supplementation.
Because our SBO Probiotics don't require refrigeration, try putting them beside your bed and taking them first thing in the morning for convenience.
Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.