Should you take probiotics? The answer is probably, yes!  Here’s a little background on probiotics and why we need them. 

It is estimated that our gut (the tube that runs from the mouth to the anus) is lined with anywhere from 10 to 100 trillion bacteria, of more than 1000 different species.  That’s a lot of bacteria!  These bacteria make up the microbiome, which serves to aid in digestion and prevents harmful substances from entering our bodies through the gut.   When the microbiome breaks down, digestion is negatively impacted, leading to poor nutrient absorption and harmful substances can freely pass through the gut into our bodies.  This is where illness begins.

What causes the breakdown of our microbiome? There are many reasons our microbiome is insufficient, chief among them is simply lack of replacement and lack of nourishment. The pervasive use of acid blockers and antibiotics also contribute to the breakdown of the microbiome.

So, where do probiotics come from?  Primary sources are fermented foods and soil.  Refrigeration has decreased the need for fermentation for preservation and our exposure to soil is limited due to the amount of time we spend indoors and our obsession with cleanliness.  Even if you are exposed to the soil, many researchers claim that our soil is devoid of the necessary probiotics due to pesticide use. 

And what do probiotics need for nourishment? Primarily fiber.  The Standard American Diet (SAD) is low in fiber therefore, our microbiome is literally starving to death.  Antibiotics which kill harmful bacteria that make us sick, also kills the good bacteria that reside in our guts.  And, long term use of acid blocking medications decreases the acidic environment many of these bacteria need to live. 

After reading that, if you have decided that you need a probiotic supplement, here’s a few rules for the road to get the most out of your supplement.

1.       Choose a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria.  Remember that our microbiome is made up of over a thousand different types of bacteria.  Single strain probiotics offer no diversity.

2.       Choose a strength that is appropriate for you.  Start with at least 5 billion CFU’s (colony forming units).  Depending on your state of health or recent antibiotic use, you may need more.  Gradually increasing dose minimizes stomach discomfort (gas, bloating)

3.       Yes, you may experience discomfort at first, but this should get better with time. 

4.       Switch brands every 3-4 months.  As each brand contains different strains, this will help you build a more diverse microbiome.

5.       Don’t buy the cheapest probiotic you can find.  The supplement industry is unregulated and many supplements don’t contain the nutrients they claim, at best, and at worst may even contain harmful substances.  Buy products from manufactures who submit to third party testing (meaning they do not test their own products and claim they are good!)

6.       Improve your fiber intake.  Taking a probiotic supplement and continuing to eat junky, sugary, processed, fiber deficient food is like throwing your money down the drain.  You must nourish your probiotics for them to live.

7.       Consume fermented foods and drinks!  This will diminish your need for supplements! Examples of fermented foods available at grocery stores include Kombucha, Kefir, Kimchi, and Sour Kraut (make sure it is unpasteurized).  You can also easily ferment almost any vegetable at home.  You can find recipes on Google and Pinterest.

Probiotics supplementation should be an integral part of your health plan, whether by supplement or natural food sources.  If you need help choosing the best probiotic for your health, reach out to us by phone (334-478-3522) or email ( or just drop by.  If you need assistance developing your total health plan, schedule a private consultation with our pharmacist, and get on your way to your best health ever!

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