It’s nearly impossible these days to go down a grocery store isle without seeing a food that has probiotics in them. My wife and I were completing our Thrive Food order this weekend and we even saw cookies with probiotics added!
Watch out – don’t fall into the trap of “This has probiotics in it, so it’s good for my health so I’ll eat this or drink that because a healthy gut is a healthy body …”
While it’s true your Gut Health is directly linked to the strength of your immune system and overall ability to heal, probiotics do come with a dark side that it appears no one is talking about.
Dr. Zach Bush, developer of Restore and a triple board-certified physician with expertise in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, Metabolism, Hospice and Palliative Care, has some interesting ideas on what probiotics actually are, what they can do for you and why you should not take a probiotic every day (or eat foods/drinks that have probiotics in them all the time)
The Problem with Probiotics: Marketing and Money
The US Probiotic industry is at an estimated 1.4 billion in annual sales with a projected 6-10% increase over the next 5 years (sounds like a stock portfolio worth investing in!) Why should you care about this? This potential for profit is allowing more companies make probiotics be- cause of the hype and not all are created in a way that helps you, in-fact some can actually do more harm than good!
Your digestive tract has 10 to the 12th power (i.e. 12 zeros) bacteria in it. Its estimated to have anywhere from 300-1,000 unique strains, however the majority (99%) come from 30-40 unique strains including Firmicutes Bacteroides, Bifodobacterium, Proteobacteria, Verrumicrobiota, Actinobaceria, Fusobacteria (to name a few). There’s a pretty high likelihood OTC probiotic don’t have any of these strains in their bottle.
The Problem With Probiotics: Too Many Copies of The Same Strain
The purpose of consuming a probiotic is to improve your gut health, but the majority of probiotics sold OTC have only a few strains and come in a wide arrange of strength (CFU – colony forming units). More isn’t always best, and considering the average consumer purchases the 50Billion version over the 5Billion version I hope you can see that taking a probiotic like that daily could crease an overgrowth of bacteria. Additionally, lesser quality probiotics will have various “Other Ingredients” such as maltodextrin, silica, titanium dioxide, inulin etc. – which can negatively affect the intestine health.
If you are consuming only 5-10 strains in large counts (some can be as high as 100Billion) you will very quickly be- gin to create an over population of those 5-10 staring in your intestine, which again should be a delicate balance of all 300-1000 species, thus losing the very diversity that provides you with the power of a healthy gut, strong immunity and digestive leak protection.
We want DIVERSITY of different species, not billions of just 3-10 species. It’s not about having a high amount of good bacteria, it’s about having the right balance and a diverse amount of bacteria. I have had many clients who were overdoing it on the probiotics which actually made their problems worse.
The Problem with Probiotics: They Don’t “Seal Your Intestine”
Most people are now aware of the growing epidemic of “Leaky Gut” or increased intestinal permeability which results from the cells of your intestine wall becoming inflamed and thus “spreading apart.” While this is a very real condition – taking probiotics will not solve this problem – if anything, it only increases the likelihood that the bacteria themselves can leak through the intestine and get into the blood/lymphatic system (BAD IDEA!)
Solution to Probiotic Problem: Vary the Consumption, Seek Multiple Strains & Think Outside the Box
Please don’t think I am saying you shouldn’t take, eat or be exposed to probiotics. The evidence is clear – we need them for proper gut health – we just don’t need to be exposed to them daily!
– Rotate Your Consumption: Probiotics are best when consumed on rotation i.e. 2 weeks daily, then 2 weeks not
at all, repeating or perhaps every 3rd or 4th day. Switch up your brands also, chaining them each time a bottle is completed.
– Consume Raw Living Probiotics: Fermented foods are by far the best way to increase your exposure to the wide arrange of healthy strains. The foods fermented naturally come with their own bacterial layer which you encourage growth of when fermenting. It’s also a great way to increase digestive function as the acids produced during the fermentation process can stimulate digestive enzymes.
– Think outside of the box (i.e. your house). Some of the important strains of bacteria come from the earth and its natural “dirty” environment. When you breathe in air you are exposed to naturally occurring bacteria, when you walk outside barefoot you can absorb soil-based bacteria through your skin. This is one of the reasons gardening has been linked to increase mental, physical, social and even spiritual health!