When And How You Should Take Probiotics
Probiotics, i.e. the good intestinal bacteria are defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” according to WHO. They are therefore live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts give you a great health benefit by consuming them. During our evolution, our food probably contained a significantly greater amount of bacteria than it does today. Historically we were exposed daily to vital probiotic bacteria in our natural lifestyle which was to live close to nature. These bacteria have been, and still are, a very important part of our health.
Dysbiosis, i.e. a disturbed intestinal flora, is devastating to health. I would argue that disturbed gut flora with chronic low-grade inflammation, two states that often occur together, is one of our biggest and most important challenges in health today. In our quest to eradicate all the bad microorganisms from our bodies with the sterilization of food, and by prescribing antibiotics for the slightest cold, etc we have unfortunately also caused the obliteration of good, and vital, probiotic bacteria. That’s why the addition of probiotics is extremely important for good health. Every other person you ask seems to suffer from more or less severe gastrointestinal symptoms, which although small can be oh so difficult for the individual. Gastrointestinal complaints are not only hard to live with, but can also be very harmful to your health long term. It’s good to remember also that a large part of your body’s immune response is localized in the intestinal tract.
In 2006, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study carried out a double-blind, placebo-controlled study where the researchers showed that probiotics where directly linked to the efficacy of Bifido bacteria and that high doses were well tolerated. The study saw the effects of a daily dose of 10 billion probiotic bacteria. Does that mean that you will not experience health benefits if you take fewer than 10 billion bacteria per capsule and day? No, I do not think, but when it comes to probiotics, more is better, which is absolutely not the case for most types of supplements. Professor John Morton and his team at Stanford University School of Medicine published a study in 2009 in The Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, where they showed that patients who underwent a gastric bypass operation and that took as little as 2.4 billion probiotic bacteria per day after surgery lost more weight and had better vitamin B12 uptake than the control group. In other words, you could have an effect in as little as 2.4 billion bacteria.
So how exactly should you take probiotics?
According to Francine Mondou, PhD microbiologist, probiotics should always be taken on a full stomach. The reason for this is that gastric contents after a meal has an increased pH-value, which means that the probiotic bacteria survive longer, which in turn increases the likelihood that they reach the intestines intact. When fasting gastric juices have a pH of approximately 1.5 to 2.5 whereas the environment of the stomach after a meal has a pH of about 4.0 to 6.0, i.e. a significantly more favorable value for the probiotic bacteria. My recommendation is to take probiotics after a meal with the last bite, but not with a glass of water. It is not a good idea to drink too much water during a meal, either directly before, during, or immediately after, because the extra fluid can affect digestion negatively. A small amount of water is of course OK.
In other words, take probiotics immediately after your meal with the last bite, without swallowing them down with water. For those who can not swallow capsules (with or without water) you can take apart the capsule and sprinkle the last bite. Good probiotics according to me:
- Contain as many clinically tested non-competing bacterias as possible (> 10 pieces strains)
- Always include Lactobacillus Acidophilus DDS-1
- Do not contain prebiotics (found naturally in fruits and vegetables) and is a cheap filler in a supplement.
- Are not based on milk products
So far I have not found a better probiotic supplement than Innate Response Flora products available in doses of 5 to 200 billion bacteria per capsule, with 14 stems per capsule. The day I find a better probiotic will buy them instead.
For those who have bowel problems, I can not emphasize enough the importance of taking as much probiotics as you can with every meal, because more than 50% of the bowel contents consist of bacteria. I take probiotics every day and I see it as an incredibly important parameter in my health equation.
About the author: Jenny is a writer for Sydney Health Foods Australia.