Do you think you have been fed a few misstatements about probiotics ? If you have been you probably aren’t the only one! There were a few myths busted at a recent conference that I have also been guilty of believing in recent years. So what were those myths and what’s the real story ?
Have you ever been told that your probiotics need to be kept in the fridge ? (Was it me?) Turns out that many strains are heat resistant and don’t need to be kept in the fridge including the range from Activated Probiotics. Probiotics are living organisms and so are sensitive to heat, moisture and oxygen, however if appropriately treated and packaged the product is heat stable. Activated Probiotics freeze dry the probiotic and use specific packaging technology to encapsulate it so that it survives stomach acid and is effective in the gut. The best advice generally is to follow the advice on the packaging, however when travelling a heat stable option is usually better as its less likely to be left behind (in the mini bar fridge!).
The other common myth is that you should take probiotics separately from antibiotics or even after you have finished the antibiotics. Actually since antibiotics are designed to be absorbed into the bloodstream and probiotics into the gut then it really doesn’t matter. For the best result with probiotics ideally they are taken with food and that food contains a little fat.
For many people they may be a little concerned about taking medications with probiotics so it might be a good idea to review the strategies in my recent blog Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well? . When you do have specific side effects from your medications probiotics can be of use in managing those symptoms where they is specific research to support use for those conditions.
One of the big ones is that probiotics replace “lost bacteria” but it turns out that whilst probiotics have a therapeutic effect they do not stay permanently in the gut. Estimates of how long the probiotics will last are usually between 1-3 weeks. The point is that whilst the strain is there it is having a therapeutic effect, for example a lactobacillus plantarum strain which is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of IBS. Therapeutically we might use this strain whilst making dietary changes to reduce systemic inflammation, so that you do not need to be on a probiotic permanently.
This probably brings us to the biggest myth – isn’t a mix of strains better ? Really it is a bit like spraying buckshot you might get lucky but the reality is a specific strain or strains based on the research and your signs and symptoms will result in better outcomes for you.
So what about prebiotics should I just take those instead ? A prebiotic is different to a probiotic, the easiest analogy is that its a bit like fertiliser in the garden. It doesn’t create a broader range of plants but it does feed the useful ones. If you want to improve the diversity of your gut flora you really need to look at supporting it with a wide range of vegetables as well as nuts and seeds. What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ? covers this topic in more depth but in addition to variety of vegetables it is also useful to add in organic sources as much as possible.
For more information on maintaining or improving your health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, improving gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .