Probiotics were something many of us were excited about 10 years ago. We thought this was amazing and going to change everything. Lo and behold, when you grind it down the actual studies, there is very little data supporting probiotics for changing your current status or shifting your health. Often, probiotics can actually make you feel worse, especially if you’re suffering from IBS or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. This is because probiotics are often dairy based.If you are reactive to dairy, they can make you feel worse. Many probiotics also contain and increase those bacteria that increase histamine. Histamine is a chemical messenger that is associated with small intestine bacterial overgrowth and is a big driver in patient’s symptoms. Taking bacteria that increase histamine in your gut can make you feel worse.
Often, I tell my patients that if they do want to begin taking probiotics, make sure that these are strains that are not histamine inducing, or have been shown to decrease histamine. These strains do exist. They are derived from chicory root as opposed to being dairy based.
There are certain things that probiotics do help with. This includes colitis pouchitis and Crohn’s disease once you’ve worked on other lifestyle modifications. Probiotics like bifido infantis have also been shown to decrease bloating in ulcerative colitis and IBS, but these are specific interactions.
Instinctively I feel we are better off taking prebiotics. These are the foods that are feeding your microbiome, putting fertilizer in your garden, instead of putting a whole bunch of seeds in there, such as probiotics capsules. I would encourage you more towards making healthy choices, making sure that you don’t eat a lot of refined carbohydrates, that you eat foods that are helping your gut and follow a diet such as a Paleo Mediterranean type diet. This eating plan has been shown to support longevity, prevent heart disease and prevent diabetes. A Paleo Mediterranean diet is packed with prebiotic foods. The resistant starches that are not able to be absorbed in the small bowel, make it all the way down to the large bowel and feed the microbiome. The microbiome, in turn, ferments these foods, producing short chain fatty acids, which then feed the gut lining.
Resistant starches and soluble fibers are dietary components that have ultimately been proven to improve your life and help you live longer, healthier. When it comes to resistant stretches it is important to take a slow and steady approach. These are not referred to as the musical fruit for nothing!!!! You top this with fermented foods. Again, go slow and steady when adding these as there is histamine in fermented foods. You need to heal the gut first. Fermented foods include things like either cow or goat’s milk, kimchi or sauerkraut, which are all loaded with good bacteria along with other compounds that help the gut lining. This is not the stuff you find in the middle of the grocery store. Go back to the refrigerator section. The raw unpasteurized that has the real bacteria in it.
Taking probiotics can be a journey to the Wild West. There’s not a lot of government control. Many brands are not third party tested. If they claim to contain 50 billion on the capsule, are there really 50 billion critters in there? If the package says to a specific expiration date, is it really good until that date? These are a few of the that I have with pure probiotics and why I believe food based prebiotics (your fertilizer) with a little fermented food (good seeds) can be way more beneficial long term.