Should I Take Probiotics?

A Question I Hear Often: “Should I Take Probiotics?”
Answer: “It Depends.”

Some Things to Consider

  • For many people, a wide spectrum probiotic product really helps to heal the gut. Probiotics are good bacteria and most of us need them.
  • However, not all people do well with them and in some cases, people do well with some strains of bacteria and not with others, making the process of choosing a probiotic challenging.
  • To complicate matters a bit more, most people will have a die off reaction upon starting probiotics. This is when the probiotics (a.k.a., the good guys) start stirring things up in the gut and clean house of the bad guys. This can last a week or two and cause symptoms like gas, bloating, fatigue, constipation or diarrhea, headache, etc. One way to know if it’s die off is that you might feel better in some ways and worse in others, with the overlying sense of starting to feel better in spite of the discomfort.

How Do You Know if Probiotics are For You?

  • The easiest and most economical way to start is with cultured vegetables! Cultured vegetables are fermented vegetables — the kind with no vinegar. Rejuvenative Foods brand and Gold Mine brand are two good ones that use sea salt instead of table salt. Start with a small amount, 1 TBL or less. See how you feel and build from there to about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup per day.

We have a good recipe in Loving Yourself to Great Health for making your own cultured vegetables (which is the most economical way to do it). The recipe is called Pickled Pink and my husband and I made the recipe years ago after looking for some variety to the store bought varieties. Even he loved making them and he’s not one to spend time in the kitchen!

Keep in mind that if you have very tricky digestive issues, what feels like die off symptoms (mentioned above), might actually be digestive distress because your body is not ready for the cultured vegetables. You’ll know because you’ll likely feel worse after eating them for more than 2 weeks, even if you start with the smallest amount. If this is the case, listen to your body and back off.

People with histamine issues, CBS (for those of you who know your genetics), Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and issues with D-lactic acid probiotics may find themselves in this category.

If you try cultured vegetables and everything goes well,
you may decide to try a probiotic.

My Two Favorite Brands of Probiotic

  • GutPro – an 8-strain probiotic that is based on a non-dairy, non-soy vegetarian culture.
  • Custom Probiotics – You can get a variety of strains, including D-lactic acid free strains, single strains and multiple strains, up to an 11-strain probiotic:  (also non-dairy, non-soy culture)

What is FOS?

I like these brands because they do not use fillers, particularly FOS (fructooligosaccharides). FOS is a prebiotic that works for some people but is horrible for the people it doesn’t work for. It’s typically bad news for people with CBS (if you know your genetics), SIBO or other small intestine challenges (people following the specific carbohydrate diet, GAPS diet or FODMAPS might do better without FOS).

Unfortunately, FOS is found in many probiotics on the market.

L. casei and Histamine Levels

I also like L. Casei from Custom Probiotics. If you have any of the conditions I mentioned above (SIBO, FODMAPS, CBS) or have been recommended to follow a GAPS or SCD protocol, you may experience gas, bloating and trapped gas in the small intestine causing pain.

L. casei basically eats up the trapped gas, relieving pain and bloating. Keep in mind that L. casei also can raise histamine in very histamine-sensitive individuals. This was not my experience, but it is something to watch for if histamine is an issue for you.

Bottom Line

Start with food and see how things go for you. If all is well and you want more, try a probiotic. Above all, listen to your body. Probiotics require balance just like everything else. Do what feels right for you and if you aren’t sure, listen to your inner voice and talk to a health practitioner for guidance.

What are your questions about probiotics? What are your favorites?
What has worked for you?
Let’s share and help each other learn!
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As a coach, writer and recovered former executive, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle when over-scheduled. In my journey to radiant health, I created a whole health system of eating, exercise, renewal and recharging -- a roadmap toward health & vitality. I empower clients to create their own whole health systems, in their own unique ways. I have seen amazing results in working with my clients!