Our body and our immune system are amazing! We have good and bad things going on. We have beneficial bacteria and yeast creating an amazing balance in our body to help us stay healthy and thrive. There are the “bad” bacteria and yeasts we catch from other people and in the environment or the food, we eat. The bad ones wreak havoc on our bodies if we let them.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics balance bacteria (and some yeasts) throughout the body. They can be naturally found in some foods and within our bodies. We can also add them to our body through supplements and foods. They are “beneficial or good” bacteria. We need them to live well and to avoid illness. If we don’t have enough we get sick. Illnesses that occur from a lack of beneficial bacteria are diarrhea (gastroenteritis), vomiting or stomach upset (gastritis), yeast infections and more.
How do probiotics work?
The good bacteria eat and dispose of the bad bacteria. They outnumber the bad guys in the gut and body. They are most commonly used for stomach-related conditions and balance. They can be used to balance other immune system dysfunction and vaginal imbalances.
When should we use probiotics?
Probiotics can be used on a daily basis to maintain a healthy gut. They can also be used on occasion. Why the difference or why choose? Depending on the size (billions of bacteria) and type of probiotic (types of bacteria) daily use might not be recommended for certain individuals. People with autoimmune disorders, or other immune system issues, might develop flares with too much probiotic use. (Addition: Some gut-related disorders might benefit from additional use – always ask your doctor first). Lesser use might be tolerable, but high doses on a daily basis are not recommended for this group. You should consult with your doctor before starting probiotics.
Probiotics are immune boosting. Most of us want that. We want our immune systems jacked to the max to prevent illness. However, with autoimmune diseases jacking up an immune system is pushing it overboard. Most autoimmune diseases are due to a hyper-aware system that is misidentifying healthy tissue as foreign germs. Causing the system to become more alert can be harmful. However, relatively healthy people benefit from immune boosting and extra added gut boosting power! (Addition: You should always ask your doctor before using probiotics).
Children can also use probiotics. Dosage and types of bacteria strains are different for children’s guts. The same types of rules apply for probiotic use in children. Those with immune system dysfunction, or autoimmunity, might experience flares in disease with overuse of probiotics. However, the rest of them will experience benefits from regular daily use. (Addition: You should always ask your child’s doctor before using probiotics).
What are good sources for probiotics?
Natural sources of probiotics include foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, soft cheeses, kefir and more. Another way to get an added boost of probiotics is through supplements.
Probiotic supplements vary in effectiveness and strains of bacteria included in the supplement. They come in pill format, capsule, or powder. Children can have the capsule or powder dissolved in water or on food. Adults can take a pill supplement or use the capsule and powder the same way.
How Do We Use Probiotics & Why?
We use probiotics to help heal gut issues or when we see a gut issue beginning. Due to my own autoimmunity, and Parker’s autoinflammation we use probiotics sparingly.
We have treated the following effectively using probiotics:
- C.diff – a very horrible infection in the gut caused by antibiotic use. It occurs more frequently in small children and the elderly. But it can happen to anyone at any age. It is contagious. If you are exposed to someone with c.diff, proper hand washing is how you prevent the spread. Alcohol-based, or antibacterial hand sanitizers, DO NOT kill c.diff. Good old soap and water is the way to clean your hands. C. diff can be treated with antibiotics (ironically enough). We have used the antibiotics for c.diff (Parker) and they did not cure him. They helped but as soon as the course was done (he rejected it near the end) he went right back to the infection. We used probiotics (in megadoses) to cure him. It was a slow process but it worked effectively.
- We used the maximum amount of billions recommended for his age (at the time he was 18 months old), and we did this until he showed signs of normal bowel movements.
- We then cut the dosage back (due to his autoinflammatory condition) slowly (eliminating one of the pills a day).
- We kept him on a normal recommended daily dose for six months following no signs of infection.
- The entire process took about one to two years to be completely normal. HOWEVER, we saw results in his gut within one week of high dose probiotics.
- Remember – c. diff is a SERIOUS infection, and can be deadly. It is IMPORTANT to be seen by a physician immediately if you see signs of c.diff. You can choose your course of treatment after a diagnosis from a doctor.
- Stomach bugs (gastroenteritis and gastritis)
- If you have ever had horrible diarrhea, with horrible vomiting or acid reflux pain, you know the stomach bug! Using probiotics with activated charcoal will help you. I will be talking about activated charcoal and its uses on my other blog afamilylifestyle.com – coming soon! It’s important to take probiotics with food and in a rotation with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal will adsorb and bind to probiotics so it’s important to take it between charcoal uses for maximum absorption.
- Stomach upset from meals and starting to feel ill or have signs of intestinal distress.
- Probiotics will literally stop these things in their tracks! Within 20 minutes of taking a probiotic in these situations, I feel intestinal relief. The same can be said for Parker.
What are we looking for in a probiotic supplement?
Tip 1: Determine what type of bacteria you need to take.
Certain probiotics contain certain types of live bacteria or yeast strands. Some are specific to gut health, some are specific to vaginal health, and some are immune boosting. It’s important to choose what type of bacteria you need for your health.
Here is an example: You are having issues with diarrhea, or constipation or bowel movements. You are suffering from intestinal imbalance. Maybe you recently had the stomach bug – or gastroenteritis (or you have it now!). You might have had a lot of gas, diarrhea and more. You want a probiotic targeted at gut health with important multiple strands of bacteria. If you have been sick you might want a probiotic that targets a lot of strands of gut bacteria.
If you frequent a health food store (or you don’t but you should for this), find their cooler and start looking.
What should you be looking for?
Tip 2: Choose a supplement with a large live bacteria count.
If you have been sick you want to hit your gut with as much healthy bacteria as possible. If you are just looking to boost immunity and you haven’t been sick you could start with lesser strands, but a higher per billion count.
The probiotics come in types of bacteria, plus the quantity of bacteria of the type in the bottle. The bottle tells you how many “million or billion” live bacteria are in a pill. Each strand is identified and has the quantity of bacteria labeled on each.
Depending on your needs, you can choose in a range of a few billion to 50-100 billion. Each brand and strand is different. It’s important to read the box and label to understand what you are buying.
Be aware – if you are buying a non-refrigerated product the billion or million labeled will be less than it says due to loss from heat exposure. (Non-refrigeration).
Does the count truly matter?
It sure does. If you have ever been sick, used probiotics, or tried to get an intestinal problem under control with probiotics, you will quickly feel the difference between lower strands and different parts of probiotics. Your recovery may take longer, and be more distressful for your system with lower millions or billions of bacteria and only one or two strands. Increasing the strands and billions will get your gut under control more efficiently.
Tip 3: Pick a probiotic that has been in the refrigerator at the purchase location.
You want to purchase your probiotics from a drug store pharmacy counter from their refrigerator, or from a (generally health food) store that has a probiotic refrigerator. The refrigeration maintains the bacteria lifespan. Supplements that have been on the shelf and not refrigerated will not carry the same number of live bacteria anymore. The heat will have killed some of the live bacteria in the supplement.
With that said, it’s important that when you arrive home you also refrigerate your product. It will keep the highest potency available to your gut!
Tip 4: Check the expiration date!
This is especially important with probiotics! The longer it’s been on the shelf the greater the chance some of those healthy bacteria have died. If your product is about to expire and you won’t be able to consume it in the time of expiration you should pass on it. It won’t harm you to take it, but you won’t be getting the full benefit of the product. Because probiotics are a bit costly you want the most bang for your buck!
You will be surprised how much better you feel supplementing or adding these to your diet. Remember it’s always best to check with your doctor before taking any new supplements or starting new health regimens. We are not physicians and do not know your medical history. We share our experience in hopes of helping you make decisions about your health. We are not providing medical advice of any kind. Please consult a physician to determine what’s right for you and your family.
Tell us about your experience with probiotics!
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