Probiotics are healthy bacteria found primarily in your gut that aid with digestion. Research consistently shows increasing your intake of these healthy microorganisms may support a healthy digestion and immune function.
When you get probiotics through your diet, you generally get them from fermented foods like yogurt or kimchi. Many people find that taking a probiotic supplement offers a more convenient alternative since supplements offer a consistent daily dose.
However, many people who take probiotic supplements are guilty of doing these five things. Keep reading to find out how you can avoid these mistakes and maximize the benefits of your probiotic supplement.
Mistake #1 - Not Keeping Your Probiotics Cool
Not all probiotics need to be kept in the fridge. However, if you look at the bottle of your probiotic supplement and it specifically tells you to keep it refrigerated, you should take their advice. The company puts these instructions on the bottle because some strands of probiotic die at room temperature or if exposed to direct sunlight.
A study published in 2013 by researchers in Iran examined the effect of temperature on the health of probiotic bacteria in yogurt. (1) The researchers stored the yogurt at two different temperatures: 41 degrees and 68 degrees. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the survival rate of the probiotics was strongly higher in the refrigerated group.
If you travel a lot or take your probiotics with you to the gym you may want to specifically look for a supplement that doesn’t need refrigeration.
Follow the storage instructions on the bottle. If you travel often, look for a supplement that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
Mistake #2 – Taking the Wrong Type of Probiotic
Different strands of probiotics offer different health benefits. Some of these bacteria support the urinary tract, some boost your immune system, and some help specific digestive processes such as fiber breakdown.
A 2013 review of probiotic supplements examined the health benefits of various types of probiotic. (2)
Here’s a summary of their findings.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help digestion by supporting the break down of carbohydrates and lactose, improving bloating discomfort.
B. lactis and L. rhamnosus GG have been found to promote skin health.
S. thermophilus and L. delbrueckii ssp. Bulgaricus are effective for improving lactose metabolism and helping digest dairy.
Clinical studies show rhamnosus GG, L. reuteri, L. casei Shirota, and B. animalis Bb12 may help occasional diarrhea.
It’s a good idea to take the strand of probiotics that best matches your health goals. If you’re taking probiotics to improve bloating discomfort, you might want to take a Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium supplement.
Mistake #3 – Taking Too many Types of Probiotics
Because there are so many benefits of taking probiotics, it’s easy to think that more might be better. However, if you take too many strands of probiotic bacteria at the same time, they may end up competing for absorption. Research shows that probiotic bacteria produce compounds that suppress the maturation of other bacteria. (3)
The best way to avoid this from happening is by only taking one probiotic supplement at a time. Many supplements include multiple strands of probiotics in a particular ratio found to be effective. Doubling up on supplements might negatively affect the bacteria in both supplements.
It’s a good idea to stick to one or two strands of probiotics to minimize competition between different strands.
Scientists still aren’t completely sure how taking different multiple strands of probiotics at the same time affects your health, but it’s thought some bacteria may compete with each other when ingested.
Mistake #4 – Taking Probiotics without Prebiotics
The best way to take probiotics is to maximize their benefits is to also include prebiotics in your diet. Like all living organisms, probiotics need food and their favorite type of food is a form of insoluble fiber known as prebiotics.
According to a study published in 2018, prebiotic sources of fiber ferment in your gut and can increase the amount of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp in your gut. (4)
Luckily, probiotics are relatively easy to get in your diet if you eat healthy, natural foods. The best sources of prebiotics include fruit, vegetables, and some grains.
Here are some foods particularly high in prebiotics:
Foods High in Prebiotics
Including foods that are high in prebiotics in your diet provides healthy bacteria in your gut with food.
Fruit, vegetables, and grains are the best sources of prebiotics.
Mistake #5 - You’re Not Taking A High Enough Dose
Probiotics are generally measured in colony-forming units (CFU). There’s still not enough research to suggest a minimum effective dose, however, most studies agree that daily probiotic supplements should have at least 106 CFU/mL (10 million). (5) Many supplements offer more than a thousand times this amount.
According to Harvard Medical School, there are more than 100 trillion bacteria in your gut and you should aim to take a probiotic supplement that contains between 1 billion and 10 billion CFU per dose. (6)
It’s a good idea to take the same number of probiotics each day. If you miss a few days of your supplement, you might think it’s a good idea to double or triple your dose to make up for it. However, this sudden mega-dose may upset your stomach.
Researchers haven’t agreed on a minimum effective daily dose. However, the general consensus is the minimum number of daily probiotics found to provide health benefits is 10 million CFUs per day.
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