Imagine you were invited to dinner, and as you sat down at the dinner table, you were served a plate full of bacteria and yeast. Most of us would politely excuse ourselves and leave (fast). However, certain bacteria and yeasts, known as probiotics, are exactly what we need in order to stay healthy.

What probiotics do

Our digestive systems already contain probiotics, the good bacteria that help keep bad bacteria and fungi in check. Probiotics help us:

  • Digest our food, releasing much-needed nutrients into our system
  • Increase the bioavailability of those nutrients
  • Combat potentially harmful intestinal organisms
  • Boost the immune system
  • Normalize bowel movements
  • Improve lactose intolerance
  • Create enzymes needed by the body
  • Reduce inflammation.

5 common ways probiotics can be destroyed

Our chemical-laden lifestyles and modern medicine can be quite harmful to our ability to maintain the proper amount of probiotics in our digestive systems. It is important to be mindful that when we do the following things, we need to supplement with probiotics so that our gut health is not impaired, leading to disruption of the above functions:

  1. Antibiotics, while sometimes necessary, destroy both the bad bacteria they are targeted for in our bodies, as well as the good bacteria in our guts. When we take an antibiotic, it is important for us to remember we need to replenish our internal supply of good bacteria with a probiotic supplement.
  1. NSAIDS such as aspirin, Ibuprofen (sold as Advil and Motrin), Naproxen (sold as Aleve, Anaprox DS and Naprosyn), and Celecoxib (sold as Celebrex) are known to damage the stomach and intestinal lining. By doing so, they inhibit the functions of probiotics.

A 2010 study at the Catholic University in Rome, Italy showed that when probiotics are used with NSAIDS, it results in a reduction of the damage caused by NSAIDS.

  1. Birth control pills, steroids, and hormones also interfere with a person’s gut probiotics.
  1. Chlorinated drinking water endangers our healthy gut probiotics because chlorine kills all bacteria, both the good and the bad. Anyone drinking chlorinated water definitely needs a daily probiotic supplement.
  1. Eating a lot of carbohydrates and sugar can cause a major imbalance in your digestive system, allowing the bad bacteria and the dangerous yeast (Candida albicans) to grow out of control.

When the yeastie beasties begin growing, they send out limbs called hyphae that penetrate the gut, allowing nutrients to leak out into your body where they cause damage. Leaky Gut Syndrome is the result of this process, and it can lead to digestive maladies including:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Possible food allergies and sensitivities
  • Celiac disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Do you find yourself craving sugary treats? This could be a sign of Candida overgrowth telling you that you definitely need to add a probiotic to your daily regimen. Likewise, if you notice any of these symptoms, you may need treatment for an overgrowth of yeast in your gut:

  • Gas, bloating and cramps after a meal
  • Constipation alternating with diarrhea
  • New food allergies
  • Headaches or irritability
  • An inability to concentrate.

The gold standard for non-invasive treatment of a Candida overgrowth is Dr. William Crook’s book, The Yeast Connection: A Medical Breakthrough.

Getting your probiotic needs met

Most people do not know that in addition to needing probiotics, we also need prebiotics. In short, prebiotics are the food that the probiotics in our guts and supplements need in order to successfully perform their various functions. Prebiotics can be found in onions and garlic, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, and fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Garlic supplements (with the odor removed) have become popular prebiotic supplements.

With all the long names in most probiotic supplements, how do you choose the best one for your needs? Human strain probiotics have been shown to be much more efficient at remaining in your gut than dairy or animal strain probiotics, so the source of your probiotic supplement is more important than which strains of bacteria are included in it. When you supplement with the best available probiotic, your body will thank you.