- A gut health expert said that certain probiotic species can help treat health disorders such as IBS and eczema.
- For most adults, Dr. Alexandra Shustina said to eat a diet rich in probiotics and fiber for good gut health.
- Supplements with probiotic strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium have the most researched benefits.
Navigating the vast amount of probiotic supplements on the market can be difficult.
Probiotics are bacteria that live inside our bodies and are also found in fermented foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, and pickles preserved in salt water.
There are thousands of different strains of probiotics that each play a role in maintaining balance in our bodies, from gut health to vaginal health to mental health. Many of these strains are also available for purchase in supplement form, but the majority lack research on whether they improve gut health, Insider previously reported.
Despite the lack of research, $60 Billion Probiotic Supplement Industry expected to grow by 9% each year until at least 2028.
Dr. Alexandra Shustina, board certified gastroenterologist and pathologist and founder of Whole gut health, told Insider researchers still have a lot to learn about how probiotic strains affect the body. Above all, eating a balanced diet of fermented foods offers the most benefits for your gut, Shustina said.
“I don’t think supplements are necessary for healthy people if they’re getting what they need from their diet, which is perfectly possible, but they need to be educated about what to eat,” Shustina said.
That said, for those who could benefit from a boost — like people with IBS — here are Shustina’s tips on how to make decisions when buying probiotic supplements:
Certain strains of probiotics can treat digestive problems and other disorders
In her practice as a gastroenterologist, Shustina said she often sees patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a disorder that affects 10-15% of adults and causes diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
Shustina said the two probiotic strains used to treat IBS are lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, lactobacillus planarum and bifidobacterium bifidum.
Certain strains of probiotics can help people who take antibiotics to treat an infection because, as it tries to kill the bad bugs that cause the disease, antibiotics can inadvertently kill the “good bugs” that live in our bodies, too. causing infection. . Re-introduction of the saccharomyces boulardii organism may mitigate these side effects.
Probiotics can also relieve the symptoms of eczema, a common skin condition that causes red, itchy rashes. Shustina said probiotic lactobacillus species, especially lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, can help people with eczema.
Fermented foods provide the body with diverse and abundant probiotic strains
For most adults, Shustina said the best way to keep your gut healthy is through a diet rich in probiotics and fiber.
Fiber is sometimes called “prebiotics” because humans can’t digest it, but bacteria can. Bacteria can use fiber as fuel and live longer inside the gut, helping the body immunity and digestion.
Sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt are foods that contain enough probiotic strains for a healthy gut. The doctor also said that people who don’t like these foods can easily ferment their vegetables in salt water.
Sleep, exercise and keeping stress at bay also help maintain a healthy microbiome, Shustina said.
Strains to look out for when buying probiotic supplements
If your diet is low in probiotic-rich foods and you’re having trouble increasing your intake, Shustina said to look for supplements that contain multiple types of lactobacillus strains, including lactobacillus acidophilus, and bifidobacterium strains.
“You want to have a strong microbiome and a diverse microbiome,” he said. “You don’t want to have certain groups any longer than they’re supposed to exist.”
Since the supplement industry is largely unregulated, illegal sellers may offer pills that don’t contain what’s on the bottle, according to Shustina. She recommends asking a doctor, health coach or holistic medicine practitioner about brand-name probiotic supplements or ones with good data to back up what’s in the product.
“Natural products in some ways are similar to pharmaceuticals – you have to know what you’re doing,” he said. “If you’re not sure, food as medicine is always safer. So using food as medicine, especially if you’re healthy, is usually the first line.”