As a nutritionist (and one who frequently recommends probiotics), I get a lot of questions about probiotics. Here I have compiled the most frequently asked questions and offered you my answers to help guide you in making good bacteria a part of your health routine.

What are probiotics anyway?

Probiotics are the supplement form of the beneficial bacteria that should live in our intestines; small and large. Bacteria is everywhere, internal and external.

How do they work?

There’s much talk about having a healthy gut environment or gut microbiome, that’s speaking to the balance of good and bad bacteria that’s found in the gut. Ideally we want around 80% good guys covering the intestinal wall. We will always have a certain percentage of bad in the gut. The goal is to crowd out the bad guys with the good.

Why do you need them?

Taking antibiotics, poor eating, medications, poor diet and sugary foods, alcohol and stress all affect the good to bad balance in a negative way.

From birth to death, and everywhere in between, probiotics are essential for everyone. Having a good balance boosts your immune system, reduces the chance of allergies in babies (which is huge), reduces obesity, helps with absorbing vitamins and minerals, eases depression and helps mental illness, reduces colic in babies, helps reduce arthritic symptoms of inflammation and pain and seriously reduces IBS symptoms in sufferers.

How do I decide which one is right for me?

It’s all about the numbers. And strains.

For babies, formula or breastfed, a study showed that 10 billion CFU of four specific strains called LAB4 reduced the potential for allergies (food and pollen) by 47 per cent and allergic eczema by 57 per cent. Reduction in the risk of colds, flus and length of sickness was also seen. For pregnancy and adults starting on probiotics, I recommend 25 billion CFU found in HMF Intensive. For post antibiotic treatment, I suggest 100 billion CFU found in HMF Antibiotic Care. While taking antibiotics I suggest Physica Flora Syntropy. For constipation, I recommend either HMF Intensive or Flora Syntropy (email us to order Flora Syntropy).

What I recommend to my clients and use myself and with my kids.

I recommend Genestra’s HMF range because it is human strain, that’s what the H stands for “Human Micro Flora.” I’ve studied, followed and learned from the formulator of the HMF range, Dr. Nigel Plummer PhD, about probiotics. I also use the Physica probiotic products; Flora Syntropy and Saccharomyces boulardii Forte. Flora Syntropy can be taken while taking antibiotics as the strain survives the bacteria-busting antibiotics.

To refrigerate or not?

Some strains need to be kept in the fridge and some don’t. Some need to be taken with food and some don’t. When you purchase your probiotics, ask these particulars. HMF products need to be kept refrigerated as well as taken with food.

Fermented foods are great for your gut but don't replace a good probiotic.

Can't I just eat yogurt?

Organisms used for food fermentation have trained and adapted to ferment foods. Over generations of fermentation they lost some of the attributes of good bacteria. If you need a probiotic, take a supplement and back it up with fermented foods. Relying solely on fermented foods to build up good bacteria after antibiotics, to help yeast infections or IBS may not get you there fast enough or with the effectiveness that will impact overall health. Keep eating and drinking fermented foods for overall health and wellbeing, but take that supplement alongside.

Do I have to take it forever?

The short answer is yes. Every time you have a bowel movement, billions of bacteria are lost. Optimal health comes from a healthy gut. You can go from taking higher levels to lower levels, and more maintenance levels, but it’s good to take all year around.

Still unsure? Reach out and we will help you find the most appropriate probiotic for your situation.