What to Know Before Taking Your Probiotics
Certain nutrients make them more effective
Ideally, fermented foods and drinks are the best sources of probiotics. Most people don’t eat enough of them to get the perks, though, so supplements and foods fortified with probiotics are a great option, says Sarah Morgan, a functional nutrition expert and the founder of Buddies in My Belly, a microbiome education company. For the best results, take probiotics with fiber, which feeds the bugs.
Numbers are key
Look for supplements that list the probiotic strain (usually numbers) beside its name (for Bifidobacterium bifidum W23, W23 is the strain). This indicates that it’s a strain-specific type, which tend to be well researched and higher quality, Morgan says. For daily use, choose probiotics with five to 15 billion colony-forming units per serving, she says. Less may be ineffective, and long-term use of very high doses hasn’t been well studied; Morgan says it could irritate the intestinal wall.
You need to feed them
“One hot area of research involves synbiotics, a combination of probiotics and prebiotics, nondigestible substances that gut microbes consume,” says Dr. Geoffrey A. Preidis, a scientific advisory board member for the American Gastroenterological Association Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education. “Prebiotics help probiotics grow so that the bacteria can better perform their beneficial functions.” Try SmartyPants Adult Probiotic Complete ($25, amazon.com).
Antibiotics can mess with things
People often use probiotics to help ease the side effects of antibiotics, such as stomach pain and diarrhea. But if you take the supplements and the meds at the same time, the antibiotic will wipe out the beneficial bugs before they can work their magic. To prevent that, wait about three weeks after taking your first antibiotic pill to start the supplements, Dr. Roizen says.
EAT KIMCHI The fermented food is a great source of beneficial bugs.