Our digestive system is home to at least 500 different bacterial strains Ideally, 85% of the bacteria in our gut are beneficial to our health. When the vast majority of gut flora is of the friendly variety, the remaining 15% which are pathogenic bacterial strains and yeasts are easily handled and kept under control. In fact, in a well-balanced gut, the friendly bacterial strains can actually harness some of the pathogenic strains to perform helpful functions!
The problem is that most people today have this proportion reversed with the majority of gut flora of the unfriendly variety. This tipping of the balance in favor of pathogens occurs due to antibiotic use, the birth control pill and other meds that negatively affect the gut flora, and the consumption of processed foods and high amounts of sugar which feed pathogens and candida.
The health consequences of a pathogen dominated gut are many.
Diarrhea, constipation, excessive gas, bloating, allergies, eczema, irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel, kidney stones, ear infections, strep throat, colds, vaginal yeast infections, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, thrush, athlete’s foot, cancer, and on and on.
The good news is that proactive steps can be taken to rectify the situation to tip the balance back in favor of the friendly bacteria and beneficial yeasts.
How? Homemade fermented foods are one very smart practice, but for many people, the first baby step back to intestinal health involves taking a daily probiotic.
The Benefits of Probiotics
What are probiotics? They are friendly bacteria, thousands of strains, that prevent the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and fungus in the gut. Here is a laundry list of some of the beneficial functions performed by probiotics in the gut.
- Produce substances that normalize cholesterol
- Enhance the protective barrier of the digestive tract to prevent leaking of gut contents into the bloodstream (which produces an unpredictable mix of autoimmune symptoms).
- Produce Vitamin K1
- Lower blood pressure
- Aid in the digestion of lactose
- Prevent cavities
- Neutralize pre-cancerous compounds
- Lower the pH of the intestines
- Utilize oxalates in foods like spinach to prevent kidney stones
- Detoxify carcinogens that are consumed
- Produce beneficial compounds which inhibit the growth of tumors
- Much much more!
No wonder Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, famously said that “all disease begins in the gut”.
How to Take Probiotics
Once the decision to repair the gut is made, the selection of the appropriate probiotic is a must. This article on the best probiotics outlines the selection process in detail. Here is a list of top quality brands to consider to make the task easier given the dozens of probiotics on the market today:
Once you have your chosen supplement in hand, how to take probiotics? Morning or night? On an empty stomach or with food?
These are very common questions and the answer depends on the probiotic manufacturer, according to the staff at Biodynamic Wellness, which specializes in helping people recover their gut health.
Some probiotics are packaged in time-release capsules and some are not. Finding out this information usually requires a phone call to the manufacturer, so when in doubt, assume that they are not time release.
Since it is possible that the high acid environment of the stomach could destroy some of the probiotic bacteria:
<< It is recommended to take probiotics at the END of a meal >>
Does this mean that it isn’t of any benefit to taking a probiotic on an empty stomach?
No. It just means to play it safe to ensure the probiotics are protected from any reduction in potency due to stomach acid by taking them after a meal has been consumed.
This recommendation, of course, does not affect the additional use of probiotics before bed (typically on an empty stomach) to assist with the balancing of probiotics in the mouth and sinus cavities. Beneficial flora seeks to dominate and protect every tissue of your body, not just your gut! There are plenty of beneficial bacteria in your mouth, throat, nasal passages and ears too and when they are in the proper proportion to any pathogens, healthy gums, teeth, and fluid free ears and sinuses are the result.
To this end, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD recommends emptying a probiotic capsule into the mouth and swishing it around before swallowing. Nothing should be consumed even water after you do this. This article on a natural sinus remedy using probiotics explains more about this procedure.
Obviously, the use of probiotics in this fashion is primarily for the health of the mouth and sinus tissues, not just the gut.
In summary, when consuming a probiotic to improve gut health, it is best to take it after a meal. Traveling soon? Check out this article on how to take probiotics while away from home to help keep you well.
How to Repair Your Gut During and After a Round of Antibiotics
Are Antibiotics Always Necessary for Strep Throat?
Why Fermented Foods are Not Enough to Heal the Gut (and the Probiotic Boost they Need)
The Benefits of Prebiotic Foods
How to Choose the Best Probiotic for Your Family
Why Antibiotics Today Could Threaten Your Life Tomorrow
How the Pill Can Harm Your Future Child’s Health
How to Kick Strep Throat Fast