Category Archives: Probiotics

What are the Uses and Benefits of Probiotics?

best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation

Probiotics are everywhere these days. You’ve probably seen them in the supplement aisle at the grocery store or on TV commercials talking about the best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation (among other maladies). Some food and drinks have probiotics added now for gut support. Perhaps your doctor has even recommended adding some to your daily regimen. Probiotics are more widely talked about and accessible than ever. So, let’s look at some of the uses and benefits of probiotics and why you should consider adding them to your daily health regimen.

Why Use Probiotics?

Everyone has bacteria in their body. This isn’t always a bad thing though. Because we all have “good” and “bad” bacteria. Our good bacteria help fight the bad bacteria and keep the balance. But sometimes our body needs help. We don’t always get all the vitamins and nutrients we need from the food we eat. That’s why we take vitamins and supplements.

The same goes for probiotics. Probiotics are used to help reduce stomach issues like gas and bloating and restore balance in the gut. When your gut is out of balance, it leads to a condition called dysbiosis, which causes all types of other GI issues. If you find you are often bloated and uncomfortable or suffering from constipation, you may want to investigate the best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation. And, probiotics may help give your immune system a boost too.

Also keep in mind that a poor diet that includes too much sugar and refined grains will throw off the balance of bacteria in your stomach. Using antibiotics is another example of how your stomach’s bacteria can be thrown off by killing too many healthy bacteria. Probiotics will help you restore the balance by adding good bacteria back in.

What are the Benefits of Using Probiotics?

There are many benefits to using probiotics. They can help improve your gut health, which will make you feel better overall. They may help reduce irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms for some people, painful bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Also, don’t forget about the benefits to your immune health, as previously mentioned. Those are just a few of the benefits of using probiotics. Some probiotics may even help reduce allergy symptoms!

Choosing the best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation will limit the number of harmful bacteria in your stomach and reduce the chances of that bad bacteria growing into something more severe. Taking probiotics can also help limit the chance of you acquiring secondary problems when you’re on antibiotics.

The best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation could help you improve your health

Whether you’ve been recommended probiotics by a doctor or are exploring the world of friendly gut microbes on your own, finding the right probiotic can be overwhelming. There are tons of different types, and they all seem to offer different benefits. We’ve made it simple by offering you the best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation you will find. It’s an all-in-one capsule that will help you reduce gas and bloating, digest ALL foods better, and improve your BMs.

Click here to find out more.

Probiotics: Learn What They Can Do for You

best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation

When people think of the term “bacteria,” it’s usually in a negative light. While we’re generally taught that sterile things are good and bacteria is bad, this is often not the case.

That’s because your body is home to millions of good bacteria that work together to keep you healthy. These microorganisms are called “probiotics” and they help balance your gastrointestinal and immune systems in many different ways.

Balancing Your System

Probiotics work to restore the balance of your gut bacteria. But what causes that imbalance? Why are there more bad bacteria than good? A number of culprits can be the cause of these imbalances, but it’s often the result of illness or poor diet.

Antibiotics can also kill too many good bacteria by mistake and lead to an imbalance, as can certain medications. For this reason, it’s definitely a good idea to talk to your doctor about what the best probiotic for bloating gas and constipation (or other digestive issue) might be for you.

Strengthening Immune Systems and Prevention

Taking probiotics has been shown to strengthen your immune system and to aid in maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your body. It helps to think about it this way: your gut contains a lot of bacteria. This collection is called the microbiota. The microbiota consists of both helpful and harmful organisms. When you take probiotics, you introduce more helpful bacteria into the mix, and this gives your immune system an advantage.

Digestive Disorder Treatment

Now let’s talk about probiotics and digestive disorders. There have been several strains of probiotics that have shown positive results in treating ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. While there is, so far, limited proven efficacy in treatment of Chrohn’s disease, there has been success in the use of probiotics in treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s important to understand that the best probiotics for bloating, gas, and constipation reduction contain multiple strains. So single strains probiotic supplements are not going to be as effective for relieving these types of symptoms.

Weight Loss and Mental Health

In addition to multi-strain probiotics being best for bloating, gas, and constipation, these types of probiotic supplements have also been shown to help in other areas of your body. Some exciting research is emerging in the field of probiotics and mental health. Although the study of psychobiotics is still developing, there have been some positive outcomes thus far.

Also, probiotics can help prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestines, causing the body to expel that fat instead of storing it. One study found that “Probiotic supplementation appears to change gut microbiota by decrease gut permeability, inflammation, and metabolic disorders, creating a promising environment to weight loss.”

Still Discovering

While research in the use of probiotics is still in early phases, when it comes to discovering the full benefits of these bacteria, the future seems bright.

So far, probiotics appear to be safe for most people with few reported side effects, but you should still talk to your doctor about the best probiotic for bloating, gas, or constipation if you’re suffering from those symptoms.

They’ll be able to give you the best advice for how to use probiotics to improve and maintain your body’s health. And we’re still learning more every day! Visit our website for more details.

Probiotics and Immune Health: Which Strains Are Best for Immunity?

how to boost immunity naturally with probiotics

Can probiotics boost your immune system? The answer, as you’ll learn below, is yes … but there are some caveats.

In this article we’ll review several research studies that have explored the role probiotics play in immunity and reveal what, if any, probiotic strains may help improve your immune health. We’ll also talk about the right foods to eat to boost your immunity and situations in which you should probably avoid probiotics.

Let’s dig in …

The Microbiome, Explained

You have an estimated 40 trillion bacterial cells living inside your body at any given time.

A good chunk of these microorganisms live in your gut and are part of your “microbiome,” the collective community of microbes that reside with you.

The microbiome plays quite the important role in your body, particularly when it comes to immunity …

Scientists have discovered that 70-80 percent of your immune system is controlled by your microbiome.

And your gut microbiome is largely shaped by what you eat and drink, as we’ll explore further below. First, let’s talk probiotics …

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help keep your body healthy and working well. These good bacteria can provide assistance in a number of interesting ways.

Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics can help you maintain a healthy balance in your body by:

  • Supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation.
  • Helping your body digest food.
  • Keeping bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
  • Creating vitamins.
  • Helping support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.

Probiotics are commonly used by medical professionals to treat the following conditions:

  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)
  • Vaginal infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Infection of the GI tract caused by Clostridium difficile
  • Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
  • Eczema in children

Let’s take a deeper dive into the role probiotics play in your immune health, specifically.

Probiotics and Immune Health: What We Know Based on Current Research Studies

Study #1: Beneficial Effects of Probiotic Consumption on the Immune System

According to this 2019 study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism medical journal:

Probiotic bacteria have significant effects on the functionality of the mucosal and systemic immune systems through the activation of multiple immune mechanisms.

The researchers in the study discovered that probiotic bacteria induce signals in the intestine that improve the behavior of the immune system and the host’s health. Probiotic bacteria were deemed to be an “effective tool for the maintenance of the intestinal homeostasis and the stimulation of the mucosal immune system.”

Study #2: Prospective Study of Probiotic Supplementation Results in Immune Stimulation and Improvement of Upper Respiratory Infection Rate

In a 2018 double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, researchers found that a 3-strain probiotic supplement was “safe and effective for fighting the common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections by boosting the immune system.”

Probiotics do appear to be somewhat effective in preventing the common cold. More research is needed but early results are promising.

“Probiotics are particularly helpful for maintaining normal bowel function and good digestive health,” says Bruce Eisendorf, M.D., a family medicine doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “They also keep your immune system strong so you can fight and prevent infection.”

Study #3: Probiotics and Immune Health

A 2011 study found that:

Probiotics showed therapeutic potential for diseases, including several immune response-related diseases, such as allergy, eczema, viral infection, and potentiating vaccination responses.

Which Probiotics Are Best for Immunity?

Here are the strain-specific probiotics that may work for boosting your immune system:

Probiotic StrainImmune System Benefit
Bifidobacterium bifidumReduces cold and flu incidence.
Lactobacillus brevisReduces the incidence of flu.
Lactobacillus GGDecreased risk of upper respiratory infections for children in daycare.
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum Reduces the risk of colds in school-aged children.
Lactobacillus rhamnosusReduces the incidence of pneumonia in people in the intensive care unit.
B. longum Helps prevent the flu in elderly patients.
Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracaseiReduces the number of days with symptoms and severity of colds.

*Shameless Plug Alert: Our digestive health supplement, Pure Food DIGEST, contains ALL of these probiotic strains!

How to Build a Healthy Immune System By Feeding Your Microbiome the Right Foods

One way to improve the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut without probiotic supplements is to eat more foods these “good bacteria” like to eat—namely, fiber-rich foods.

This means increasing your intake of:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Beans/legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds

Getting all your fiber from a single source (like a fiber supplement, for example) is not the best way to boost your gut health and immunity.

Your goal should be to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods each day.

Another way to promote a healthy gut and immune system is to eat foods that already contain beneficial bacteria (probiotics).

This includes:

  • Yogurt, kefir, and other cultured dairy products (there are plant-based options available now too).
  • Kim-chi, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables.
  • Miso, tempeh, natto, and other fermented soy products.
  • Kombucha (fermented tea).

All of these products are available on grocery store shelves or you can make them yourself, which is actually quite fun. My personal DIY foods: kombucha, preserved lemons, fermented pepper paste, and pickles.

Is it Safe to Take Probiotics When You’re Sick?

Probiotic supplements are generally safe for healthy people.

Studies show that taking probiotics may help you get sick less and reduce the amount of time you’re sick for (in regards to common colds/respiratory infections).

But there are some situations where beneficial bacteria (either from foods or supplements) can cause adverse affects.

Acute illnesses such as pancreatitis, Crohn’s, colitis, and celiac disease can lead to increased intestinal permeability, which is when bacteria penetrate the lining of the gut far enough to cause an inflammatory reaction from your immune cells. If your gut is already inflamed, that can spell trouble.

Those with compromised immune systems, either from a severe illness or due to medical treatment for a disease, are also generally advised to avoid probiotic foods and supplements. Some studies have found that using probiotics in severely ill or immunocompromised individuals can increase the risk of adverse effects such as infections.

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Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Types of Digestive Enzymes and Benefits of Each

In this guide, we will answer all of your most common questions about digestive enzymes:

  • What are digestive enzymes, what do they do, and where do they come from?
  • Digestive enzymes vs probiotics: what’s the difference?
  • What do digestive enzymes help with?
  • Which enzyme should you take to break down carbs, fats, proteins, etc.?
  • What’s the best time to take digestive enzymes and probiotics? 
  • Do you need an enzyme supplement?

Let’s get started …

What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes help break down food in your mouth and gut so nutrients are released and can be absorbed across the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream.

Therefore, one of the main things digestive enzymes do is to increase the bioavailability of nutrients. In other words, they help your body digest certain foods better

Where Do Digestive Enzymes Come From?

Our bodies make some types of digestive enzymes. They’re produced in your saliva and as exocrine secretions from the pancreas when you consume food.

Digestive enzyme supplements come from three different sources: animals, plants and microbes.

Animal-sourced

These include pancreatin, pepsin, trypsin and chymotrypsin. Pancreatin includes many of the enzymes necessary for digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (proteases to break down proteins into amino acids; amylase to break down complex carbohydrate molecules into manageable sugars; and lipase to help break down fats).

Plant-sourced

Plant-sourced enzymes include bromelain (from pineapple), papain (from papaya), and gluten-specific proteases, which help break down proteins.

Microbial-sourced

These enzymes come from fungi and bacterial sources and can be used by vegetarians and vegans instead of animal-based enzymes. Common enzymes in this group include amylase, glucoamylase, proteases, lipase and multiple types of saccharidases including lactase (to digest lactose), alphagalactosidase (for digesting beans, legumes and cruciferous vegetables) and cellulase (to help digest cellulose in plants).

Are Digestive Enzymes the Same As Probiotics?

Digestive enzymes and probiotics can both help you improve digestion but they’re not the same. Probiotics are living microorganisms that may provide certain health benefits when ingested while digestive enzymes are non-living molecules that help you digest specific foods better.

Your body produces enzymes but does not produce probiotics, so they must be consumed through the diet or supplemented.

Who Should Take a Digestive Enzyme Supplement?

First, it’s important to understand that an enzyme will only help improve digestion of a food if it’s the right type of enzyme for the right type of food.

Second, digestive enzymes will also only help improve digestive symptoms if those symptoms are  related to poor digestion of particular nutrients or enzyme deficiency. 

What Causes Digestive Enzyme Deficiencies? 

There are many reasons why our bodies often don’t make enough digestive enzymes. One of the main reasons is poor exocrine pancreatic function. The causes of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) are quite diverse and include:

  • Problems with the endocrine part of the pancreas such as insulin dysregulation from diet high in refined carbohydrates and diabetes
  • Gall stones that block the bile duct and reduce/halt the flow of pancreatic juices (biliary stasis)
  • Poor function of the Sphincter of Oddi
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Micronutrient deficiency
  • Protein deficiency
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates causing hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and diabetes
  • High calorie intake
  • Too little or too much exercise

Other factors that also impact digestive enzyme output are:

  • Consuming foods or drinks that promote intestinal inflammation including coffee, alcohol, sugar, and highly processed foods
  • Individual food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, corn, soy etc.
  • Chronic GI infection or inflammation
  • Repeated antibiotic exposure, which affects gut microbiota, digestive and liver health
  • Physical, emotional or psychological stress
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Aging

Symptoms of Digestive Enzyme Insufficiency 

Symptoms of digestive enzyme insufficiency usually appear in the gut and may include:

  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Irritable bowel type symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gut microbiota dysbiosis
  • Undigested food in the stools
  • Stools that float (steatorrhea)
  • Feeling full after only a few mouthfuls
  • Food allergies and intolerances

And for some folks, the lack of enzymes can become a chronic insufficiency that may lead to obesity, allergies and poor immune function, depression and anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, fatigue, autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Types of Digestive Enzymes and Benefits of Each

Different types of enzymes have different benefits. Here are some of the most common ones:

ENZYME CLASS

TYPE / SOURCE

FUNCTION

LipasesLipase / humans, plants and microbes
Essential for digestion of fats.
ProteasesGluten proteases / microbes
Digest gluten and casein.
Alkali proteases / microbes
Digest proteins with pH 4.0-11.
Acid proteases / microbes
Digest proteins within pH 2.0-6.0.
Bromelain / pineapples
Digest proteins.
CarbohydrasesAmylase / humans and microbes
Digest starch and glycogen-specific enzymes and gluten.
Amyloglucosidase / plants and microbes
Digest amylase disaccharides into monosaccharides. Works best with amylase.
Lactase / humans (babies), plants and microbes
Digest the milk sugar lactose.
Alpha galactosidase / microbes
Digest raffinose, stachyose and verbascose in legumes, whole grains and some vegetables.
Invertase / humans, plants and microbes
Digest sucrose and maltose.
Fibrolytic EnzymesPhytase / plants and microbes
Digest phytic acid from nuts, seeds, and grains.
Cellulase / plants and microbes
Digest cellulose, a plant fibre found in fruit and vegetables.

What to Expect When Taking Digestive Enzymes and/or Probiotics

When introducing new bacteria and/or an enzyme supplement into your system, it’s common to experience a brief increase in GI activity like gas, bloating, etc. This normally lasts 1-2 weeks max and is your body’s way of acclimating to a shift in the balance of bacteria in your microbiome. If symptoms persist past this point, it’s probably a good idea to stop.

After a couple weeks, you should notice less of these types of symptoms, as long as you’re taking the supplements at the right times. Which leads to our next topic …

When Is the Best Time to Take Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics?

It’s best to take digestive enzymes and probiotics either right before or with a meal to maximize their time of being in contact with food. Try taking them before or with your largest meal or two of the day to start, and then before/with other meals as-needed.

You should not take probiotic or enzyme supplements first thing in the morning or on an empty stomach because you will likely experience an increase in gas and bloating (note: per the section above, it’s normal to have some of these symptoms even if you take the supplements with food for the first couple weeks). Give your body time to adjust!

Do You Need Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes, or Both?

If you’re having gut issues, the first thing you should do is go visit a licensed healthcare provider who can help you determine if you have an enzyme deficiency. We also recommend scheduling an appointment with an allergist to see which foods, if any, you may be having adverse reactions to.

There does appear to be some benefit to taking a combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes (this is called a synbiotic).

While digestive enzymes will help you break down food and absorb its nutrients, the probiotics will create a natural protective layer of bacteria and the prebiotic fiber will help “feed” the good bacteria.

What to Look for In a Digestive Enzyme / Probiotic / Synbiotic Supplement

Our criteria is admittedly more stringent than others but here’s the checklist we recommend using:

  1. Formulated by a doctor or credentialed healthcare expert.
  2. Contains multiple strains of probiotics and enzymes at safe, efficacious doses.
  3. Ingredients sourced from North America or Europe.
  4. Delayed release capsule or spore-forming probiotics used to ensure most probiotics reach your small intestine.
  5. Third party tested for pathogens and other contaminants and post-production testing done on each batch to ensure you’re getting what it says on the label.

About Our Probiotic / Digestive Enzyme Supplement, DIGEST

If you’re considering a supplement, here’s some more information about our product, Digest, and what sets it apart from other digestive health supplements:

pure food digestive enzymes plus probiotics ingredientscompare digestive enzyme probiotic supplements

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How to Reduce Anxiety Naturally: Foods, Supplements, and Techniques That Actually Work

If you’ve ever felt “butterflies in your stomach” or “gone with your gut”, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source hidden in the walls of your digestive system.

Scientists call this “second brain” the enteric nervous system (ENS) and it’s made up of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your rectum, connected by a giant nerve called the vagus nerve.

How, exactly, does this “gut-brain axis” affect your mental health? What role, if any, do microbes in our gut play in how we feel when we’re stressed and anxious? Can you reduce your anxiety levels just by changing the way you eat? What are some proven strategies you can use for reducing anxiety, starting right now?

We’ll answer all those questions and more in this article.

The Role of the Enteric Nervous System (ENS)

how to reduce anxiety without medicationThe ENS controls digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination, according to Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. Pasricha states:

The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.

The ENS may trigger emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. Dr. Pasricha noted:

For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around.

This means that inflammation in your gut may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.

But feelings like anger, anxiety, sadness, surprise—all of these (and others) can also be the cause of symptoms in the gut.

With that in mind, let’s explore some strategies proven by research to help you reduce inflammation in your gut, which can help you significantly reduce your stress and anxiety as a result.

What to Eat to Decrease Your Anxiety and Stress Levels

Food plays a vital role in helping to control anxiety and stress. Let’s look at what to eat and what not to eat if you want to reduce your anxiety.

What Not to Eat

  1. Sugar: A diet low in sugar can starve out undesirable bacteria in the gut, leading to a positive effect on the gut-brain axis. Also, anxiety is often associated with hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar drops to an abnormally low level a few hours after a sugary meal or drink. Balancing blood sugar is crucial to keeping symptoms of anxiety at bay.
  2. Saturated Fat: Diets higher in saturated fat and added sugars have been associated with higher anxiety levels.
  3. Alcohol: Drinking booze is also associated with higher levels of anxiety. Moderation is key.

What to Eat

  1. Vegetables and Whole Grains: Studies have found that people who eat more vegetables and non-refined grains are less likely to suffer from anxiety.
  2. Unsaturated fats: A meta-analysis of 14 studies found that people who suffer from depression and anxiety consumed lower levels of healthy monounsaturated fats (from olive oil, fish, and nuts).
  3. Fermented foods: Fermented foods like sauerkraut have beneficial microbes that may play a role in stress, anxiety, and depression. Aim to add a serving or two of fermented vegetables to your diet each day.

Specific diets, such as a low-FODMAP diet (a diet low in carbs and sugars), eliminate certain foods that can produce gas and bloating in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) patients. But this diet is hard to adhere to and may not be healthy in the long run because you’re forced to eliminate so many beneficial foods.

Supplements That May Help Improve Your Mood and Decrease Feelings of Anxiety

By now, you know that a healthy diet is crucial for physical well-being. Researchers in recent years have also begun to study whether certain supplements can improve gastrointestinal health and your mood.

Here are some of the most promising ones:

1. Probiotics

Probiotics have been shown to help improve the overall balance of your gut flora, leading to a “broad healing effect” in multiple body systems.

Researchers have found that manipulating the gut microbiota with probiotics may help manage symptoms of mental disorders.

And a 2019 review study published in the journal General Psychiatry revealed that over half of the 21 clinical studies included in the review showed positive results in treating anxiety symptoms through regulation of intestinal microbiota.

The review looked at two kinds of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions). Both probiotic and non-probiotic (diet and exercise) interventions were found to be effective.

It’s important to note that multiple probiotic strains across varying studies were used and contributed to positive outcomes in improving gut-brain connectivity and, hence, anxiety. Diversity is key.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown in small studies to have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms. More research is needed but because of its other many benefits, we highly recommend magnesium as a front-line supplement for most adults.

3. CBD

While human-based research on CBD and anxiety is fairly limited at this point, there are several small studies that have been conducted:

  1. A 1993 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology followed four groups of 10 people. Groups were given either CBD, Valium, ipsapirone, or placebo. The results suggested that ipsapirone and CBD have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties in stressful situations.
  2. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, “CBD reduces anxiety in social anxiety disorder (SAD).”
  3. A 2015 review published in the journal Neurotherapeutics found that CBD may help improve the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

4. L-lysine and L-arginine

A double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study showed that taking a combination of the amino acids L-lysine and L-arginine can help reduce mental stress and anxiety.

5. Kava

Kava is a plant extract made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. There is evidence that suggests kava may be a useful way to treat mild anxiety.

How I Have Personally Reduced My Anxiety Dramatically

These are the strategies I have personally used that have been most impactful for reducing and controlling my stress and anxiety:

best sleep dietResearch shows eating a diet high in certain foods (like sugar) is associated with higher anxiety levels. So how do you know what the “right” foods for you are?

My advice: avoid fad diets and one-size-fits-all approaches to nutrition. Different foods affect people different ways and I think we’re entering a very exciting new chapter of personalized nutrition.

To that end, I highly recommend getting a microbiome test from Viome and an allergy test at a physician’s office. These two tests will tell you exactly what foods to eat more of and which ones to avoid based on your unique gut bacteria.

how drinking impacts sleepHaving a drink or two a day may have some longevity benefits … but the problem with drinking alcohol to help ease anxiety is people who do so are more likely to develop a dependence to booze.

Let the record show I still enjoy my glass or two of wine each night but my days of hard drinking are long gone, thankfully, and it has definitely made a difference in my quality of sleep.

You sleep much worse when you’re drunk, by the way, for those of you who still have friends who think they sleep better when they’re inebriated.

sleep gratitude connectionExpressing gratitude is one of the easiest ways to feel better. It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re writing down things you’re grateful for. It’ll help shift your thoughts away from what’s not going well for you now so you can focus more on what is. 

how exercise affects sleepExercise is a “keystone habit,” which means it leads to other healthy habits. When I feel stressed and anxious, working out always helps me feel better (I’m partial to strength training and playing basketball).

It’s no secret that taking care of your body is one of the best ways to quell anxiety and feel better about yourself.

deep breathing for sleep

Your brain may control your body, but the body can also control the brain. Deep breathing is a powerful tool that can be used to shift your brain-state and the stress response quickly.

Research shows deep breathing can help lower cortisol, a stress hormone your body produces when you’re anxious. It can even reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.  There are many different deep breathing techniques you can.

To learn some tools and techniques we recommend for using your breath as a weapon to stop anxiety in its tracks, check out our article How to Breathe Better

creativity for insomniaWhat’s your creative outlet? I love cooking, playing guitar, writing, and gardening. Doing these things makes me happy because I get to create, learn, and improve every single day.

I recommend scheduling time every day (even 5-10 minutes!) to work on something creative. Doing this every day significantly reduced my anxiety.

Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing.

Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH

best sleep tips for insomniaIf you’re sleep-deprived, you are likely exacerbating your anxiety. Make sleep a priority.

See this guide for details on how to do it: How to Sleep Better.

nature sleep impactStudies show that spending time outside in nature can reduce anxiety and stress levels. So whenever you’re feeling anxious, go take a walk … preferably somewhere with trees and/or green space.

best expert sleep advice everThere’s no better way to feel better, in my humble opinion, than spending quality time with family and friends and bringing your full attention to being with them. That’s the real “secret sauce” to kicking your anxiety to the curb (at least temporarily).

A proactive approach focused on diet, supplements like probiotics, and breathwork may be a good place to start in controlling anxiety. But you should always consult a healthcare professional if you’re dealing with chronic anxiety or depression.

How to Improve Gut Health Naturally

microbiome git health

Your microbiome, the community of around 100 trillion bacteria, viruses, and fungi inhabiting your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, plays a pivotal role in health and disease

The microbiome has been implicated in multiple chronic conditions ranging from inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease to colorectal cancer.

Your microbiome has a direct impact on how you think, feel, and act too. 

We know that the gut microbiota undergo significant fluctuations over the course of one’s lifetime … and these modifications are frequently associated with undesirable effects on your health. 

But, these fluctuations are influenced by several controllable factors, such as lifestyle, stress, nutrition, and antibiotic use. A 2021 study showed “how little of the microbiome is predetermined by our genes and therefore how much is modifiable by diet,” according to researcher Sarah Berry. 

In this guide, we will cover four proven strategies for improving your gut health. We will talk about some exciting research that will show you how to 1.) breathe, 2.) move, 3.) exercise, and 4.) sleep better to create long-term, sustainable changes to your microbiome and in turn, your overall health and wellness. 

Let’s get started … 

Download the PDF Version of This Gut Health Guide Here

Breathing

deep breathing for gut healthYou know that feeling you get when you’re stuck in traffic and late for a meeting? Or somebody cuts you off then has the audacity to honk at you? 

These types of stressful events cause emotional responses like anger or fear, which prompt an immediate physical reaction within your body: your heart beats faster, your breathing gets quicker, and your stomach tenses up. 

This “fight or flight” response causes blood to move from your gut to the larger muscles, which hampers digestion, weakens your immune system, and increases inflammation.

The changes may not last long, and in the short term they aren’t harmful and may even be helpful in certain situations. But when they happen repeatedly, over time they can cause dysbiosis (when your gut bacteria are out of whack). 

The good news is, you can learn to recognize and turn off these automatic responses through deep breathing.

Before you dispel this as New Age mumbo jumbo, here’s some science to quell your skepticism.

According to the University of Michigan Health System

For those suffering from GI symptoms, diaphragmatic breathing offers specific benefits: Activating the diaphragm creates a gentle massaging action felt by internal organs like the intestines and stomach, which can reduce abdominal pain, urgency, bloating and constipation. While diaphragmatic breathing, you are facilitating the activation of the parasympathetic system, which can be thought of as the relaxation response of the body or the “rest and digest” state. 

Deep breathing has additional benefits, including:

Action Steps: 

  1. Read this primer on how to breathe better
  2. Practice deep breathing each day. Start with just 1-5 minutes then work your way up from there (I personally aim for 10-30 minutes each day, spread out over 2-3 sessions depending on the day). There are many different deep breathing techniques (progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, repetitive prayer, guided imagery, the Wim Hoff Method, to name a few).

Eating

foods to improve gut health naturally

Eating for better gut health is a highly individual affair. 

In this section, we’ll cover some different dietary approaches that may be beneficial for those GI issues. 

First, it’s important to talk to a specialist if you’re having digestive issues to make sure it’s not something more serious. I also highly recommend getting tested for food allergies and getting a gut intelligence test. These two tests will tell you exactly what foods you should and shouldn’t be eating, based on your unique physiology. 

Now let’s unpack a few dietary approaches that may (or may not) help improve your gut health. 

The FODMAP Diet

FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gut disorders. 

These substances include lactose, fructose, fructans, galactans, and polyalcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, and isomalt). 

Clinical trials suggest that most patients with IBS report a reduction in symptoms from following a low-FODMAP diet. 

Also, people with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) seem to benefit from a low-FODMAPs diet and often experience a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms.

But despite the demonstrated beneficial effects, low-FODMAPs diet have generated some concerns, namely: 

  • IBS patients have been shown to have a dysbiotic microbiota, which might predispose them to additional pathological dysbiosis (a gut that’s out of balance that can lead to other health issues). 
  • In one clinical trial, microbiota of IBS patients submitted to 4-week dietary intervention was compared with that of an IBS patient with a habitual diet. The authors demonstrated a reduction in concentration and proportion of Bifidobacteria after the carbohydrate restriction. 
  • Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) patients on the low FODMAP diet experienced a reduction of beneficial Bifidobacteriaceae and an increase of disease-promoting Lachnospiraceae were observed in their gut microbiota. 

Taking probiotics might help offset some of this. According to this 2019 study

Supplementation of the diet with probiotics could help in maintaining the beneficial component of gut microbiota, especially considering the inverse correlation between Bifidobacteria and the symptomatology of IBS. 

The Impact of Ketogenic Diets on Gut Health

Low carbohydrate diets like keto, Paleo, and Atkins focus on drastically reduced carbohydrate intake in favor of fats and protein. 

More research is needed on the long-term effects of these diets on gut health. Here’s what we know so far, based the current body of evidence

  1. A few human and animal studies have shown different results demonstrating positive effects on reshaping bacterial architecture and gut biological functions, while others reporting negative effects as a lowered diversity and an increased amount of pro-inflammatory bacteria. 
  2. According to several different studies, better strategies are needed to maximize the benefit of ketogenic diets. Here’s what they recommend: 
    1. Introduce the use of whey and plant proteins (i.e., pea protein).
    2. Reduce the intake of animal protein.
    3. Implement fermented food and beverages (yogurt, water and milk kefir, kimchi, fermented vegetables). 
    4. Introduce prebiotics and probiotics. 
    5. Reduce omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids ratio (increase omega 3 while decreasing omega 6).
    6. Introduce an accurate quantity and quality of unsaturated fatty acids. 
    7. Avoid artificial sweeteners and processed foods.
    8. Test your microbiome if needed (analysis of 16S rRNA to identify biodiversity and richness).

Gluten Free Diets and Gut Health: What We Know So Far

What about a gluten free diet? It’s a low-carb world, and many people are pushing grains off their plate in an effort to control their waistline and improve GI symptoms. 

Gluten-free diets are essential for people with celiac disease and other medical conditions that are negatively affected by gluten. 

But for most people, gluten is unjustifiably vilified. 

A 2019 meta analysis published in the scientific journal Nutrients reported that in patients with cardiovascular disease, after two years on a gluten-free diet, the “imbalance of duodenal mucosal microbiota were not completely restored with a worsening in the reduction of bacterial richness.”

And while some potentially pathogenic bacteria such as E coli and Staphylococcus may decrease on a gluten free diet, levels of beneficial species as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus also remain low. 

Anti-nutrients: Good or Bad? 

Anti-nutrients are natural substances found in certain plant- and animal-based foods that can block the absorption of nutrients. A common refrain you hear from people who swear off grains is that anti-nutrients are terrible for you and cause all types of issues.  

That may not be the case though. 

According to the Harvard School of Public Health

  • The pros and cons of anti-nutrients on long-term human health is an area of active research. 
  • Though certain foods may contain residual amounts of anti-nutrients after processing and cooking, the health benefits of eating these foods outweigh any potential negative nutritional effects. 
  • Eating a variety of nutritious foods daily and avoiding eating large amounts of a single food at one meal can help to offset minor losses in nutrient absorption caused by anti-nutrients.
  • Many anti-nutrients have antioxidant and anticancer actions, so avoiding them entirely is not recommended.

Why Most People Should Not Give Up Grains

Based on the current body of evidence, whole grains have some unique digestive health properties that make them a valuable addition to the diet for most people. The pros outweigh the cons. 

Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, saysThe main benefit of whole cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, and barley, is in the fiber. Cereal fiber is different from vegetable fiber or bean fiber.”

A reduced risk of colon cancer has been linked to fiber from grains, but not necessarily fiber from other sources, such as fruits and vegetables, she says. 

Whole grains have other health benefits as well. They lower cholesterol levels and reduce chronic inflammation, which has been linked to cancer and heart disease. Reducing chronic inflammation inside the body may also help to control blood pressure.

A 2016 study published in the journal Circulation found that people who ate at least four servings of whole grains each day had a 22% lower risk of death from any cause during the study period, compared with people who didn’t eat as much. The study’s authors also found a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer associated with diets rich in whole grains.

How Whole Grains Affect Your Microbiome

Whole grains break down slowly during digestion, which helps to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. Similarly, some studies have linked whole grains with a lower risk of getting diabetes.

The fiber in whole grains acts as a prebiotic, which is a substance that helps to feed, grow, and sustain healthy bacteria in your intestines. 

One study found that “whole grains, including oats, constitute important sources of nutrients for the gut microbiota and contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.”

Another study published in 2019 in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition showed “Increasing cereal fiber consumption should be encouraged for overall good health and for gut microbiota diversity.

Action Steps: 

Cleveland Clinic Gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD, shares six tips to improve your gut health and digestion naturally.

  1. Eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Fill your plate with the colors of the rainbow, from red to dark green. Stock up on canned and frozen veggies for convenience, but also be sure to include lots of fresh produce into your meals. Try to add a few veggies with each meal. 
  2. Choose whole grains more often. Look for and choose packages that say “whole grains” more often than white or processed bread or other grains. Then also check the amount of fiber the product contains. Try to choose items with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving for the most benefit.
  3. If you eat meat, limit the amount of beef, pork, lamb and processed meats you eat. Choose poultry or fish more frequently than red meat and limit all processed meats, like salami, bacon and hotdogs. Smaller portions of meat (1-4 oz.), consumed less often, are also beneficial. Most people don’t need to consume more than 6-8 ounces of meat every day. Try replacing meat with some beans or other plant-based protein for more fiber. One half cup of beans provides the same amount of protein as in 1 ounce of meat.
  4. Experiment with healthier cooking options. Opt for steaming, poaching, stewing, microwaving, braising and boiling over grilling and frying. And don’t forget – it’s important to make sure your meat gets cooked thoroughly before eating it to reduce other digestive health risks, such as salmonella (author’s note: I spent a day in the hospital after getting salmonella … trust me when I say you don’t want to experience it). 
  5. Consume foods with probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that help fight off the bad bacteria in your gut. They also produce healthy substances that provide nourishment for your gut. Good sources of probiotics include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchee, raw apple cider vinegar, onion, garlic and sauerkraut. If those foods don’t suit your fancy, then a probiotic supplement may help. 
  6. Limit foods that have added sugars and animal fats. These foods can produce harmful chemicals in your GI tract and cause major damage over time. Read ingredient labels for sources of added sugars – they can be tricky! 

Sleeping

microbiome supplementsThere’s a direct link between sleep disturbances and gut health. 

Just as you can influence your waking routine, scientists have determined poor night-time practices and an unhealthy diet can change your gut flora and impact your risk of insomnia

There are several theories on how your gut microbes might affect sleep: 

  1.     The Gut-Brain Axis

The connection between our brain and our digestive system is a complex system connected by the vagus nerve. Key signals can be passed between these two, such as when we’re hungry, stressed, or even our emotional state.

If your gut microbiome shows signs of gut dysbiosis, leading to leaky gut syndrome, it’s possible neuroinflammatory metabolites may be traveling up the vagus nerve and penetrating the brain. These metabolites have been shown to influence our stress response, impacting our heart rate and disrupting sleep structure patterns.

  1.     Hormone Regulation:

Many microbes within our gut microbiome produce serotonin, a key biochemical that regulates our mood. Serotonin is also a precursor for melatonin, another hormone essential to our light-dark cycle that eases us to sleep. If the gut microbiome isn’t producing it’s fair share of serotonin, this hormone flow may cease to a trickle and change standard sleep patterns.

This theory has also been supported by the number of people suffering from mood disorders like depression who also report additional issues with sleep. Researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan said, “Changing which microbes are in the gut by altering diet has the potential to help those who have trouble sleeping.”

  1.     Immune System:

Scientists say our gut houses upwards of 70% of our immune system. When we’re at our optimal health, this “immune organ” works in peak performance like an efficient fighting machine. However, when our body is under long-term assault from toxic substances, invading bacteria, or injury, our immune system can interrupt normal processes and change how well we regulate our sleep cycle.

When the gut ecosystem becomes imbalanced, it can cause an immune reaction that permeates through the digestive lining and penetrates peripheral tissues. If this immune response reaches organs such as the lungs, the inflammatory response can impact breathing at night and increase the likelihood of disorders like sleep apnea.

Action Steps: 

  1. Improve your diet by following the Action Steps in the Eating section above.  
  2. Try a prebiotic / probiotic / digestive enzyme supplement
  3. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Try going to bed 20-30 minutes earlier than normal each night. Dr. Meeta Singh, a sleep disorder expert at Henry Ford Sleep Disorders Center says “If you increase your time in bed by even 15 – 20 minutes, you will notice a difference.”
  4. Don’t eat or drink caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine can disrupt your sleep. Cut it out after 3 p.m.
  5. Don’t drink too much alcohol. 1 or 2 drinks a night should be your limit. Any more and your sleep will suffer.
  6. Keep your room as dark and quiet as possible. I have two young kids, so I know “quiet” is relative for many of us. But a room darkening shade and/or a sleep mask is a great investment if you don’t have them. And to drown out those loud kids, pets, partners, use ear plugs.
  7. Invest in a white noise machine and ear plugs if needed (check out the links for the ones I use). The Lectrofan white noise machine is the loudest and best white noise machine I’ve used … we have four of them in our house!
  8. Cut out screen time while in bed. Watch TV, check your phone, or dabble on your tablet outside of the bedroom. Studies show technology in the bedroom negatively impacts sleep.
  9. Spend 15-30 minutes winding down. Read, do yoga, stretch, foam roll, or meditate to wind down before bed. People who do sleep better.
  10. Invest in a good pillow and mattress. Think about how much time you spend in bed. A good mattress will probably set you back $1000+, but upgrading your pillow is a super easy sleep hack. I recommend the Coop Home Goods Pillow and body pillow. They’re highly rated on Amazon, hypoallergenic, and you can adjust the amount of memory foam inside to your liking.
  11. Use a sleep tracker. There are many sleep tracking products on the market now. I have used both the FitBit Charge 2 and Charge 3 with success, as well as the Withings Sleep Mat. All are $150 or less. I’ve heard good things about the Oura Ring too, but it’s a bit more expensive. 

Moving 

Studies suggest that exercise can:

  • Enhance the number of beneficial microbial species
  • Enrich the microflora diversity
  • Improve the development of commensal bacteria. 

Microflora diversity is indispensable to homeostasis and normal gut physiology and contributes to efficient signaling along the aforementioned brain-gut axis.

Exercise also improves the Bacteroidetes-Firmicutes ratio, which may contribute to reducing weight and gastrointestinal disorders, stimulate the proliferation of bacteria which can modulate mucosal immunity and improve barrier functions, and stimulate bacteria capable of producing substances that protect against gastrointestinal disorders and colon cancer. 

Here are some tips to improve your gut health with exercise …

Action Steps: 

  1. Schedule a little exercise every day. Add a recurring event on your calendar for 5-15 minutes of exercise every day. 5 minutes may not seem like enough, but you will often find that you want to do more when you have the time. And even if you only have time for 5 minutes, it’ll help you create a habit, which is imperative to long-term success. 
  2. Find some types of exercise you don’t hate. You’ll be more likely to stick with something you enjoy. So try different types of workouts until you find a couple you like doing. 
  3. Switch things up for best results. You need to constantly push your body outside of its comfort zone to create adaptation. The point of diminishing returns happens when you do the same thing for too long and it yields less and less desirable results relative to the work put in. Constantly seek out and try new ways of moving. 
  4. Don’t sit for more than 20 minutes at a time. If you spend a lot of time sitting, changing that habit is one of the best things you can do for your overall health (and particularly your gut health). Stand up and go for a 5-minute walk around your house, stretch, dance, do a few yoga poses. Try “walking meetings” whenever possible. Here are a few of my favorite exercises I do in between my daily tasks. 

Download the PDF Version of This Gut Health Guide Here

How to Find the Best Probiotics for YOU, According to Science

In this guide, we’ll help you navigate the fascinating yet complex world of probiotics.

We’ll talk about the benefits and risks of probiotics. The best food sources of probiotics. The myths and misconceptions. And what to look for if you decide to take a probiotic supplement.

Away we go …

Download Our FREE Gut Health Guide Here

What Are Probiotics and Why Are They So Popular Right Now?

best vegan probiotics

There are 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body at any given moment (compared to around 30 trillion human cells).

Many of these bacterial organisms live in your gut, part of a stunningly complex network of neurons known as your “microbiome”.

The densest part of your microbiome is in your gut, where about 1,000 species of bacteria feast on complex carbohydrates and fibers you eat.

The microbiome plays an important role in your body …

Scientists have discovered that 70-80 percent of your immune system is controlled by your microbiome and 95 percent of your body’s serotonin—the neurotransmitter that’s the main contributor to your well-being and happiness—is made in your gut, not your brain.

The gut microbiome is largely shaped by what we eat and drink. And the Western diet, with its heavy use of heavily processed foods like refined flour and sugar, actually starves your microbiota, leading to a plethora of health conditions.

That’s why probiotics, these “good”, “friendly” or “healthy” bacteria you can take in supplement form, are so popular now.

The Best Food and Drink Sources of Naturally-Occurring Probiotics

1. Fermented vegetables 

Sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi are among the most popular natural sources of vegan probiotics. But most of the store brands contain vinegar and preservatives, which kill the beneficial bacteria.

So look for pickled vegetables that are naturally fermented using salt.

Or just make your own.

Personal note: I was inspired to start fermenting vegetables after reading Michael Pollan’s fantastic book, Cooked. All you need is vegetables/fruit, salt, and a fermentation vessel. This is the crock I use if you get serious but when you’re first starting out, any large container will work).

Also, the cellular structure of certain foods makes them act as “superfoods” for good microbes to feed on. These include onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, jicama, and peas.

2. Fermented tea 
Kombucha is black tea that’s fermented with sugar. Some store-bought brands also add sugar, which can strengthen harmful microbes like E. coli.

Personal note: I got this kombucha kit and use it to make a fermented tea called Jun that uses green tea and honey instead of black tea and sugar. Here’s how to make it.

3. Sourdough bread

There is not a more delicious way to enjoy the benefits of probiotics than eating a warm, crusty slice of sourdough bread (assuming you don’t have a gluten sensitivity).

Personal note: I also start making sourdough bread after reading Cooked. Seriously, read the book! Then pick up a sourdough starter and some flour and make this no-knead Cast Iron Sourdough Bread recipe. from the New York Times.

4. Fermented soy

Soy has gotten a bad rap because it’s used so much in processed foods and is one of the top 8 allergens. However, fermented soy products like organic miso, tofu, and soy sauce may actually have some health benefits.

5. Plants … lots of plants

Simple sugars cause conflict between our microbes and cells, but eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains encourages cooperation between them. Gregory Plotnifkoff, MD, coauthor of Trust Your Gut recommends adhering to the old Japanese adage of eating at least 30 different whole foods per day!

6. Supplements

Eating 30 different foods can be a challenge for time-strapped folks though. That’s where probiotic supplements may help.

How to Find the Best Probiotic Supplements for Your Health Needs

healthiest probiotics for vegansNot all probiotics strains are the same. Different strains offer different benefits and some probiotic strains survive manufacturing processes, shelf life and digestive transit better than others. When choosing a probiotic consider the following questions:

  1. Is it derived from dairy? 4 out of every 5 probiotic supplements contain dairy-based derivatives. This isn’t just bad news for vegans. Why Because up to 65 percent of adults are lactose intolerant, which means milk-based probiotics can make things worse for those with dairy sensitivities. On top of that, dairy-based probiotics are often only shelf stable for a few days. After this, the bacteria start to die. So, you have to take more of them to feel any effect. Choose “plant-based” or vegan probiotics instead. The product packaging or company website should tell you if the probiotic supplement you’re considering is from vegan / plant based sources.
  2. Does your probiotic survive stomach acid and/or manufacturing? As mentioned, most don’t. Certain strains fare better than others. Always ask the manufacturer of your probiotic if they have any clinical research to support their product. Just because they sell a popular strain, doesn’t mean their probiotic are live and active.
  3. Is your probiotic tested for safety and potency? The FDA doesn’t require probiotic companies to test their bacteria strains. So naturally, most don’t do it. Probiotic contamination is a big deal though. If your probiotic manufacturer doesn’t have strict quality control measures in place, your probiotic may be doing more harm than good. And, many of these beneficial bacteria die during processing because of the harsh processing methods most manufacturers use. Make sure the company you buy from tests its probiotics for safety and potency and can provide documentation to prove it.
  4. Is your probiotic backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies? Don’t trust marketing claims on product labels and websites. Even most clinical data large probiotic companies cite is funded by the companies themselves. Your probiotic should be backed by randomized, double-blind, peer-reviewed clinical studies (the gold standard in scientific research) whenever possible if the company makes any claims about its benefits.
  5. Does your probiotic contain artificial fillers, preservatives, allergens, and other junk? The answer is usually yes, but manufacturers are very good at hiding this information. The only way to know is to ask them what “excipients” are in it and what purpose those serve.
  6. Does your probiotic contain prebiotic fiber and digestive enzymes? Prebiotics are essentially “food” that probiotics feast on. They help make probiotics more effective once they reach your intestines and colon. Digestive enzymes can help you digest all foods better, so often times you’ll see supplements that contain these as well.
  7. What health challenges are you facing? Different strains of probiotics offer different types of benefits. Don’t just buy a probiotic without understanding the type or types of strains it contains—otherwise you’re very likely wasting your money. For example, I suffer from GI issues, so I make sure I take strains that help me with those.

The Number One Myth About Probiotics

If you’ve shopped for probiotics before, you’ve probably noticed one statistic that all probiotics emphasize on the bottle, the CFU count. CFUs, or colony forming units, are the number of live probiotic bacteria that are supposed to be in each serving.

Some companies pack tens or even hundreds of billions of CFUs per dose. But what they don’t tell you is that most of these bacteria are going to die before they ever reach your small intestine (where they exert  the most benefits).

Probiotic companies have pushed CFU count as the singular point of comparison for the uninformed. In a way, this makes sense because it gives buyers an easy number that they can use to compare competing products.

But more CFUs does not always mean more effective! And in some cases, more can be worse.

The National Institutes of Health states:

Many probiotic supplements contain 1 to 10 billion CFU per dose, but some products contain up to 50 billion CFU or more. However, higher CFU counts do not necessarily improve the product’s health effects.

How Many CFUs Do You Really Need?

CFU numbers on probiotic supplements can vary anywhere from several million to 50 billion, but  research has shown that effective probiotic dosage for general gut health seems to be in the range of 10 million to one billion CFUs per day in humans.

Another thing to keep in mind is that multi-strain probiotics will help you achieve better results than single-strain probiotics. Different probiotic strains excel at different mechanisms, so diversified collection of strains is ideal for overall health.

The Best Time to Take Probiotics

Research shows you can take probiotics before, during, or after meals. However, you may experience additional benefits if you take your probiotics with some form of healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, etc.).

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Let’s look at some of the strain-specific benefits of probiotics …

Sleep Benefits of Probiotics

We spend almost a third of our lives asleep. Researchers are discovering that the duration and quality of our sleep affect everything from our cognitive performance, mood, and memory to the health of our immune and endocrine systems.

It’s widely known that quality sleep can improve your memory, reduce inflammation (the pre-cursor to most disease), sharpen your mental focus, help you control your weight, and lower your stress levels.

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) produce and regulate a number of neurotransmitters and hormones that impact our sleep:

Tryptophan and Melatonin: Probiotics can increase blood levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that converts into serotonin and then into melatonin, the hormone that regulates how sleepy you feel.

Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and plays a significant role in sleep quality. Researchers found that serotonin deficiency in rats led to disrupted sleep-wake cycles. Most serotonin is made in the gut.

GABA: Beneficial bacteria help produce GABA, the calming brain chemical, as well as enhance its brain receptors.

Cortisol: If temporary stress and anxiety are the cause of your sleepless nights, rest assured that probiotics may even lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that becomes elevated during times of stress.

So what probiotic strains have been shown to be effective for sleep? Not many, just yet.

A small study showed that the probiotic Streptococcus can help improve sleep outcomes.

Mental Health Benefits of Probiotics

The relationship between the microbiota and anxiety/depression has been studied mainly in animals … but preliminary research is promising.

Your gut microbiota plays a major role in the communication between the gut and the brain.

A review of several research studies showed that certain probiotics have antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. The researchers concluded:

Regulation of the gut microbiota using diet, probiotics and FMT (fecal microbiota transplantation) may have important benefits for preventing and treating depression.

Weight Loss Benefits of Probiotics

In a metaanalysis of over 800 studies, researchers found that:

Administration of probiotics resulted in a significantly larger reduction in body weight and fat percentage compared with placebo; however, the effect sizes were small.

Immunity Benefits

Research is still emerging in this area but it appears probiotics may be able to help you keep your immune system functioning at a higher level.

New research has shown that certain strains can activate health immune cells and decrease inflammation.

Gut Health Benefits

Several probiotic strains have been shown to help those suffering from GI issues like diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowl disease (IBD), and food allergies.

Safety and Side Effects of Probiotics

According to the National Institutes of Health, the safety of probiotics depends on the state of your health and the strain you’re using.

In people who are generally healthy, probiotics have a solid safety record. Side effects, if they occur at all, usually consist only of mild digestive symptoms such as gas.

On the other hand, there have been reports linking some probiotics to severe side effects, such as dangerous infections, in people with serious underlying medical problems. The people who are most at risk of severe side effects include critically ill patients, those who have had surgery, very sick infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Do your homework and ask your doctor about any certain strains so she/he can tell you whether it’s safe for you.

Bottom Line About Probiotics

the best probioticsFrom the day you were born, your digestive tract has been exposed to a steady stream of bacteria–some helpful, some harmful. One key to gastrointestinal (GI) health is maintaining a balance of these “good” and “bad” bacteria.

Over time, diet, aging, antibiotic use, travel, medications, illness, stress, and hormonal changes can disrupt your intestinal balance.

Keeping a healthy level of these “good” bacteria is key to maintaining your digestive and immune health.

To help level the playing field of good and bad bacteria, many people find it helpful to add a daily supplement or eat more probiotic fortified foods and beverages.

Like most industries, the market for probiotics is ripe with crappy products. The only way to know if your probiotic is legit is to answer the 7 questions above. If a manufacturer is hesitant to provide any information you ask for, that’s a big red flag for an inferior product that could do more harm than good.

10 minutes of research makes a world of difference when it comes to choosing the right probiotic supplement for you.

Learn More About Pure Food DIGEST (Probiotics + Prebiotics + Digestive Enzymes

Sources Not Linked to Above/Further Reading:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-HealthProfessional/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-humans-carry-more-bacterial-cells-than-human-ones/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10564096

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204468004577164732944974356

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

https://www.the-rheumatologist.org/details/article/1386089/The_Microbiome.html

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/gut-week-do-probiotics-work-are-they-good-for-me/ 

https://experiencelife.com/article/how-to-heal-a-leaky-gut/