Focus on clean ingredients with foods that are easy to digest, low in fructose and other sugars, and devoid of substances hard on your gut like gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. I emphasize foods that are organic, pesticide-free, non-genetically modified (GMO), full of healthy fats, locally grown, and sustainably farmed. Those include healthy fats, nuts and seeds, high-fiber and low-glycemic carbs, nonstarchy veggies, and clean proteins like wild-caught cold-water fish.
"The name itself is derived from the Latin 'pro-' meaning 'for' and the Greek '-biotic' meaning 'life,'" explains Jeannel Astarita, skincare expert and founder of Just Ageless NYC Wellness and Medspa. "Probiotics are the helpful bacteria that live primarily in your gut and play a crucial role in your overall health by fighting pathogens and yeast that lead to a weakened immune system."
"People have thrown a lot of support to probiotics, even though the literature underlying our understanding of them is very controversial; we wanted to determine whether probiotics such as the ones you buy in the supermarket do colonize the gastrointestinal tract like they're supposed to, and then whether these probiotics are having any impact on the human host," says senior author Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. "Surprisingly, we saw that many healthy volunteers were actually resistant in that the probiotics couldn't colonize their GI tracts. This suggests that probiotics should not be universally given as a 'one-size-fits-all' supplement. Instead, they could be tailored to the needs of each individual."
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) calls probiotics “live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut.” The NCCIH makes the point that we often think of bacteria as harmful “germs” — however, probiotic bacteria actually helps the body function properly.
Prebiotics and probiotics have been trending for a while now, but lately they’re getting even more attention — and showing up in more and more products, from packaged foods (pizza crust!) to topical skin-care products. It’s no surprise consumers are interested: As scientists learn more about the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our bodies and the role they play in our health, some have touted beneficial bugs as a cure-all for digestive distress and other health problems.
There is only preliminary evidence for most probiotic health claims. Even for the most studied probiotic strains, few have been sufficiently developed in basic and clinical research to warrant approval for health claim status by a regulatory agency such as the Food and Drug Administration or European Food Safety Authority, and, as of 2010, no claims had been approved by those two agencies. Some experts are skeptical about the efficacy of different probiotic strains and believe that not all subjects benefit from probiotics.
As one of the best probiotics for weight loss, there have been a slew of studies demonstrating just how powerful this strain of bacteria may be when it comes to your waistline. For instance, one study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that taking Lactobacillus gasseri daily led to significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared to a control group, with participants losing up to 8.5 percent body fat over a 12-week period. (13)
Prebiotics do contribute to a happy, symptom-free gut in the sense that they serve as fuel for the good microbes that help keep the digestive process humming. So while on their own they don’t do much, you absolutely need prebiotics for gut microbiome support and healthy digestion. Natural foods are by far the best source — supplements aren’t necessary if you’re eating a healthy, balanced, and veggie-rich diet.
^ Altenhoefer, Artur; Oswald, Sibylle; Sonnenborn, Ulrich; Enders, Corinne; Schulze, Juergen; Hacker, Joerg; Oelschlaeger, Tobias A (April 2004). "The probiotic Escherichia coli strain Nissle 1917 interferes with invasion of human intestinal epithelial cells by different enteroinvasive bacterial pathogens". FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology. 40 (3): 223–229. doi:10.1016/S0928-8244(03)00368-7.
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.
A closer look at the science underlying microbe-based treatments, however, shows that most of the health claims for probiotics are pure hype. The majority of studies to date have failed to reveal any benefits in individuals who are already healthy. The bacteria seem to help only those people suffering from a few specific intestinal disorders. “There is no evidence to suggest that people with normal gastrointestinal tracts can benefit from taking probiotics,” says Matthew Ciorba, a gastroenterologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “If you're not in any distress, I would not recommend them.” Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, agrees. For the most part, she says, “the claims that are made are enormously inflated.”
There is also promising research on this species for supporting skin. Ceramides are natural lipids that make up the surface of the skin structure. Depleted ceramide levels are clinically linked with dry and damaged skin. S. thermophilus was shown to have a beneficial effect on the level of ceramides in the barrier of the skin, which protects underlying tissue from infection, dehydration and chemicals. These skin-supporting microbes also act as antioxidants in the body, trapping reactive forms of oxygen that dry, damage and age the skin .
As for probiotics’ ability to improve digestive symptoms, the answer is possibly. Probiotic capsules seem to help most when they’re used short-term for acute GI upset (diarrhea, stomach cramps) from eating contaminated food, like a batch of chicken salad that sat out for too long, for example, Dr. Rawls says. They may also help protect your microflora while taking antibiotics, which kill off good bacteria along with the bad, or if you contract C. difficile, a dangerous bacterial infection that causes diarrhea and inflammation of the gut.
I did the “milk test” on these New Rythm probiotics, along with Culturelle I had purchased in 2 different states (TX & MA, as I was traveling); my mother’s CVS brand acidophilus; and one “control” cup with milk only (so, 5 cups total in my experiment). The New Rythm became a solid yogurt consistency, while the other 4 remained liquids. I did the experiment twice, just to be sure of the results. I could not believe it!!! New Rhythm is my brand, hands down!!! I also would like to mention that my product usually arrives the day after it ships. So it will take a few days to ship when I select standard shipping, which is to be expected, but it doesn’t stay in transit long which is ideal for preserving the living cultures.