The majority of people have at one time or another been told to “take a probiotic” by their healthcare provider to boost their immunity either during or after being unwell.
But, which probiotic we take is usually limited to the first bottle we see on the pharmacy shelf with the word ‘probiotic’ in it, which is probably not best practice if we want to really target whatever took our immune system down in the first place and rebalance our gut health back to A-one levels.
However, if you’re not in possession of a medical or nutrition degree, who knows which probiotic to take to get and stay healthy? No one, that’s who.
Which is why we asked nutritionist Zoe Dent from Find Your Glow to share her expert advice on the bewildering topic of probiotics. Below, Dent decodes probiotics including how to get more in your diet through food and how to pick the perfect one for you.
Why do we need probiotics?
“Probiotics can be very useful in helping enhance digestive function and boosting immunity, as they can help replenish the ‘good’ bacteria, often diminished by antibiotics and environmental toxins,” Dent says.
What should we look for when selecting a probiotic supplement?
“When selecting a probiotic supplement, it’s important to choose the right probiotic strain for the right condition, as not all are created equal. Probiotics are made up of a genus, a species and a strain; for example, lactobacillus (genus), plantarum (species), 299v (strain).” Dent says, adding “Scientific evidence has shown that particular strains exert different effects within the body. So some strains may be indicated to protect against travellers diarrhoea, whilst other strains are great for allergy protection, and yet others indicated to help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).”
“As such, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to help choose a strain right for your needs, a general broad spectrum probiotic picked up from the chemist is probably not helpful to most people. Especially since the bacteria contained in commercial probiotic products mostly come from only two groups, lactobacillus or bifidobacterium, which represent only a very small amount of strains that are actually in our gut.”
Can we get probiotics into our lives through healthy eating?
“Yes, I encourage my patients to focus on consuming a wide variety of natural probiotic foods such as fermented vegetables, kombucha, coconut kefir and yoghurts, as well as ensuring they are eating enough prebiotics. Prebiotics are the key to helping you feed your own beneficial bacteria colonies, and are contained in foods such as onions, leeks, garlic, and resistant starch such as green banana flour,” Dent says.
This article originally appeared on Marie Claire.