WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO TAKE PROBIOTICS?
We have an increasing understanding of the importance of our bacterial ecosystem in our overall health. Over half of our 70 trillion cells are actually microbial. So we’d do well to take care of them if we want them to take care of us.
One of the most popular ways to promote healthy bacteria is to swallow capsules containing them. Many people do notice a benefit from this and there are at this point thousands of studies on different species of bacteria helping with all sorts of symptoms and conditions.
But does that mean we should take them for ever? What are they really doing? Are there other ways to support a healthy and diverse ecosystem?
ARE PROBIOTICS WORTH TAKING?
Probiotics appear to work through changing the ecoystem through second messenger signaling. However, when they're discontinued, they're usually not found in stool samples. What this means is that they're not really repopulating the gut, their modulating the gut when you take them and the effect often goes away when discontinued.
If we step back and instead of starting with asking about probiotics, we ask what the goal is - then we might find a variety of ways to get there. The goal is likely robust health which we know is associated with a diverse microbiome with certain key species present.
So how can we get there?
We can eat a variety of vegetables, particularly ones that my have some soil-based microbes on there.
We can eat fermented foods.
We can get plenty of healthy sunlight.
We can prioritize restorative sleep.
We can take Stage and ecology-appropriate botanicals.
We can avoid excessively cold things like antibiotics or sugary ice cream.
We can avoid alcohol, sugar and EMFs.
Do probiotics have a role to play in health cultivation? Maybe, but I believe it's not a central role and that they're importance has been overstated. I think they could have a place as part of a gut rehab strategy. But if we don't dial in the other factors, which are more foundational, most people are unlikely to reach their goals by focusing here.
Is the Metagenics Microbiome testing kit helpful? Unlikely. It's not usually discussed in the short-list of high quality testing options. Even amongst these, when split-sample tests are performed (someone poops and sends samples off to different labs on the same day), there's little overlap in the results.
It's not to stay that stool tests never have their place, but for remodeling the microbiome, ecological approaches tend to work far better.
Here's a personal example: stool testing revealed that I had no detectable Akkermansia, a specific species of bacteria important for gut lining integrity. So I supplemented with Akkermansia for 3 months and then retested. Still no detectable Akkermansia. Why? Because taking a probiotic doesn't necessarily directly change the ecology in such a way that would make the environment hospitable for Akkermansia to grow.
This is consistent with studies that show the same thing.
The logic on which testing and taking probiotics based on these results is flawed in many ways.
You can use stool testing to screen for certain problems and to monitor progress. But I don't recommend using it to find out which probiotics to take. We're still very much in our infancy in terms of understanding how the microbiome works.
We know a lot more about ecology.
IS AVOIDING GRAINS BAD FOR YOUR MICROBIOME?
Is avoiding grains bad for the microbiome? Is a damp coat from pearl barley due to die off or more damp?
Let’s take a look . . .