AAWC Guest Column: How To Choose The Right Probiotic For You?

By Nathan Worthing / Clark Professional Pharmacy

A common question we get at our pharmacy and wellness center is “how do I pick the right type of probiotic for me?” With the many different species and strains available, it can be confusing, and even overwhelming. Not all probiotics work the same. Some may work better than others in helping alleviate gastrointestinal issues, clear skin conditions, manage allergies, or even sinus infections. In order to pick the right probiotic for you, it’s important to first learn about the different types and the potential benefits associated with each strain.

Common Species and Strains of Probiotics

When reading nutritional labels, you will notice they will abbreviate the species (B. or L.) before listing the type of strain. The two main species of probiotics are:

  • Bifidobacteria – this species helps strengthen the immune system and limits the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Lactobacillus – this species helps break down lactose and helps the body absorb nutrients better.

The most common strains and potential benefits include:

  1. animalis lactis
  1. breve
  1. longum
  • In addition to offering similar GI, respiratory and immunological benefits as animalis lactis and B. BreveB. longum has shown improvements in psychiatric conditions:
    • pilot study found that patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and depression, saw a reduction in depression scores vs those on placebo.
    • A study published in 2016 found that participants taking longum saw an improvement in memory and stress reduction. Authors even referred to this probiotic strain as a “psychobiotic.”
  1. acidophilus
  • Studies have shown that acidophilus may help lower cholesterol.
  • A study found that acidophilus may help reduce fatigue, as it was seen in a group of elite athletes
  • A study with patients diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) found that “oral administration of specific Lactobacillus strains induced the expression of mu-opioid and cannabinoid receptors in intestinal epithelial cells, and mediated analgesic functions in the gut-similar to the effects of morphine.” This means that acidophilus may be an effective option to alleviate pain associated with IBS.
  1. reuteri

What are Sporebiotics?

Spore-based, or soil-based, probiotics are probiotic formulas that are believed to resist the acidity of the stomach and successfully colonize the gut. Because sporebiotics don’t contain any live bacillus strain, only its spores, it makes them a good option for people taking antibiotics. Antibiotics attack good and bad bacteria, which may make traditional probiotic strains ineffective, since they may be killed before they make it to the gut. Some of the reported effects associated with this type of probiotics include improved immune health, heart health and antiaging.

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

Adding to the mix, we have the role of prebiotics in gut health. Some believe that prebiotics and probiotics are the same, but they’re complementary to each other, rather than a substitute. Prebiotics are non-living organisms that are not digested in our stomachs and progress to our intestines where they feed the probiotics, or friendly bacteria. As you can imagine, eating prebiotics is just as important as eating probiotics, so it’s important to add them to your diet, to maximize the benefits of probiotics.

Foods that are a good source of prebiotics include:

  • Raw and cooked onions
  • Raw garlic
  • Raw bananas
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Apples
  • Flaxseeds

Additional Tips to Help Maximize the Benefits of Probiotics

Aim to rotate the type of probiotics every month, or to consume different types through diet. This will allow you to benefit from different strains’ properties. As with whole foods, the more variety, the better.

Make sure you consult with your doctor before adding probiotics supplements in your diet, to make sure there are no contraindications, like for those with a compromised immune system. Also consult with a pharmacist or trained professional to find the right dosage for you. Overall, probiotics are considered safe to consume.

If you’ve never taken probiotics before, you could start by adding foods with natural probiotics to your diet, like Greek yogurt, sauerkraut or kombucha (fermented tea). Then, as your body gets used to these, you could add a supplement, if needed.

If you decide to take probiotics supplements and don’t see the desired results with one brand, try a different brand with the same strain. Different brands have different combinations, so what works for one may not work for everyone.

Need help finding the right probiotic for you? Contact Nate Worthing, PharmD, pharmacist and co-owner of Clark Professional Pharmacy, or Joy Molenda, Wellness Consultant directly at clark4yourhealth@gmail.com

Nathan Worthing is a pharmacist, clinical nutritionist, certified menopause practitioner and co-owner at Clark Professional Pharmacy. He counsels customers on the right nutritional support products that improve health and support your doctor’s medication recommendations.

Joy Molenda is Clark’s Wellness Consultant. She works closely with the pharmacists to find the right high-quality products based on the individual’s needs.

Clark Professional Pharmacy is a compounding pharmacy and wellness center offering services ranging from nutrition, bioidentical hormone therapy to veterinary pharmacy. Visit www.clarkprofessionalpharmacy.com or call (734) 369-8782 to learn more. Clark is a proud member of the Ann Arbor Wellness Coalition and supports its mission of healthy communities through education and innovation. Learn about the AAWC at www.annarborwellnesscoalition.com