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By Shanan Kelley

Brand Ambassador

Probiotics are all the rage: touted as a magic multitasking cure-all for digestive distress, skin issues, and even weight loss and mood disorders. Seem too good to be true? It probably is. Or perhaps there’s simply more to the probiotics story. While it is generally agreed that probiotics benefit digestion in healthy individuals, more studies are needed to determine the exact role they play for older adults. And there are certain conditions that mean people should avoid probiotics. Here, we break down the basics of probiotics as well as some important points to consider when choosing your formula. As always, consult your physician before making any changes to your healthcare regimen.

Probiotics, Prebiotics and Why You Need Them
Probiotics are officially defined as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate doses, confer health benefits upon the host. They are commonly taken in pill or liquid form, but are also found in many readily available foods such as yogurt, kvass, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and tempeh. For healthy individuals, it’s generally recommended to eat one to two different types of probiotic-rich foods daily to reap rewards. When it comes to supplements, it gets a little more complicated. An individual’s microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, along with elsewhere in and on the body, and everyone’s is unique. This means that it can be tricky finding just the right balance of species and strains that will be most beneficial.  

Another thing to consider is that for good bacteria to thrive in the intestines, it is critical to make sure they have plenty of prebiotics. Prebiotics are essentially fuel for good bacteria fermented in the large intestine and converted to short-chain fatty acids, which feed the cells lining the colon and have multiple health benefits. Prebiotics are found in high-fiber foods such as artichokes, beans and legumes, asparagus, garlic and oats. Like probiotics, they can also be taken as a supplement in the form of inulin or psyllium fiber — though more studies are needed to determine the ideal dosage and form for optimal efficacy. When probiotics and prebiotics are taken together, they are called “synbiotics” — more on that later.

Things To Consider
With claims of clearer skin, boosted mood, better digestion and improved heart health, it is easy to see why probiotics are getting so much attention. But does that mean they’re right for you? While generally considered safe for most healthy adults and children, there are some conditions that can be exacerbated by supplementing with prebiotics and probiotics. Additionally, because probiotics are considered a supplement, they are not regulated by the FDA. This means that it is not clear whether probiotics purchased at pharmacies and health food stores are high-quality products. In some cases, some lower-quality probiotic supplements do not contain the bacteria strains listed on the label — or the bacteria is no longer viable at the time of consumption. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering adding probiotics to your diet.

  • Always read labels. Make sure the formula you are choosing does not contain any fillers, dyes, additives, allergens, added sugar, gluten or other ingredients that may be irritating to your system. For vegans and vegetarians, be sure to double-check vegan capsules are utilized.
  • Start slow. To avoid the possibility of digestive discomfort that can sometimes initially occur when starting a new probiotic supplement, begin with half of the recommended dose, then slowly increase over several days to weeks to the full recommended dose.
  • If you’ve recently had surgery or are immunocompromised, talk to your care provider to determine whether or not probiotics are compatible with your current condition.
  • Species and strain matter. Within the classification of species, there are hundreds to thousands of strains and each has its own unique makeup. It’s important to know which species and strains are helpful for certain conditions and which may be harmful.
  • Testing and potency are critical. In order for a probiotic to truly be beneficial, it has to have demonstrated that it has a positive effect on its host (that’s you!). Similarly, the potency of a product indicates at which dose a particular strain has positive outcomes. A bigger number isn’t always better — or necessary.
  • Beware of outrageous claims. If a supplement seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to ask the manufacturer for more information. And always talk to your doctor when trying something new.
  • Be consistent. Aim to take your probiotics at the same time each day. It is ideal to take them on an empty stomach since digestive acids can make it harder for probiotic strains to survive until they reach the colon, where they’re needed most.
  • Purchase from a trusted source. All probiotics are not created equally. Functional medicine practitioners are a great source of information when it comes to probiotic supplements and will happily point you towards a high-quality formula. Trusted manufacturers will share on their website how and where their products are produced and tested.

Getting Started
We love Seed Daily Synbiotic, which contains 24 clinically and scientifically studied, broad-spectrum strains to support overall health. Seed also uses a unique prebiotic capsule delivery method that ensures viability through the entire digestive process. Plus, the supplements come in refillable, biodegradable packaging, including a travel-sized tube that fits perfectly into a carry-on. Seed’s extensively researched formula contains specific strains that work to support healthy regularity, ease of evacuation, gut barrier integrity, production of short-chain fatty acids, cardiovascular and dermatological health and the synthesis of B9 and B12. And with rigorous data to support their claims, Seed circumvents the issues that may arise from taking other prebiotics and probiotics, conferring a range of health benefits with just one pill. And that’s something to get excited about.

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