We’re led to believe there are good and bad bacteria, and that if you take good bacteria then it will support your gut health. However, we now know probiotics have a completely different effects from one person to the next. This is going to change how they are used in medical practice.
So how do we narrow down which ones to take?
In truth, there is no solid answer. The Human Microbiome Project taught us that each one of us has a completely different microbiome, and each of our microbiomes will respond differently to various types of probiotic strains.
One patient may take a probiotic strain and get absolutely phenomenal clinical results, another will take it and notice nothing, and someone else will take it and get bloating and distention, and actually get worse.
Furthermore, while one probiotic might benefit us one week, soon after the same probiotic might give a totally different result.
This is because our microbiomes are constantly changing in response to our environment, our diet, our stress level, and many other factors.
In fact, even a significant dietary change can change your microbiome within 24 hours. This happens all the time when people travel.
A diverse microbiome is more important than taking probiotics
Probiotics can be beneficial, yet research is showing us they can also be limited and inefficient in their use. It turns out the most important thing is not to have a good strain of bacteria, but to have a diverse gut microbiome.
The more diverse our microbiome becomes, in a very simple sense, the healthier we become. A diverse microbiome results in:
- More enzyme reactions we have to deal with metabolites (substances made or used when the body breaks down food, drugs, chemicals, or its own tissue).
- Better ability to clear toxins.
- Improved connection between the gut and brain (gut-brain and brain-gut axis) with different bacterial species binding to different receptors in our immune system and even through different cell signaling pathways that impact our brain and neurotransmitter functions.
Gut bacteria thrive on fiber
A diet high in plant fiber will increase the diversity and numbers of your gut bacteria, helping to repair leaky gut, and improve oral tolerance.
In addition, when gut bacteria break down plant fibers they create compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that promote an anti-inflammatory effect.
Remember: it’s not only important to eat 7 to 10 servings of produce a day (keep fruit to a minimum), but also to eat a wide variety of produce.
The changing paradigm of gut treatment
In a clinical practice setting, some practitioners take a probiotic, notice an effect that’s beneficial for them, and that’s what they recommend for all of their patients. They assume the probiotic will have the same effect on their patients, but that is an incorrect model. You have to really understand the limitations of each type of nutraceutical, when they’re appropriate, and what the goals are to have the best outcomes.
At the Kharrazian Institute’s Gastrointestinal Clinical Strategies and Treatment Applications module on September 21-22, 2019 I will be sharing different clinical perspectives and approaches to using nutraceuticals to help patients suffering from chronic gastrointestinal complaints. I invite you to join me onsite in San Diego or to attend via live streaming.