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The Pros and Cons of Probiotics

Good bacteria have never seemed friendlier. From promoting bone and lung health, to enhancing mood and cognitive function, recent discoveries about the far-reaching benefits of probiotic bacteria are leading to exciting new approaches in health and wellness.  But are probiotic supplements universally beneficial? New research suggests otherwise.
 
Signature Species

Research shows that a greater diversity of beneficial microbes leads to better digestive and overall health. Yet many probiotic supplements only contain a limited number of microorganism species. Repeatedly taking one type of probiotic supplement may reduce microbiome diversity, with unintended consequences.
 
There’s another problem: New research suggests that without proper intestinal motility—the movement that maintains bowel regularity—probiotic supplements can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines. This condition is known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO.
 
Probiotics are supposed to travel through the stomach and small intestines, to reach the large intestines where they can colonize. However, when intestinal movement is backed up or not efficient enough, probiotics may stay in the small intestine, creating metabolic byproducts such as ammonia and other gasses. This leads to bloating, discomfort, lethargy, brain fog, and other symptoms characteristic of SIBO, which can be difficult to treat with natural approaches alone.
 
Nourishing Diversity

The benefits of maintaining a healthy microbiome are clear, particularly in the GI tract. What’s less obvious is how to get there.
 
Many experts are emphasizing the importance of prebiotic foods and supplements. Prebiotics are specific fibers, such as inulin, found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Prebiotics encourage the growth of beneficial microbes by providing the nutrients they need to thrive and support GI health. Good sources of prebiotic fiber include onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, carrot, and leek.
 
Compelling research shows that people who consume diets of whole, unprocessed and fiber-rich foods have a higher number of microbes associated with specific measures of health. On the other hand, people with diets emphasizing refined carbohydrates were shown to have microbiomes skewed toward a predominance of pathogenic species.
By focusing on an unprocessed, whole food diet and reducing processed food consumption, we can support numerous areas of health, starting with digestion. In addition, consuming a variety of cultured, fermented foods and beverages, including: sauerkraut and fermented vegetables, miso, kombucha, kefir and yogurt, and others, can also help support a more diverse microbial environment and promote overall health.
 
Movement and Efficiency

Regardless of whether you take a probiotic supplement or not, healthy intestinal function and efficient movement is an essential component of proper nourishment, detoxification and long-term wellness. If you take a probiotic however, this becomes even more critical, as the links between SIBO and “probiotic stagnancy” emerge from the published literature.  
 
For healthy digestive function and efficiency, ecoNugenics recommends Integrative Digestive Formula®. While not a probiotic, this unique, doctor-formulated blend combines traditional Asian botanicals with medicinal mushrooms, a small amount of digestive enzymes to stimulate the body’s enzyme production, as well as targeted digestive minerals zinc and chromium. Integrative Digestive Formula delivers powerful yet gentle support for healthy digestion and intestinal movement, nutrient absorption, and overall GI health. It also helps relieve occasional digestive discomfort including nausea, gas and bloating.*
 
There’s no question that the data emerging in the field of microbiome research is promising. If you are taking a probiotic supplement, ensure that you are getting a diverse selection of beneficial strains, and consider cycling with different formulas to increase your exposure to additional beneficial species. Emphasize prebiotic and unprocessed foods to support the growth of beneficial microbes and discourage pathogens. And supplement with a targeted digestive formula to promote a healthy GI environment and overall digestive function.
 
 

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