Researchers have found an interesting difference in the bodies of some lean vs. obese people, and it’s not that they have different genes. It’s something that most people never even think about, but this one thing plays a significant role in your health, hormone levels, and immune system function.

That one thing is the colony of beneficial bacteria you have living in your gut.

The reason why gut bacteria may play a role in obesity is because more and more research shows they play a role in just about everything in your body from hormone levels, depression and mood, immune function, digestion, vitamin production and absorption, and more. There are actually about ten times as many bacteria in your gut as there are cells in your body!

In other words, they’re kind of a big deal.

The problem is that because of stress, antibiotics, and a diet lacking in cultured foods, most people have an imbalance in their gut bacteria resulting in an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and fungi. The “good guy” bacteria that are supposed to be protecting you are missing, and no amount of healthy foods and lifestyle intervention can make up for their absence.

This is why increasing your intake of probiotics is so important. But before you think that eating a little bit of yogurt is going to take care of you, realize that most store bought yogurt has minimal intact probiotics. To complicate things even more, there’s between 500-1000 different species of probiotics in the human gut while foods and supplements may only have a few strains.

Scientists find that not all probiotic strains are created equal. For instance, there are many different strains of lactobacillus acidophilus which research shows has differing effects depending on which strain is ingested. So just because a person took something with “acidophilus” and didn’t notice any benefits, doesn’t mean a different strain of acidophilus like DDS-1 couldn’t be highly beneficial.

It appears that the best protection is to avoid pharmaceutical antibiotics whenever they’re not necessary as they will kill the healthy bacteria along with the bad. Unfortunately, for many people the damage has been done.

The most effective option for probiotic restoration is not something many people would consider, and that’s fecal transplants. Literally taking feces from one healthy individual and putting it into someone else to recolonize the gut. While this is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the most effective means we currently have of effectively restoring proper gut bacteria, it is a lesser known and little practiced technique for probably a variety of reasons unrelated to its effectiveness.

Regardless of whether or not one wants to go that far, it’s very good to include cultured foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir into one’s diet which you can make yourself at home with a starter kit from bodyecology.com. You may also find these foods at farmer’s markets and health food stores, albeit they’re usually much more expensive than what you can make yourself.

Finally, probiotic supplements can be used to fill in the gaps and target certain health issues like poor digestion. But the number of living bacteria per capsule is much smaller than in cultured foods and may not repopulate the gut as readily as food based probiotics like kefir and sauerkraut.

Here are some of the best probiotic supplements out there. While there are many good products out there, these are some of the best for various needs:

  • Saccharomyces Boulardii: This is an important probiotic to take because it stimulates sIgA production. sIgA is needed for proper signaling to the immune system which bacteria are currently in our gut. To make a long story short, this enhances the benefits of all the other probiotics you will take. Without adequate sIgA signaling however, the probiotics won’t do their job as well.
  • Lactobacillus GG: Lactobacillus GG (brand name Culturelle) is one of the most researched and timetested strains of bacteria with over 400 studies done on it. It’s well noted for its immune enhancing effects, improvement of digestion, and its ability to successfully survive the digestive track intact to colonize the gut. It has been shown to aid in fighting infection and improve the skin with conditions like eczema. It is my number #1 recommendation when starting probiotics as there are few if any that can match the research backing it has.
  • Bifantis – Bifidobacterium infantis: Bifantis (brand name Align) is well-known for its benefits on digestion. It is great for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. This is typically the first probiotic to recommend for digestive issues.
  • L. Acidophilus Strain DDS-1: The DDS-1 strain is a highly researched strain of L. Acidophilus that is of human origin. This means it works well within the human body and can tolerate transition through the digestive track. Like other strains, research has shown it is extremely beneficial for gut-health as well as enhancing the immune system.
  • Jarro-Dophilus EPS: The first probiotic blend in the US.
  • Natren Trinity: Natren is also the only company I’ve seen to have the Malytho superstrain of Bifidobacterium bifidum.

Wondering which probiotic to take? I suggest using a single strain to begin with and assess how you feel. This could be Saccharomyces to begin with, then trying Culturelle, DDS-1, and/or Align one at a time to see how you feel on each. Eventually, you can try moving on to a blend. Several good brands for probiotic blends also include Custom Probiotics, New Chapter, and Dr. Ohhira’s.

Just because one probiotic product doesn’t work well for you, doesn’t mean another one couldn’t be the “missing link” you’ve been looking for. That being said, sometimes people don’t respond well to any probiotics. This could be a sign of gut damage and inflammation. Glut Immune (a type of Glutamine) and N-Aceytl Glucosamine are two of the most powerful things I am aware of for repairing the digestive track.

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