As I stress on each of my social media channels it is important to test any potential remedy you are pursuing against the root causes is reflux. That is to say, if you do not have a sense for how a supposed treatment can help to address the underlying causes of reflux then you should be hesitant to put it in your body.
Some supposed remedies are merely symptom mitigation, as is common with many diets, herbs, and medications are. You should just be clear on what you are using and why. Additionally, take care that the remedy doesn’t mask the symptoms while worsening the underlying issues as mainstream prescription and over the counter medications do.
If you are new to this site, you should definitely start by reading my How I Cured My Silent Reflux article. It explains the underlying causes of reflux and will put the use of probiotics in the proper context for you.
All that being said, as you have read in the above linked article, you now understand how a probiotic fits in context with addressing the root causes of reflux. However, choosing a good probiotic is more involved than many realize. Don’t worry though. I have you covered as below are a few criteria you should keep in mind when choosing a probiotic.
How to choose a probiotic
- Probiotics are considered dietary supplements, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, manufacturers do not have to prove effectiveness or safety of their products to the FDA. It is therefore on you to choose a reputable, high quality manufacturer that is tested by a third party lab
- To be effective, the probiotic must be alive when you take it so this is a case where you really do have to pay attention to the expiration date and storage requirements. Some need to be refrigerated while others just need to stay within a given temperature range
- Look for a probiotic that contains multiple strains as each strain carries different health benefits
- If you are purchasing your probiotic from a distributor, you should first check the website of the manufacturer and ensure there are no warnings about knock off products that you should be aware of. Due to the hype surrounding the probiotics industry you should take care to ensure you are not defrauded
- The quantity of probiotic matters. Take one that has enough bacteria to form colonies, which is measured in colony forming units (CFUs). You’re looking for probiotics in the 5-100 billion CFU range. If your prospective product does not even mention CFUs then it is likely not a credible supplement
- In healthy individuals beneficial bacteria are found in increasing abundance as you traverse the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the colon. Given this, it is best to find a probiotic that is enteric coated as this coating will ensure the probiotic strains are protected until they reach the target area of the gastrointestinal tract
- Your main source of probiotics should not be as additives to other products like teas, nutrition bars, etc. These sources are often too low a dose to be effective and they are laden with sugars which counteract the benefits of introducing probiotics by feeding and nurturing pathogenic bacteria
My resources page has a probiotics that I have found to meet these criteria.
Importance of Prebiotics
Ultimately, as I cover in detail in my How I Cured My Silent Reflux article, acid reflux is a digestive disorder. One can enter the reflux cycle through a number of risk factors. Poor diet can often serve as the primary or as an instigating risk factor. America, in particular is plagued with this as the typical diet is rich in processed foods, added sugars, oils, saturated fats, you name it. Even thoughts who supposedly eat ‘healthy’ are unaware of additives such as high fructose corn syrup that are in EVERYTHING from ketchup, to canned fruit, to bread and more.
What’s more, many people no longer eat much if any vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains. The sad part is these high fiber sources are an essential part of a healthful diet. When it comes to fiber many people are aware it can help you with regular bowel movements. That’s true, but there is much more to it than that. You see, fiber is the structural component of plant matter. It’s what allows an apple, carrot, or cabbage to hold its shape. In fact, new science as covered in this TED article are using scientific methods to carve an apple in the shape of an ear, and using specialized solutions to dissolve away everything but the fibrous structure, and then grafting human cells as a method to replace a lost ear.
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That said, you may be surprised to learn that humans can’t actually digest fiber. You see, the fiber is not actually for us, it is instead an important food source for the symbiotic organisms (probiotics) that colonize our gastrointestinal tract. This is why eating high fiber sources is so important to rebuilding and maintaining healthy digestion. It is also why many people with digestive issues fail at getting their probiotics to work. They enter the body, but there is no food source for them to keep them healthy and thriving. So, to ensure your probiotic is effective you need to really ramp your fiber intake up. For me, I took this up to 35-50 grams of dietary fiber from the sources mentioned above.
Not Every Probiotic is a Good Fit
Since the advent of microbiome science there has been a proliferation of probiotics, prebiotic, synbiotic, and postbiotic products. As is typical during the hype curve with something new, there is initial excitement and optimism that it can be a cure all. Indeed, microbiome disorders (dysbiosis of the gut), have been directly linked to a wide array of disorders from acid reflux to Parkinson’s and Autism. While things like probiotics and adjusting the microbiome have shown positive improvements in diseases like Parkinson’s and autism, even more so with Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) it is not yet the cure all we’d like it to be.
For digestive disorders the efficacy is significantly better, and tests have been developed such as the microbiome or gut test which can be prescribed by a functional medicine practitioner or taken at home as in the gut test kit shown on my resources page. With the results of these tests in hand you have a much greater likelihood of finding a probiotic with the right microbiota to complement your specific deficiencies.
Alternatively, one can use the abovementioned criteria and select 2-3 potential probiotics. Give each a try over 3 days to see how it makes your body feel and discard any that do not sit well with you.