Erin Stokes, Naturopathic Doctor, MegaFood Medical Director | March 2019
The popularity of probiotic supplements has exploded in the last few years, but the role of probiotics is commonly misunderstood. Let’s unlock the truth on these seven common probiotic myths, and get the facts:
Myth #1: Yogurt products contain sufficient probiotics
Not necessarily. Conventional yogurts are commonly heat pasteurized, which significantly reduces the level of live and active bacteria that was used to make the yogurt.Footnote 1 They also often contain added sugars, and sometimes artificial sweeteners - which can negatively impact your gut flora. Read your labels, and look for a yogurt containing live cultures and minimal sugar to maximize its potential to provide viable probiotics. Yet remember: even the perfect yogurt may not contain sufficient levels of probiotic strains.
Myth #2: The higher the CFU, the better the probiotic
”More” isn’t always “better” when it comes to Colony Forming Units (CFUs) in your probiotic supplement. Instead, it’s important to look at your digestive health goals and the specific probiotic species that are included in your particular formula. If you’re aiming to maintain your already healthy balance of flora, for example, between five and 20 Billion is a typical number of CFUs.* Maybe you’re headed overseas, and have the foresight that your travels might be a bit rough on your tummy. 50 billion CFUs is an option to proactively arm your microbiome with some extra help.* On the flip side, if you’ve returned from your transatlantic flight with digestive stress, a seven-day intensive probiotic containing 200 billion CFU’s might be what you turn to temporarily, to help restore your flora back to its optimal balance.* So, CFU counts do matter, yes- but so do your own personal needs. It’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare practitioner to determine the best CFU number for you.
Myth #3: You shouldn’t take probiotics while using antibiotics
On the contrary – it is super important to restore your probiotic balance if you do need to take antibiotics. To help give your microbiome a leg up, also consider consuming more fermented beverages and foods, and taking a probiotic supplements. In this case, look for one with a high CFU (colony forming units) count, specially designed to restore intestinal health when you need it most.* Again, when looking for the best plan for you, consult your healthcare practitioner.
Myth #4: Probiotics are not safe for pregnancy
While you’ll have to consult your trusted healthcare practitioner to confirm what’s right for you, many probiotic strains can support healthy digestion and promote the health and wellbeing of pregnant and breastfeeding moms.* Studies have shown that intake of Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001) during the last trimester and early breastfeeding supports a child’s developing immune system.Footnote 2 Expecting? Look for a probiotic supplement specifically designed for prenatal and postnatal support, and always run your plans by your doctor before incorporating something new into your supplement routine.
Myth #5: Only refrigerated probiotics are effective
Refrigerated probiotics were certainly a key sign of a quality supplement in the past. Today, technology has achieved better shelf-stable techniques for probiotics like freeze drying, and the discovery of strains that are more robust, hence “stable” enough to live in your cabinet.Footnote 3 You can find probiotics with multiple strains in effective, shelf-stable, and convenient capsules to take on the go, no refrigeration required!
Myth #6: Prebiotics are even more important than probiotics
In digestive health, prebiotics and probiotics aren’t apples to apples. Instead, they work in tandem. Prebiotics are essentially food for probiotics. When we eat prebiotic foods, our digestive system passes the indigestible sugars and fibers onto our microbiome, where probiotics enjoy the feast. Without prebiotics, probiotics don’t have the fuel they need to get their job done. Alternately, without probiotics, there’d be no one to eat up the rough and tough leftovers of those healthy, prebiotic foods that we can’t easily digest. It’s one big symbiotic relationship, and it’s all about balance. Aim for a balance of probiotics and prebiotics to keep your gut in top working order.*
Myth #7: Probiotics are only for digestive health
Probiotics do so much more! They are found everywhere in your body, not just your gut. They are part of the community of bacteria that inhabits your mouth, skin, nose, and more, and they help your body in so many ways. Probiotics produce vitamins and a variety of nutrients. There are unique strains of probiotics like Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus plantarum that are shown to promote vaginal and urinary tract health.* Target your needs by choosing a supplement with a blend of unique probiotic strains and carefully selected ingredients, which work together to optimize not only your gut health, but other key health components like your energy levels, your mood, and optimal immune function.*
RELATED READING: What's the perfect probiotic for me?
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Today, it is easier to find the right probiotic supplement designed for your individual needs. To promote healthy digestion, and maintain a healthy balance of beneficial gut bacteria,* the MegaFood line of probiotics is a trusted source.
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1Sanders, Mary Ellen Ph.D. 2016. Are all yogurts ‘probiotic yogurts’? California Dairy Research Foundation. http://cdrf.org/2016/08/12/yogurts-probiotic-yogurts/ 2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18631345
3 The Probiotics Learning Lab. 2018. https://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/learning-lab/probiotic-myths/fridge-myth