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On Your Table Blog

September 14, 2021

The probiotic scoop

The probiotic scoop

Image by Alicia Harper 

By Elizabeth Magee, RD, LRD

It has been some time since I’ve over-shared, so this just feels right.

I’ve been feeling bloated lately; not totally sure why but it has provoked many thoughts, mostly coming back to diet. Do I need more water? Am I really overdoing the salt (even for me)? Are my kidneys failing? (I like to always think the worst.)

Do I need a probiotic? And that’s where I got stuck. Years ago, I took a probiotic. Now I don’t. I’m assuming I ran out and that was just the end of it; hard to say. Or I was overwhelmed with the choices.

Either way, I’m back on the probiotic train thinking this will end all of the unwanted bloat magically. But uffda. So many choices!! And is it worth it?

Let’s figure it out. If you’re already confused, keep reading. Probiotics are basically a healthy bacterium in our bodies. For the most part they are found in our gut; they help us digest food, kill bad cells off, keep your immune system strong, and produce vitamins not to mention affecting fun things like weight, mood and inflammation. They can be especially beneficial in a few scenarios: when taking antibiotics (which kill the good and the bad bacteria), they can help reduce  ulcerative colitis symptoms, preventing C-diff – which sounds like a horrific experience -- and may even help with colic.

Here’s the kicker, probiotics are in our bodies already, so technically you wouldn’t need to add one (but the bloating is annoying and that’s why we’re down this rabbit hole).  The fun thing is there are foods that contain probiotics. Yogurt, kefir (which takes like a thinned-out yogurt), kombucha drinks, sauerkraut (a personal favorite of mine); these are some nutritionally sound ways to add to your collection of probiotics in your gut.

But there are also pills, liquids and powders you can take, and there are A LOT of options. I should mention, if you are looking into a probiotic for a specific health concern, you should consult a medical professional. I’m just looking at every day, general good gut health.

Most probiotics contain Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium as the species so if you see that on a bottle you’re looking at, don’t be scared off by the long word – those are good things! You’re going to want multiple strains in them, 10 or more. Another thing to look for is that it is shelf stable. Some probiotics need to be refrigerated. CFU (Colony Forming Unit) count is something you’ll see too. This is the amount of live/active organisms in the probiotic. Lower counts are good for general health, higher counts sometimes are better for specific health needs. A bonus is to find one with prebiotics in it as well, mostly to support the growth of probiotics.

I’m not saying everyone needs a probiotic, but there certainly are many benefits to taking one, or including more foods in your diet that contain probiotics. You might find out you feel better, or a certain condition improves. Or you’re like me and just would like to feel less bloated!

Elizabeth Magee is a registered licensed dietitian and loves chips and salsa! Elizabeth Magee is a licensed registered dietitian. Her posts appear monthly on OYT.

Other popular posts from Elizabeth:

Nutrition Superstition

D is for "don't get enough"

More salt, please