As more and more people are learning about the importance of gut health, it makes sense that probiotics are becoming one of the most popular supplements on the market.
It’s meant to strengthen gut health, after all!
But I worry that this desire to “support the gut” has caused some confusion…
While taking a probiotic may support your gut (and it can be an important part of a tailored treatment plan), it cannot heal your gut, which has likely suffered from years of dysfunction.
I often get asked questions like:
“What probiotic should I take?”
“How long should I take probiotics for?”
“Do I need to rotate probiotics?”
Now, I totally get why women (and maybe yourself, included!) are curious about these things.
I hear health gurus all the time talk about how *everyone* should take a daily probiotic if you want to have a healthy gut. And when you’re feeling unwell, you’re desperate for some form of quick & easy fix…
But this blanket “advice” misses the mark.
The reality is that to truly heal your gut and feel better, you *need* to treat the root causes behind your symptoms, which are often totally different from the woman next to you.
I WISH I could give you a supplement, send you on your way, and know that you will heal and feel better! 🙏
But unfortunately, one-size-fits-all doesn’t work.
That’s why it’s so important to work with a functional health coach who can run labs and look at the *full picture* to discover what’s going on in your body, and build a treatment plan that works for you based on those findings.
Only THEN can I answer any of those questions about what probiotic you should take, whether or not you should even be taking one yet, and for how long.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why this is…
What Are the Causes of Gut Imbalances in the First Place?
You have trillions of microorganisms living inside you that line your GI tract –- this is known as the gut microbiome.
A healthy and diverse microbiome is necessary for supporting a strong gut lining, and therefore, a healthy gut!
Microbiome disruptions can lead to a weakened and porous gut lining – also known as leaky gut. This allows for harmful substances to pass through the gut barrier and into the bloodstream.
Ultimately, a leaky gut can drive up inflammation and lead to a whole host of other health problems, including anxiety and auto-immune disease to name a few. (1)
So, how does the gut microbiome become unhealthy in the first place?
It’s usually a combination of underlying causes that can often feed into each other.
Potential root causes include:
- Psychological stress/burnout
- Toxin exposure
- Chronic infections
- Hormonal imbalances
To truly heal your gut and banish your symptoms, you need to take a broader view of the underlying culprits that are feeding your imbalance.
Probiotics can act as supportive therapy for the microbiome, but it’s only one small piece of this puzzle.
How Do Probiotics Even Work?
Probiotics contain live microorganisms that help to restore the balance of “healthy” microbes in the gut.
You can get more of these helpful probiotics through supplements or by eating fermented foods, like kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut.
As I touched on before, probiotics are often marketed as a “magic pill” for gut health. Because of this, many people believe they can resolve their gut issues simply by taking a probiotic.
But it’s never that simple.
Probiotic support is just ONE step in restoring the gut microbiome. It’s not a quick fix.
To show you what I’m talking about, take a look at the 5R Framework (developed by the Institute for Functional Medicine) that I use to heal the gut (2):
- Remove: Eliminate foods from the diet that are causing reactions or sensitivities
- Replace: Replace enzymes and other elements to support healthy digestion
- *Repopulate: Introduce microbiome-supporting substances (this is where probiotics come in!*)
- Repair: Introduce certain foods that help restore the gut lining, such as bone broth and collagen
- Rebalance: Address any other lifestyle factors that could be contributing to poor gut health
As you can see, probiotics don’t show up at the party until step 3!
An unhealthy gut may not be able to absorb or tolerate probiotics.
This is especially common with severe cases of leaky gut or SIBO.
If you prematurely throw probiotics at an unhealthy gut, not only will it be a waste of money, but it may even worsen your digestive symptoms.
Talk about expensive healthcare!
What Probiotic Is Right for You?
So how do you know what probiotic is best for you?
The reality is that you need to understand what’s going on underneath the surface before finding a probiotic that will actually help you, as is true with taking any supplement.
Two people with IBS could have the same exact diagnosis and symptoms but have entirely different underlying causes.
Probiotics may be helpful for one person, while the other may need to start with different interventions.
The internet is a black hole full of articles hyping up the benefits of different supplements, and this can make it seem like certain products are the holy grail.
While I wish it could be that simple, most people need a more personalized approach.
The Bottom Line
You can’t rely on supplements alone for optimal gut health.
Without the right lab testing, it’s like shooting in the dark and crossing your fingers that you’ll hit a target. As a result, you end up wasting time and money on treatments that don’t work.
The first step to feeling your best is to uncover WHY you’re having symptoms in the first place.
This is why I always stress the importance of data-driven treatment and targeted supplementation.
This is why we use an investigative approach, using thorough functional diagnostic testing.
Are you ready to stop shooting in the dark?
Book a Clarity Coffee Call to get started!