Probiotic suggestions please!
May 8, 2018 6:15 PM   Subscribe

If you're currently taking a probiotic, I want to know how you like it and why you picked it!

I would like to start taking one for general digestive health, but I am overwhelmed by all the options. I usually go to Amazon, but there are so many with glowing reviews that don't pass the fakespot or labdoor test. Also, I'm not sure if the refrigerated ones in stores are better quality or not. I do have access to a Trader Joe's, Sprouts, and Whole Foods. I'm also not sure if I should be trying to find one for women, since I'm a woman.

I'm probably overthinking this like I do everything else, but I'm just hoping that someone might have some personal recommendations. Thanks!
posted by madonna of the unloved to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Are you interested in things like kefir or kombucha? These both have live/active cultures and are considered probiotic. They are both very easy and inexpensive to make at home, and last for a long time in the fridge. Probiotic supplements (and also kefir and kombucha) are expensive at the supermarket, and contain basically the same critters. Additionally I find kefir and kombucha delicious. MeMail me if you are in the USA and want starter cultures by mail!
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:35 PM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Saccharomyces boulardii comes highly recommended by two of my friends, who separately both told me it had a dramatic positive effect on their GI health. And s. boulardii is a probiotic yeast instead of a probiotic bacteria, which gives it two nice qualities: it doesn't NEED to be refrigerated (though I think that extends its shelf life), so you can more easily take it traveling, and it isn't killed by antibiotics.

The most well-known brand is Florastor.

(Also, it's not totally on topic, but I just read The Psychobiotic Revolution, about the use of probiotics for mental health, and it was awesome and gets really granular about which probiotic to use for which mental health issue. And I also read and loved The Whole Brain which was also a pop book on the topic of microbiomes and mental health.)
posted by hungrytiger at 6:49 PM on May 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

(Also, SaltySalticid is right that homemade probiotic foods are powerful! Kombucha is a great source of saccharomyces boulardii and kefir is an awesome source of so. many. things.)
posted by hungrytiger at 6:53 PM on May 8, 2018

This is info on probiotics, including brand recommendations, from a doctor I greatly respect. If I wanted to take probiotics, I would choose one of the brands he suggests. His first link is dead, but the second one is the brand my dentist also recommended. I have taken it before and was happy with it.
posted by FencingGal at 7:13 PM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I take VSL #3 when I need to. I have tried quite a few and VSL upsets my stomach the least and seems to help the most- I have chronic illness including IBS/GERD and stomach problems.

My GI recommends Align as his #1 - as it doesn't need to be refrigerated and is a touch less expensive. I tried it but it didn't help as much, but it seems good for my husband.

However, this IS a super personal thing. It highly depends on your personal gut bacteria and inner workings.

Try one for a month. Bloating and weirdness may be normal for about 2 weeks. If it causes major issues OR you don't feel a noticeable improvement, move into a new one. If you have a primary care doctor or GI, they may also have recommendations.

However, as someone with crazy stomach issues, I honestly wouldn't recommend one if your gut is behaving normally - unless you're taking an antibiotic. If you're having gut issues, then you should see a doctor because it may be illness or food intolerance and not something solved by probiotics alone.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:44 PM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Let's see -- I have Renew LIfe / Ultimate Flora. I picked it out of the refrigerated section at the extremely expensive organic grocery store, but I chose it precisely because it didn't need refrigeration. It was also a less crazy price than some of its neighbors.

I'd been struggling with post-food poisoning IBS for a few years and probably exacerbated it with some food intolerances. Eliminating the intolerance, in combination with some Zoloft and a discovery of water kefir (it is very good and easy to make! like a very boring pet!) seemed to get me to a better place. When I mistreat my gut, I take one the next morning and this seems to get it back on track -- I only take it sporadically now.

Generic drugstore pill-like (vs. the Ultimate Flora ones, which are capsules) probiotics that promised a paltry 4 billion active microbes did absolutely nothing.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:08 PM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The advice I got from a doctor is to switch it up, and take a different kind every few months. Then you get a diverse set of gut flora. My favourites are align and florastor, the store brand ones. I never get the refrigerated ones because I take them before bed and it’s easier to keep them in the bathroom. I have no scientific proof, but I feel my stomach is better when I’m on them.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 10:19 PM on May 8, 2018

The advice I got from a doctor is to switch it up, and take a different kind every few months. Then you get a diverse set of gut flora.
I was going to say this. I currently prefer probiotic foods/drinks and routinely have a milk kefir-based smoothie for 3-5 meals during the week, plus drink koombucha instead of soft drink. My wife prefers a range of powders and tablets when it comes to probiotics, but I'm not at home to know which ones are there at the moment.
posted by krisjohn at 12:17 AM on May 9, 2018

My guts have gotten a lot quieter and more predictable since I made greek yogurt the centepiece of my daily breakfast.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:31 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I use Digestive Advantage pro-biotic gummies with fiber, available pretty much anywhere. Even though it is pretty basic, drug-store level stuff, it worked miracles for me.
posted by tryniti at 4:55 AM on May 9, 2018

Florajen 3 is the only one that worked for me.
posted by chaiminda at 5:50 AM on May 9, 2018

Probiotics aren't that terribly effective. Not only does a tiny fraction survive the stomach to reach the intestine, and if your intestinal environment is hostile to "more beneficial" microbes in the first place, adding a few more units of beneficial microbes isn't going to do much.

I've had lots of positive experiences with prebiotics.

Inulin is sold next to other "dietary fiber supplements" - inulin is a polysaccharide but because the human digestive system lacks the enzymes to break it down, its classified as a dietary fiber.

The friendly microbes in your intestine do have them, though, and loves this stuff. It gives them a big advantage over less efficient gut microbes that mess up the pH or make the smellier catabolites, and can outcompete these less desirable microbes.

Probiotic seeding is really inefficient and not terribly efficacious - unless you've lost your appendix, in which case you've lost a useful microbe reservoir.
posted by porpoise at 3:00 PM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am an appendix-less daily drinker of Kefir (Lifeway organic, plain unsweetened). I drink maybe a cup a day max. When I run out, I notice lots of problems with "regularity" and gassiness. I've tried taking probiotics as a supplement but they don't seem to stabilize my system with the same efficacy as kefir.
posted by Morpeth at 3:06 AM on May 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Morpeth - I highly suggest trying taking a teaspoon of inulin in water every evening.

It actually dissolves completely in water and tastes slightly sweet.

It's like smuggling superior arms to the "good" (metabolically efficient, 'preferred' commensal) to help them overwhelm the "bad" microbiome.

Appendix or none; it always helps to help the troops.
posted by porpoise at 7:57 PM on May 11, 2018

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