You may already know that within your gut there are billions of living microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and yeast. But did you know that there are also an estimated 200 to 300 individual species of microbes inside the average human microbiome?
Generally speaking, diversity within the microbiome is a good thing. After all, different microbes offer unique benefits to our gut. Given that, you may assume that consuming a variety of probiotic strains would be ideal. So should you rotate probiotic supplements?
Back Up: What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, fight infections, and more. These organisms can be obtained via fermented foods or drinks, such as kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and tempeh, and in the form of supplements.
Read More: 5 Foods That Are Packing With Probiotics
The majority of people eating a standard American or Western diet can benefit from probiotic supplements and foods because they don’t eat a wide enough range of fruits, veggies, and fermented foods to supply the bacteria in our guts with energy to thrive.
Because probiotic foods and beverages contain an array of strains, they help support gut health naturally. A daily probiotic supplement can also introduce microbes to your gut.
Prebiotics help to feed probiotics in the gut, giving you the best results when taking a quality supplement. Prebiotics may include raw fruits and veggies (like garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and dandelion greens), herbs (like ginger and turmeric), and seeds (like flax, chia, hemp, and pumpkin).
The Benefits Of Probiotics
There are many benefits of consuming probiotics that even go beyond gut health. Some of these potential benefits include:
- Replenishing beneficial microbes after taking antibiotics
- Easing occasional digestion, constipation, gas, and bloating
- Supporting the immune system and promoting a healthy immune response
- Encouraging weight management and appetite regulation
- Supporting mood and mindset
Should You Rotate Probiotic supplements?
You might expect that if you rotate probiotic supplements, you introduce a greater diversity of gut bacteria to your microbiome. However, while the diversity of these “gut bugs” can be a good thing, if your current probiotic supplement is working well for you, you don’t necessarily need to swap it for a different one when you finish the bottle.
In fact, a study published in the Journal Of Applied Microbiology demonstrated that certain strains of gut bacteria with the most protective roles, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, need to be continuously replenished in order to maintain a high population. This means it’s most beneficial to supplement with these probiotic strains on an ongoing basis.
Something else to consider: Various strains seem to work in unison, together contributing to numerous benefits. Some strains (like Lactobacillus acidophilus, for example) help other beneficial strains (Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus johnsonii, and Lactobacillus crispatus) thrive in and populate your gut. It makes sense, then, that you’d want to continuously supplement with these strains to support the general diversity of microbes in your gut.
The bottom line: It appears to be more important to figure out which strains will help you most and then to stick with that high-quality supplement.
Choosing the Right Probiotic Supplement
When choosing between various probiotic supplements, keep these two factors in mind:
1. Health Concerns or Goals
Pick a supplement that includes strains that have been shown to support specific health goals you’re dealing with, such as gut health or immune function.
Generally, you’ll want a diverse range of species within one supplement, rather than a product that only includes one type. (There are some exceptions to this, but it’s a general recommendation.) A multi-strain probiotic blend can help provide you with bacteria you may be lacking. That said, you don’t necessarily need to pack in as many strains as possible, since some types will encourage the growth of others.
Choose a product with enough “colony forming units” (or CFUs) to provide you with 10 to 20 billion CFUs each day.
A quality supplement will have a method to protect the bacteria until it reaches your intestinal tract. (They will need to survive your stomach acid to do this.) These supplements may be coated or labeled as slow-release formulas. They may include soil-based organisms (like Bacillus coagulans, Saccharomyces boulardii, Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bacillus clausii), which are more tolerant of the conditions in your stomach.
From there, pay attention to how your supplement should be stored. Some should be refrigerated, while others (like those containing soil-based organisms) don’t need to be.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.