In the wonderful world of GAPS™, we talk so much about probiotics – both in supplements and in fermented foods. One thing that people don’t realize is that there are hundreds of types of beneficial bacteria that live in the gut, and only a small percentage that we’ve actually learned how to put into capsules. Fermented foods are important because they include bacteria that are naturally occurring that we can’t synthesize in a lab.
What type of probiotics should you take on the GAPS Diet? When it comes to probiotics that you can get in capsules, there are three main types to look for:
1. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These are the most common types of probiotics and you’ll see that there are many strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, often paired in the same capsule together. Lactobacillus is mostly transient, which means that when we take them they go into our digestive system, do their job, and then become part of our stool. We need to take these in on a regular basis because they don’t stick around. Bifidobacterium mostly reside in the colon, so they’re an important part of our stool. These two are also the most common types that you’ll find in fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt.
2. Probiotic yeasts, in particular Saccharomyces Boulardii. Probiotic yeast can do battle with the opportunistic yeasts such as Candida Albicans that might be over-represented in your gut right now. If you suspect that you have Candida overgrowth, taking Saccharomyces Boulardii for a period of time can be helpful in getting candida back into balance. Saccharomyces Boulardii is also a transient probiotic, so it will only be at work while you’re taking it. Probiotic yeasts are also found in kefir, both dairy and coconut water based.
3. Soil-based organisms. Soil-based organisms are also known as spore forming organisms. They are a whole different class because they are considered “native” to our digestive system. In the past, our ancestors worked in organic agriculture and animal husbandry. Just like the name sounds, soil based organisms are in the soil and would be inhaled as dust and eaten on slightly dirty food. Nowadays our food is so sanitized that we really don’t come in to contact with this type of bacteria very often. If we’re born with healthy gut flora and we never take antibiotics, we have these types of bacteria taking care of us in our gut: living, procreating, and carrying on happily forever. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t born this way and when we take antibiotics these guys get wiped out. The good news about soil-based organisms is that we can reestablish a good colony and we don’t need to take them forever. Two of my favorite soil-based organisms are BioSpora from Klaire Labs and Prescript-Assist. Taking these for a few months or interspersing them a couple times a week with other types of probiotics is a great way to get them reestablished.
No matter what type of probiotic you try, realize that different types and strains will affect you differently. For example, you may see no reaction whatsoever from a Lactobacillus species, but when you take Saccharomyces Boulardii, you may get headaches or find yourself running to the bathroom. Anytime you try something that’s new and different, start with one capsule or less. If you have a die-off reaction, wait until it passes, and then start again with a smaller amount. You can open up a capsule and scoop out a little bit on the tip of a knife, then add that to cooled food or just sprinkle it in your mouth and wash it down with water.
To cover your bases with each of these types, I suggest rotating through different probiotics at least every 3 to 6 months, in addition to eating a variety of fermented foods. Ideally, you may be able to rely on fermented foods alone in the long run, when they’re part of your daily diet.