Probiotics are all the rage—and rightly so. We’re experiencing an epidemic of digestive disorders today, which is caused in large part by a lack of beneficial bacteria in our guts.
However, not all probiotics on the market are created equal. In fact, there’s a tremendous variation in the quality and efficacy of the products you can buy at your local store or on the internet.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to choose a good probiotic, so they may end up spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years on a product that isn’t living up to its claims.
This is a topic that is close to my heart. As you may know, I suffered from a chronic, digestive illness for almost ten years—which is what inspired me to do this work. During that time I tried just about every probiotic that I could get my hands on. I poured over hundreds of studies about probiotic bacteria in an effort to find the strains that would be the most effective. And over the last several years in my clinic, I’ve experimented with numerous probiotics in my work with hundreds of patients.
I’d like to share what I’ve learned over all of those years with you about choosing the best probiotic. That way you won’t have to spend the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars I did to get this information!
The eight criteria you should focus on when choosing a probiotic
I suggest the following eight criteria when choosing a probiotic:
- It should survive the passage through the stomach and thrive in the large intestine. One of the roles of stomach acid is to prevent harmful bacteria from entering our bodies. However, stomach acid will also kill good bacteria that we swallow in the form of probiotics—unless the bacteria is protected from that acid in our stomachs.
- It should contain a broad spectrum of microorganisms. The most effective probiotics contain several different strains of bacteria that work together synergistically to mimic the natural flora found in the human gut.
- It should be effective for both constipation and loose stools or diarrhea. Many probiotics can relieve loose stools or diarrhea, but actually make constipation worse. The ideal probiotic should be effective for both conditions.
- It should be safe to take when conditions like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are present. SIBO is an increasingly common cause of digestive disorders, and it often involves an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria that produce lactic acid. Unfortunately, these strains of bacteria (like Lactobacillus acidophilus) are often included in probiotic formulas.
- It should be shelf-stable (doesn’t require refrigeration). Many probiotics require refrigeration and lose their potency if not stored within a very narrow range of temperature. This is inconvenient in today’s highly mobile world. A shelf-stable probiotic is easier to take consistently because you can bring it with you wherever you go.
- It should contain prebiotics. Prebiotics are “food” for bacteria. Many studies have shown that probiotics are more effective when taken with prebiotics, because the prebiotics allow the beneficial bacteria in the probiotics to proliferate.
- It should be backed by peer-reviewed, published clinical studies. Many probiotic products have not been validated by peer-reviewed, clinical studies. The best products are those that have been studied in the scientific literature.
- It should be gluten- and dairy-free. Gluten and dairy are two of the most common food allergens, and should never be included in probiotics (since people with digestive disorders are often sensitive to these foods).
Most commercially available probiotics fail to meet all of these criteria. Many contain strains of bacteria that are too fragile to survive the passage through the acidic stomach. Others have only three or four strains, and one or more of those strains may worsen small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or constipation. Still others lose potency quickly when not refrigerated, or contain ingredients like gluten or dairy that many people with gut issues are sensitive to.
Which probiotic do I recommend?
But the good news is, after years of trying just about every probiotic on the market, both for myself and in my work with patients, I’ve discovered a product that has become my “secret weapon” in restoring digestive health and healing the gut. It is by far the most effective probiotic I’ve ever used; it works in a wide range of conditions; and it is well-tolerated even by people that normally don’t do well with probiotics.
It’s called Prescript Assist, and it’s the product my family and I take and I recommend for my patients and my readers. Let’s evaluate it using the criteria I established above:
- Prescript Assist survives the passage through the stomach so it can get to the large intestine, where it belongs. Other products use unproven manufacturing techniques to force fragile bacteria through the hostile, acidic environment of the stomach. In contrast, the strains of bacteria in Prescript Assist form seed-like structures which insulate them from stomach acid and digestive enzymes and allow them to thrive in the large intestine.
- Prescript Assist contains 29 different strains of beneficial bacteria. This better reflects the microbial diversity of the natural human gut flora.
- Prescript Assist is effective for both constipation and diarrhea. In fact, it can even be effective if you are alternating between the two—as many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) do.
- Prescript Assist is safe to take with SIBO. Many patients with SIBO feel worse—rather than better—when they take probiotics. However, I’ve seen great results in my practice using Prescript Assist with these patients.
- Prescript Assist is shelf-stable. In fact, lab testing has demonstrated that over 95 percent of the organisms in Prescript Assist are still viable after two years—without refrigeration.
- Prescript Assist contains a prebiotic called leonardite. This means that you’re not only putting good bacteria into your system, you’re giving that bacteria the food it needs to survive and thrive.
- Prescript Assist is backed by sound science. Prescript Assist is supported by a peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial—the gold standard of medical evidence—including a one-year follow-up study, verifying long-term efficacy and safety.
- Prescript Assist is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. This makes it suitable for people with gluten and dairy sensitivity and a wide range of dietary preferences.
How much should you take—and for how long?
I recommend starting with one capsule twice a day. After the first month, if your symptoms are significantly improved you can reduce to a maintenance dose of one capsule a day. I recommend that women who are pregnant or nursing take two capsules a day even after their gut symptoms improve, because of the importance of healthy maternal gut flora to the developing baby.
If your gut symptoms are severe, you can take as many as four capsules per day until you see significant improvement. Then you can drop down to one or two capsules a day for maintenance use.
Many of my patients choose to take Prescript Assist on an ongoing basis, simply because they find that they prefer how their digestive system functions and how they feel overall while they take it. This is the approach I take myself and with my family. There are so many aspects of the modern lifestyle that are hostile to gut health—from chronic stress to environmental toxins to changes in our food systems—that I think it makes sense to add a layer of extra protection, especially given what we now know about how crucial the gut is to our overall health.
I suggest taking Prescript Assist for at least a month before you determine how it affects you. Remember, fixing the gut isn’t an overnight process. It took years for your gut to become imbalanced, and we’re talking about influencing a community of literally trillions of microorganisms. Those changes can take time—but they pay off in spades over the long-term.
Is there anyone that shouldn’t take Prescript Assist?
Probiotics in general, and the soil-based organisms in Prescript Assist in particular, are remarkably safe to take for just about anyone, including pregnant and nursing women.
The one population I do not recommend Prescript Assist is kids under two years of age. Babies and young toddlers do not have fully developed gut flora yet, so Prescript Assist isn’t a good choice for them.
A special offer for members of the ChrisKresser.com community
As a gesture of gratitude for joining this community, I’d like to offer you a 40% discount off your first order of Prescript Assist.
To take advantage of this, simply click on the button below to go to the product page in my store, and use the coupon code “CKGUT-020216” during the checkout process.