Probiotic supplements have become very popular among those looking to optimize the gut and improve health. According to a recent report, the global market for probiotics topped $41 billion USD in 2017. While many consumers may benefit from probiotic supplements, building a healthy gut biome isn’t always as simple as taking a probiotic that you find on Amazon.

STLMoms: Picking the right prebiotic foods

We had the chance to visit Fox2Now and STLMoms this morning to discuss our three tips for optimizing gut health with food and probiotic supplements.

  1. Start with the Diet

As dietitians, our primary focus is obtaining the nutrients you need through food. Fermented foods, especially those containing live, active cultures, have a well-established reputation for supporting health.  They should be incorporated into most healthy diets, with  a couple of exceptions. Fermented foods may not be appropriate for people with certain medical conditions, such as some people with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or those who have been advised to follow an immunocompromised diet. Be sure to speak with your doctor if this applies to you.
However, those who are otherwise healthy should aim to eat a variety of fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, olives, and miso. Keep in mind that not all fermented foods with live active cultures can be considered probiotics. Many packaged fermented foods undergo processes that filter out probiotic bacteria, for example. Other fermented foods may contain bacteria that hasn’t been proven to have health benefits.
For these reasons, it may make sense to add probiotic supplements with your doctor’s approval.

2. Choose the Right Probiotic Supplement

There’s a huge variety of probiotics on the marketplace–formulated for infants, women, and everyone in between! However, blindly supplementing may not lead to the right probiotic for your desired health benefit. Different strains of probiotics have different benefits, so you’ll want to customize your choice. And even once you find one that works well for you, you may need to switch it up every now and again.
For example, Jarro-Dophilus EPS is my go-to, everyday probiotic for intestinal health. But if I’ve been sick, or if I’ve traveled, I’ll switch to a yeast-based product like Saccharomyces Boulardii + MOS to help bring my gut back into balance.  Ask your doctor if there’s a strain you should try. There’s also a great website,, that can help you research probiotics that address YOUR specific health concerns.

3. Consider Prebiotics, as Tolerated

Prebiotics are certain types of fiber that help “feed” the probiotic bacteria in your belly, making them more effective. Examples of prebiotic foods include onion, garlic, bananas, and artichokes.  You can also add prebiotic powder, like this (InulinFOS), to your yogurt, cereals, and smoothies to boost your daily intake.

Most people can tolerate at least some types of prebiotic fiber. However, people on low FODMAP diets for irritable bowel syndrome sometimes experience gas, bloating, or other gastrointestinal issues when they eat certain prebiotics. A registered dietitian can help guide you toward prebiotic choices that work for your body.