Probiotics: Diversity is everything

A healthy body starts with a healthy gut -- and a healthy gut starts with a good blend of the helpful bacteria needed for proper digestion and overall health.

That's why I recommend probiotics to my patients, friends and family members, and that's why I take one myself -- but don't take any old supplement with "PROBIOTIC" written on the label.

You need lots of bugs -- and lots of different types of bugs -- and new research shows just what happens when you fall short in helpful bacteria.

I have to warn you… it sure ain't pretty.

For starters, fewer species of help bacteria in your stomach can increase your risk of weight gain and obesity, boost your levels of body fat and even lead to overall metabolic dysfunction, according to the study of nearly 300 Danish people.

Next up, your risk of diabetes jumps, too -- because less bacterial diversity will increase your odds of insulin resistance.

It can even raise your cholesterol to unhealthy levels.

And to cap it all off, poor bacterial diversity in your belly can also lead to inflammation -- and inflammation is linked to everything from heart disease to dementia.

Unfortunately, this isn't rare. It's all too common, with the study finding that at least a quarter of the population lacks the proper levels and wide diversity needed for good bacterial balance.

And from what I've seen in my own clinic, the number here in the United States is much higher than that.

But you don't have to be among them.

Look for a quality probiotic with multiple strains of friendly, helpful bacteria, especially multiple strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. In the new study, people with more diversity in these two strains had more diversity overall, and all the benefits that come with it.

In addition, don't settle for a supplement with millions or even hundreds of millions of CFUs, or colony-forming units.

Look for billions.

Readers of my Health Revelations newsletter got the full story on probiotics -- including how to choose the best blend of helpful bacteria -- in the May 2012 issue. If you're a subscriber, you can use the password in your current issue to read it online.

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