In today’s interview I get to speak with a life sciences entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Seed, Raja Dhir, about how the use of suitable probiotics can improve our microbiome and help optimise our overall well being.
Increasingly we hear about the ‘good’ bacteria and the ‘bad’ bacteria that make up the microbiome in our bodies and how important they are to our health.
Today, we talk more about the new research linking bacteria to various diseases and how the right probiotics can help us feel better by creating a more balanced system.
But do these supplements actually work and does everyone benefit from taking one?
Dhir helps us sift through all the marketing gimmicks and choose a probiotic strain that works for us.
- What are probiotics
- What is the difference between probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics
- Fermented foods vs probiotics
- What to look out for when choosing the right probiotic
- Are there any risk factors with taking probiotics
- Could probiotics replace medications in certain conditions and what role do they play in disease
- What are CFU and AFU numbers and what do they tell us
- Should we ALWAYS take probiotics after antibiotics
- What is the best way to take probiotics
Then this interview is for them.
I really enjoyed this interview with Raja and have learned a lot more about the world of probiotics.
He shared details on this somewhat complex subject matter in a clear and concise way that I am sure will help many of us come to a better understanding of how we can make better use of probiotics and how to choose the best one for us.
Special thanks to Raja joining me on the show.
Enjoy the episode!
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Find summarised highlights of what we talk about during the interview.
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[00:40] – Introducing, Raja Dhir, a life sciences entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Seed (microbiome company pioneering the application of bacteria for both human and planetary health). He also served on the Editorial Board for the scientific journal, Microbiome and is also a Director for Micropia, a microbial education platform and the world’s first museum dedicated to microbes.
[01:21] – Dr. Gregor Reid is the chief scientist at Seed and lead the group that was commissioned by the United Nations World Health Organization. They arrived at a globally accepted definition of the term ‘probiotics’ to mean live organisms which confer health benefits to the human host when consumed in adequate quantities.
[02:33] – Raja believes that the term, probiotics, has become commoditised and is not been adhered to by many probiotic companies. It has become a proxy for anything to do with microbes or may be good for the gut. Raja explains, why in fact, it is a very specific term.
[05:19] – There are different types of prebiotics and probiotics; Raja explains the mechanisms of each. There are also synbiotics which are a combination of both.
[09:03] – Whether we should be supplementing with a synbiotic depends on our goal. Raja explains how this works and why if you have sensitivities it can cause fermentation to happen too far up in the GI system causing more discomfort.
Biohackers Lab Tip: Some discomfort is to be expected during the first weeks as the body adapts to the supplement.
[12:32] – Fermented foods vs supplements. Most probiotic scientist don’t consider fermented foods to be probiotics. They have their own class and are very different.
[15:51] – Barring a few exceptions, Raja believes supplementation is unnecessary. However, bacteria is different. While we might not be at risk by not supplementing with bacteria, Raja believes there is a role they can play in optimising health.
[21:12] – There is some conflicting data showing possible risk factors associated with probiotics in immunocompromised patients. Raja recommends extra caution in this case as well as with novel organisms. Otherwise there is a high safety record for established strains of probiotics.
[24:17] – Raja is involved in an organisation that is looking at how probiotics can be used instead of medications for certain conditions. He explains how there are people working on how microbes can play a role in cancer therapy, food allergies, atopic disorders, oral disease as well as myriad of other diseases.
Biohackers Lab Tip: For more on microbiomes listen to one of our previous interviews: Amy Proal talks about why its important , Michael Lustgarten talks about the microbiome and aging , and Steven Lin goes into the microbiome and oral health
[29:15] – Refrigeration of probiotic is not necessary. The organism has gone through exactly the same development process and there is no difference in its viability whether it’s refrigerated or not. Companies with refrigerated products that claim ‘freshness’ warrant asking certain questions. Raja shares tips on storing.
[32:11] – What should we be looking for when buying a probiotic? Raja explains how to make sense of labels such as looking for strain level designation, adequate dosage and specific purpose.
[36:10] – How important is the CFU number? More is not always better. Raja explains it is not vital, rather focus on the dosage used in a trial/study demonstrating benefits. He also explains what the AFU number tells us.
[38:15] – Do we always need to take a probiotic after an antibiotic? There is no clear, definitive guidance. Recent trials coming out on this topic have had conflicting results. Raja believes that it’s extra important to supplement with beneficial bacteria during times of vulnerability.
[42:11] – We talk dosage. By the age of two and a half or so the microbiome stabilises and resembles the microbiome of an adult, indicating dosage shouldn’t vary. Raja believes the only individuals who should deviate from the clinically studied dosage are immunocompromised patients.
[44:38] – Although we may see some benefits of taking probiotics short term, Raja explains, the best therapeutic benefits are based on continuous consumption.
[46:33] – The optimal conditions for taking probiotics include an empty stomach at least 30 min prior to consumption of a meal. Raja gives tips on best ways to take them for specific applications eg, cholesterol and gut lining.
[49:54] – When designing the probiotic at Seed they focused on improvements discussed such as improvements in digestion, dermatological benefits, cardiovascular benefits etc., for people not suffering any disease condition or state.
[52:58] – While there are things third party lab testing can pick up, in probiotics there are still no good methods available for picking up detailed strain information. Currently, it is still down to trusting the credibility of the company and asking them to provide details.
[55:17] – Seed ships their product worldwide and they have customer support and scientific care teams for anybody with questions.
[56:35] – For anyone wanting to know more and get in touch with Seed, the best place to start is on Instagram where they post great content.
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