Probiotics seem to be a hot topic these days in the health world as we learn more about the importance of maintaining good gut health. If you’re wondering what probiotics are and if you need them, then this is the blog for you!
In our gut and digestive tract live millions of live bacteria and yeast..and not just a couple of different types either….there are estimates of up to 1000 different species! When we’re in good health these microbes work with our body in symbiosis to properly digest our food, absorb nutrients, and even fight infections. In fact, over 70% of your immune system is located in your gastrointestinal tract!
So, you may be wondering…”If my body already has these awesome little bugs, why do I need more?” Well, due to antibiotic use, excess sugar consumption, stress, and the standard American diet many of us are lacking enough of these good bacteria to help keep us healthy; our bodies can start to get out of whack and the ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria starts to tip in the wrong direction. When this happens, we can experience some unpleasant side effects like yeast infections, cramping, bloating, food allergies, skin conditions and many more!
Probiotics are “good” microorganisms that we can consume to help takeover the balance from their harmful or less helpful microbe buddies.
These questions will help you assess whether to add probiotics to your diet.
1) Is my diet high in sugar, alcohol, or processed foods?
2) Have I taken or do I currently take antibiotics, aspirin, or anti-inflammatory drugs?
3) Do I have a high stress level?
4) How do I feel on a daily basis? Do I have any chronic health issues?
If you answered YES to even one of these questions, then it may be beneficial for you to take probiotics…but before you rush out and buy a supplement, there are actually many ways to improve your gut health from PROBIOTIC foods and beverages (contain healthy live microbes) and PREBIOTIC foods (act as food for our good microbes).
Some great Probiotic cultured foods that support gut health are:
- Fermented Veggies: You can buy sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) and Kimchi (Asian fermented cabbage) in most health food stores in the refrigerated section by the produce or you can make your own. We like THIS RECIPE!
- Kombucha: You can make your own fermented fizzy tea with beneficial cultures or buy it at the store. (Check your labels- some of the store bought brands pack a sugar punch. We recommend choosing those that contain 3g or less per serving.)
*Note Fermented foods like Sauerkraut and Kombucha may cause increased digestive discomfort for some. Start slow and work your way up. If you continue to feel more bloated or gassy, eliminate these from your diet.)
- Yogurt: Look for live cultured yogurt infused with probiotics! Also check the labels for additives and sugar. Goat milk yogurt also offers amazing probiotics cultures as well.
- Coconut kefir: fermented coconut milk drink (unsweetened.) Try making your own with this RECIPE!
Some Prebiotic foods that support the growth of beneficial gut microbes include:
- Fiber rich fruits and vegetables
- Chia and Flax seeds
- There is also some research to suggest that high quality dark chocolate is a good prebiotic too (let’s face it, we love dark chocolate so why wouldn’t the bugs in our belly!!)
Okay, so what if you do still want to find the best probiotic supplement?
1) Choose a reputable brand: If you have a Whole Foods or health food store near you, the supplement employees are knowledgeable about brands.
2) Look for brands that are “live and active.” (These will most likely be refrigerated but can also be freeze-dried and shelf stable).
3) Look at the CFU for the probiotic (colony forming units) – this gives you an indication of how many microbes are in these pills. If you are taking it on a daily basis – between 5 -10 billion is a good general guide.
4) More strains may not necessarily mean a better probiotic. Some strains have been suggested as more beneficial in treating some medical conditions.
5) Either Dairy-based or Soil-based microbes may work better for you. Dairy-based are most common, however soil-based are also very interesting with the theory being that we may have in the past colonised our gut with more bugs from the soil when we tended to wash our produce less before consuming.
Whichever product or food you choose, start slowly! It can be normal to notice some gas and bloating when you start but if these symptoms persist for more than a few days, then you may have to try smaller portions of the probiotic rich foods or a pill every other day. If your symptoms persist for longer than a week, you may have to do more gut healing. Jumping onto a 30 Clean Challenge to receive support!
Please share with us your experiences with probiotics and results from probiotics.