As a Health Coach, I often bring up the topic of PROBIOTICS with my clients, as I find that a large majority of people, especially those with signs of inflammation or digestive issues, could benefit massively from including more probiotics in their diet.
But I’ve come to realize that the knowledge about these good bugs is still not wide-spread; most people just associate them with yogurt. So I wanted to shed some light, as this topic is one that I personally feel very strongly about and have spent lots of time researching, for both myself and clients.
FIRST, WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
The word itself is a compound of two Greek words, ‘pro’ meaning “of’ and “biotic” meaning “life”, so essentially, the very definition of probiotics affirms life and health! But in very basic terms, probiotics are strains of “good bacteria” that support our native beneficial bacteria and help control the “bad bacteria” from getting out of control. You can get them from fermented foods or take them as a supplement.
Some examples of probiotic-rich foods include:
- Yogurt (best to buy plain/unflavored and organic!)
- Kombucha tea
WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
We have over 30 trillion microbes (bacteria cells) in the human body (a.k.a. the microbiome), outnumbering cells in the body.. So yes, we’re actually more bacteria than human! In our gut alone we have trillions of bacteria, and they contain more protein-coding DNA than we do, so a healthy (or unhealthy) gut microbiome can change our DNA!
Studies show that our gut microbiome plays a large role in avoiding and treating auto-immune diseases (like diabetes, arthritis, MS, even cancer), balancing neurotransmitters (so affecting our mood, stress, depression, etc.), boosting immunity, avoiding infections, and of course, in supporting gut and digestive health, and even helping with obesity.
But unfortunately there are many factors that are killing our microbiome – primarily, the use of antibiotics.
While antibiotics are often necessary to eliminate illness-causing bacteria, they also kill the healthy bacteria in our GUT (aka our intestinal flora) that helps us with food/nutrient digestion and absorption, crowding out bad bacteria, yeast and fungi, secretion of immune response cells, and more.
Other factors that kill these beneficial gut bacteria include: STRESS, chemicals, many prescription medications, sugar, tap water, GMO-foods and for many people, even gluten-containing grains.
In order to protect your super-important-gut, it's important to avoid these toxins/stressors, eat a healthy, fiber-rich, whole-foods diet, and take probiotics.
Research shows that the BENEFITS OF PROBIOTICS include:
- boosting the immune system
- preventing and healing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and all of its symptoms ranging from belly pains, bloating, diarrhea and constipation
- maintaining a healthy urinary tract, preventing infections and yeast overgrowth
- preventing and treating allergies and skin condition such as eczema, particularly in young children
- oral care, helping to prevent plaque, cavities, dry mouth and gum disease
- improving digestive function, lowering cholesterol and even losing weight
WHAT PROBIOTICS SHOULD YOU TAKE?
Generally, I suggest starting with increasing your intake of fermented foods, in particular, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut. You can make your own or buy at the supermarket, but make sure it’s “raw”, in the refrigerated section and mentions “live and active cultures.” If you can tolerate dairy, unflavored organic yogurt and kefir are also great (or look for coconut kefir if you avoid dairy). Just avoid products filled with sugar which actually feeds the bad bacteria!
For best results, I suggest combining your probiotic foods with lots of “PRE-biotic foods” that help feed the good bacteria (which I’ll talk more about in another blog), including foods such as onion, garlic, leeks, artichokes and bananas. (Note: you may want to limit these foods if you have sensitivity to FODMAPS).
However, on top of including these foods in your diet, most people benefit from taking a probiotic supplement. What kind and how much depends on your particular condition, but for daily maintenance, I usually suggest taking a supplement with 15-30 billion CFUs (colony-forming units, basically the density of viable bacteria in the product), with a minimum of 8-10 different strains, including both lacto and bifido strains.
Like everything else, it’s important to do this regularly in order to see a difference in your health. And start now! If you have questions about which probiotics might be best for you, check with your doctor and/or feel free to message me and I’m happy to help guide you.
Love and Friendly Bacteria,