Everything you need to know about probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are the army of good bacteria keeping a balance with the natural occurring “bad” bacteria and yeast in our digestive system. If you’ve ever taken a biology or microbiology class, then you could guess how many different strains of bacteria there are in this word, let alone in your gut (it’s a lot by the way!). Different bacterial strains have been studied in relation to helping ease or improve a certain disease/symptom, for example lactobacillus is one of the most well-known bacterias (which actually is just the genus, there are many varieties under this umbrella group, i.e. lactobacillus acidophilus). Other types of bacterias include saccharomyces boulardii, Enterococcus faecium, Streptococcus thermophilus, Leuconostoc, and Bifidobacteria.
Probiotics may be helpful for those suffering from allergies, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cholesterol, blood pressure, lactose intolerance, chronic gut inflammation, bacterial overgrowths, h. pylori infections, diarrhoea, constipation, eczema, and more. I first was intrigued at the power of probiotics with disease/illness when studying h.pyloriinfections in graduate school, and actually was able to put probiotics to the test on myself personally when I had an ulcer caused by h.pylori. A quick primer on what that is; h.pylori is a bacteria that lives within the stomach. It’s unclear why h.pylori affects some individuals more severely than others (i.e. with ulcers, inflammation, or even stomach cancer), some think these infections arise when the immune system is compromised (in my case, I got this the same time I had mono- double whammy). Both the diagnosis and treatments are not fun– but probiotics kept me on the treatment plan (along with other natural foods/remedies) and I was able to kick it out and heal my gut over a long period of time. Since then I’ve been an advocate for healthy gut ecosystems and healing the gut with as many natural remedies as possible.
Many things may affect gut function including diet, lifestyle, stress and if you’ve ever been on antibiotics especially for an extended period of time, your gut is most likely lacking the army of good bacteria. Antibiotics for example, are anti-everything including both the good and bad bacteria lining your gut. If antibiotics are fighting off the bad bacteria, guess what? They’re also fighting off the good bacteria colonies as well! Antibiotics are not just found in our prescription medication, but even in the US with our meat/dairy/egg and general factory farming food production. We must be mindful and feed our body with foods that promote healthy gut microflora and a healthy ecosystem- consuming probiotic rich foods and a plant-based diet loaded with fruit and vegetable fibres, will do this perfectly.
Where can you find probiotics?
Probiotics occur naturally in our digestive system already! They’re made from the foods we eat- you can see how this can be an issue for those who don’t consume a diet high in whole foods and rely on the Standard American Diet for their nutrition. Highly processed foods, ones that contain those antibiotics from meats and dairy (again I’m referring to those not produced on an actual farm with “farmer Joe” taking care of his animals), and foods lacking in fiber are just some ways our bodies aren’t primed for a healthy ecosystem. The way our bodies make probiotics from the foods we eat is through prebiotics. Prebiotics are basically the food for the bacteria to feed on, they’re indigestible ingredients and two of the most common forms are inulin and fructo-oligosccharides (FOS).
PROBIOTIC-RICH FOOD SOURCES Remember these should be first and foremost before supplementation
What about supplements?
Probiotics are also found in supplemental form, varying from quantity of CFU’s (colony forming units), types (i.e. strains of bacteria), and form (i.e. pill, powder, etc.). Typically when I recommend probiotics to my clients with digestive issues or challenges, I recommend looking for a trusted, reputable company who undergoes third party testing if possible and has Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). You can always use consumerlabs.com to check how pure and potent a supplement is; they’re a great third party organization / lab who tests supplements in general. Some brands include: Wild Nutrition, Bio-Kult, and Designs for Health contains probiotics (I’m not a spokesperson for any of these products, these are just some popular ones and again will change with the needs of the person).
I always want to wrap up these nutrition posts with a mini-disclaimer because in the end we are all different, especially when talking about our digestive systems. Therefore, the amounts, doses, and strain types may differ amongst everyone; just be sure to do your research and check in with your good ole’ doctor. Feel free to contact me as well if you have specific digestive issues or questions and are need of a new plan, I’d be happy to help.
Resources: If you are looking to add some more fermented foods and drinks to your diet why not check out "Fermented Foods for Vitality and Health" by Dunjan Gulin (see link below) I hope you all enjoyed this nutrition related posts as I’ve had a lot of requests from the Emma Olliff Nutrition! If you have any more nutrition related topics you’d like me to cover or other questions about probiotics? Comment to share below so I know what you’d like covered!
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!