Whether you are looking to boost your immune system, support your digestion or to improve your overall health, probiotics bring a wide variety of benefits to the body.
Probiotics can help with strengthening the gut, reducing mood disorders, supporting heart health, and can even reduce allergies and skin conditions.
What are probiotics?
When some hear the word bacteria, they think of harmful "germs," but in reality, there are quite a bit of beneficial bacteria.
Probiotics are live bacteria that line our digestive tract and assist with manufacturing vitamins and nutrients from our food, controlling inflammation, balancing the immune system and ridding the body of damaging toxins.
We have trillions of microorganisms (bacteria) living inside of our gut. These microorganisms support our digestive system in many ways. They can be found in food sources such as fermented foods and probiotic supplements. Unfortunately, these beneficial bacteria can be destroyed or reduced in our gut by antibiotics, pain medications, a poor diet, stress and many other factors.
What are the benefits of probiotics?
Our gut is known as the “second brain” and there has been quite a bit of research since scientists discovered the gut-brain connection. Probiotics may help to alleviate anxiety by reducing inflammation with the gut-brain connection. Probiotics can also reduce the symptoms of depressive disorders.
There is a strong connection between gut bacteria and skin. An inflamed gut can sometimes show up as inflamed skin resulting in acne. Probiotic supplements have been shown to help with atopic dermatitis and infant eczema.
Probiotics can help to balance the gut bacteria. They can also help to keep our gut healthy and assists with digestion. Taking a probiotic supplement and consuming probiotic-rich foods, may protect against inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Ongoing studies are looking at the impact of probiotics for those with celiac disease.
Probiotics can also help to prevent bad bacteria like Staphylococcus, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia coli.
They have also been found to reduce the severity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Constipation is an issue for many North Americans. Beneficial bacteria account for 70% of the bulk of a healthy bowel movement which can help to bulk the stool and provide proper elimination.
Probiotics have also been shown to help with antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infant colic
Strengthens the immune system
Over 70% of our immune system resides in our gut, which is key to overall health.
Beneficial bacteria in the gut help to control inflammation caused by pathogenic bacteria. Chronic inflammation can suppress the immune system allowing an individual to be more susceptible to colds and viruses. Chronic inflammation can also be a root cause of autoimmune diseases.
How can we add probiotics to our diet?
Probiotic-rich foods are a great way to add beneficial bacteria to your gut. Consuming fermented foods and taking a probiotic regularly provides the gut with beneficial bacteria.
Here are some of my favourites:
Coconut Milk Kefir: Fermented juice of young coconuts which has a delicious flavour. It helps to boost the immune system and assist with digestion.
Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage but can also contain other vegetables like beets and carrots. Sauerkraut contains high amounts of organic acids which help to support the growth of good bacteria. It is also high in digestive enzymes.
Kombucha: Fermented black tea using a SCOBY (bacteria and yeast). Kombucha supports digestion, increases energy and liver detoxification. It is important to look for low sugar kombucha.
Kimchi: Similar to sauerkraut but is a Korean take on fermented vegetables. It contains Chinese cabbage, spices, red pepper flakes, radishes, carrots, garlic, ginger, onion and fish sauce.
Pickles: Fermented cucumbers. The pickles in the grocery store are most-likely not truly fermented. If the jar contains white vinegar this is not a fermented product and it will not have the probiotic benefits.
You can also find probiotics in milk kefir, natto, miso, tempeh, and organic yogurt.
*Caution should be taken around fermented foods for those with candida and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO).
Looking for creative ways to add fermented foods into your diet?
Make fruit smoothies with coconut milk kefir instead of regular milk.
Top your salad with some sauerkraut to add a tangy flavour to it.
Make kombucha popsicles for the summer months.
I encourage you to introduce a variety of fermented foods into your family’s diet if you haven’t already.
Which probiotic supplement should I take?
Each individual is unique when it comes to probiotic supplements depending on your specific health needs.
A one size fits all probiotic does not exist. There are many different probiotics for various conditions.
Individuals with small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) should stay clear of probiotics with FOS or inulin. These probiotics can make matters worse. It is best to choose a soil-based probiotic for SIBO.
Bifidobacterium is better suited for those with constipation rather than Lactobacillus.
Those with yeast overgrowth should stay clear of S. Boulardii.
If you’re considering a probiotic supplement, work with a Certified Nutritional Practitioner to find the correct probiotic supplement for your unique needs.
To learn more about probiotics and gut health, you can find me on Instagram @reclaimedhealthjayde or my blog at www.reclaimedhealth.ca