For all good reasons, probiotics have become one of the hottest health trends around the globe. Why not? the right kinds of these micro-organisms can nourish your gut and promote digestive, mental, neurological and general wellbeing.
Probiotics are not any marketing gimmick or a new food fad. In fact, researchers are proving that live-active cultures of these friendly bacteria hold the key to good health and help ward off and treat a wide variety of ailments.
Health benefits of probiotics go far beyond gut health and digestive issues.
This guide will take you through everything you would ever need to know about probiotics including, it’s health benefits, side effects, foods, supplements and how to boost good gut bacteria for overall health.
What Are Probiotics And How Do They Work?
The word “probiotic” in itself affirms life and health. In Greek, “pro” signifies promotion of and “biotic” means life.
According to the World Health Organization, a probiotic is a living microorganism that confers the health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts.
Whar Are Probiotics?
When we think of bacterias, we immediate relate to them with disease and illness. Not all bacterias are bad, probiotics are good, friendly and helpful bacteria found in our digestive system.
Probiotics are live bacteria which are healthy and naturally found in our body.
Probiotics prevent harmful bacterias to settle in the gut as they compete with bad and harmful organisms for food and space.
They line up the digestive tract in the body, help absorb nutrients from the food you eat and also fight infections.
Would you believe? Your gut holds 10 times more probiotics than cells in your body.
These friendly and good bacteria have been in our system since the time we were born. We were first exposed to probiotics while we were in the birth canal about to be born.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, we do not get probiotics from the food we consume. This could be attributed to factors such as dangerous agricultural practices, refrigeration, soaking or washing food in chlorinated water, use of antibiotics to name a few.
Probiotics can be found in some naturally fermented foods. After their newfound fame, they can be found in almost everything from chocolates to protein bars to supplements to yogurts.
How Do They Work?
There are trillions of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. These bacteria make up for the gut microbiota which is considered to be the key to good health.
Good bacteria share a symbiotic relation with the body. The body provides energy to the good bacteria from the food we consume and in return, it provides many health benefits to the body.
According to experts, the good and optimal balance of gut flora should be in the ratio of 85% good & beneficial bacteria to about 15% of other microbes.
Eating certain foods which offer probiotics or supplements help replace good bacteria and fill the imbalance.
An imbalance of gut microbes may possibly have links to diseases of the intestinal tract, such as ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease. It may be also linked to more systemic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and more.
In cases where the body looses good bacteria for reasons such as diarrhea or antibiotics, there would be an imbalance of ratio and the condition is called dysbiosis. Eating certain foods which offer probiotics or supplements help replace good bacteria and fill the imbalance.
Your Gut Influences Your Immune System
Digestive tract or gastrointestinal tract are of prime importance to our health because 80% of your immune system resides here.
Our digestive system is also called the ‘Second Brain’ because it is the second largest part of our neurological system. Hence, what happens here can significantly influence your immune system.
One of the best things you could do for a healthy gut and immune system is to balance out good and bad bacteria and have thriving colonies of healthy, friendly and good flora in your digestive tract.
Top 9 Probiotic Killers You Should Avoid
There are many reasons which may cause gut flora imbalance such as certain foods, prescribed medication, toxins etc. Your gut flora imbalance could become a breeding ground for many yeasts, fungi, parasites, bad and harmful bacteria.
The best way to maintain healthy gut flora is by eliminating certain foods which feed the bad bacteria.
Here is the list of foods which you should avoid to improve your gut health and boost your immune system
1. Antibiotics, birth control pills, hormonal drugs, steroid drugs – They don’t just destroy good bacteria but also the bad one too. Whenever you take such medication, rebuild and reverse the loss by replenishing your body with probiotic supplements.
2. Tap Water – This is one of the biggest probiotic enemies because tap water contains Chlorine and Flouride. Get a water filter which can remove both components and limit your exposure to this good bacteria killer.
3. Ascorbic acid – It is a form of vitamin C and found in many packaged foods such as juices, bottled tea, cereals, fruit-flavored candies, frozen fruits and many vitamin supplements. Check food labels carefully for the presence of ascorbic acid.
4. Coffee – In case your coffee intake is high, reduce it. Anyways compensate it with probiotic supplements.
5. Sodas – Limit your consumption of carbonated beverages.
6. Sugars including Artificial Sweeteners – They not only cause gut flora imbalance but also responsible for obesity.
7. Preservatives & Additives – Avoid processed foods for overall health and try to eat organic foods.
8. Emotional Stress – You might not be able to eliminate stress from your life, you can definitely try to reduce it.
9. Cleansers — Such as antibacterial soaps, shampoos, and creams, Douches and excessive colon cleanses.
18 Probiotic Health Benefits Proven By Research
|Boosts Immunity||Prevent flu’s and colds||Reduces excess use of antibiotics|
|Improves overall digestive health||Prevents and help treat urinary tract infections||Helps heal inflammatory bowel conditions like IBS|
|Prevents eczema in children||Combat food-borne illnesses||Helps prevent cavities and gum disease|
|Combat bacteria causing ulcers||Help treat liver disease||Help manage autism|
|Treat colitis & Crohn’s disease||Helps kidney stones||Treat colic pain|
|Help lose weight||Battle many cancers||Improve skin & acne|
According to the book written by Casey Adams, Ph.D. titled “Probiotics – Protection Against Infection”, probiotics produce a huge number of vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamins B1-B3, B5-B7, B9, B12 and essential fatty acids.
He also suggests that probiotics increase the digestibility, bioavailability, and processing of a large number of nutrients such as phytonutrients, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, cholesterol, sugars, milk, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, potassium, zinc etc.
9 Best Probiotic-Rich Foods To Eat
Wondering how to include probiotics-rich foods into your diet?
Here is the list of 11 most beneficial probiotic foods to get you started.
Yogurt is one of the best food sources of probiotics. Just one serving of yogurt provides you with trillions of beneficial bacteria.
Mind you, not all yogurts contain live probiotics so be careful. Most yogurt products available at the grocery stores are made using pasteurized milk and contain added sweeteners such as fructose, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and dyes. These products are nothing more than being a nutritional equivalent of an ice cream.
To get maximum probiotic benefits from yogurt, pick yogurts with natural ingredients which say “live and active cultures” on the labels.
Your best bet would be to make your own yogurt using raw, grass fed cow’s milk and starter culture. Not only it will save you money, it will also provide you with the healthiest supply of probiotics.
Kefir is a better source of probiotics than yogurt and contains different strains of good bacteria vis-a-vis yogurt making it a better and potent source of probiotics.
Kefir’s bacteria strains are not found in yogurt and offer around twenty types of different bacteria and yeasts which help promote good gut health.
Beneficial bacteria in yogurt works by nourishing the digestive system and feeding the good bacteria whereas, kefir helps colonization of good bacteria in the intestinal tract.
What’s more? Kefir is a rich in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria strains. They are also a rich source of antioxidants as well.
What is kefir? asked by many people.
Put it simply, kefir is a cross between yogurt and milk. It is a fermented dairy drink made with the unique combination of goat or sheep’s milk and fermented kefir grains.
The fermented grains contain the beneficial probiotic culture which gets incorporated into the cultured drink, kefir.
Miso is traditional a Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus called koji. It is used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator in Japan.
Making miso soup is quite simple and easy. Just add a tablespoon of miso paste to a bowl of hot water and you have a delicious, probiotic-rich soup packed with lactobacilli and Bifidus bacteria.
Miso is available at most grocery stores and typically quite salty. Apart from probiotics, miso is an extremely nutrient-dense food and provides various vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, including vitamin K, manganese and copper.
This Japanese medicine is also known to help neutralize the effects of environmental pollution, carcinogens and also aid in alkalinizing the body. It is also reported that miso contains 160 different strains of probiotics.
Since miso does not contain any dairy, it is an ideal probiotic food for vegans and people with lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivities.
4. Kombucha (fermented tea)
This beverage is not a recent fad, it originated in the Far East around 2,000 years ago. Kombucha is fermented dark tea beverage which offers immense health benefits.
Kombucha is also known as “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese which aids digestion and boosts energy levels.
Made by using black or green tea and sugar solution fermented by yeast and bacteria called “SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Fermentation makes this beverage carbonated which contains probiotics, vinegar, enzymes, vitamin B’s and acids.
Though easily available at Asian stores, Kombucha can easily be made at home for a daily dose of probiotics and many other health benefits.
If you can handle the spice, kimchi is one of the best probiotics foods you can add to your diet.
Spicy and sour, kimchi is a popular Korean side dish made by fermenting cabbage or other seasonal and regional vegetables such as cucumber and carrots. Other ingredients used are for flavor which includes red chilies, ginger, garlic, salt.
Apart from probiotics, kimchi also provides you with other nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B’s, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.
Try and avoid ready to eat kimchi available in the supermarkets. They may be over processed and might have lost beneficial bacteria. Chances are they contain artificial flavorings, additives and toxins.
Extremely popular in Germany and the US, sauerkraut is made from shredded cabbage and other vegetables.
Not only it is rich in healthy live cultures, it is also a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus.
Sauerkraut is also a good source of vitamins A, B, E and C and contains antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
It has been found that sauerkraut juice is extremely beneficial for digestive issues such as leaky gut, diarrhea, and constipation.
Keep it in mind when you buy from stores that sauerkraut which has been pasteurized would be devoid of probiotics due to pasteurization.
Fermentation has been used to preserve food throughout the history and different cultures. People have thrived and received their doses of probiotics from fermented and cultured foods till the onset of refrigeration.
It would not be wrong to say that refrigeration has been the worst invention for our gut health. Since we do not need to preserve food anymore, we do not include fermented and cultured foods to our diets and miss out on vital probiotics.
Include pickles to your diets and believe it or not, they are an excellent source of gut-healthy probiotics.Avoid pickles that are brined in vinegar as it will not allow the bacteria to grow, instead go for varieties which are brined in water and sea salt.
Originating from Indonesia, Tempeh has become very popular around the world especially as a high-protein meat substitute.
It is a fermented soybean cake with a firm texture like cottage cheese and tastes somewhat like mushrooms with nutty tones.
Tempeh is an excellent source of probiotics which can be easily added to stir fries, bakeries, and crumbled on salads.
Ideal for vegans, tempeh contains more protein, fiber and probiotic compared to tofu and it is also a great source of vitamin B12
Another popular staple in Japanese kitchens, natto is fermented soybean product with a bacterial strain called Bacillus subtilis.
It has a very strong flavor and it is unusually sticky which makes it difficult to like. But once you acquire the taste, it can be an outstanding source of probiotics, protein and vitamin K2.
Natto may also help prevent osteoporosis in women and cardiovascular health.
How To Get More Probiotic In Your System?
To begin with, start including sour and fermented foods to your daily diets. Apple cider vinegar would be an excellent choice, to begin with.
The healthy acids will not only create health PH in your body, they will aid and support the growth of probiotics in your digestive system.
Boost and increase your probiotics intake by including at least one probiotic food serving every day such as kefir or yogurt.
Another important way to boost probiotics in your system is to feed probiotics and provide them with fermentable fiber soil.
Eating foods which are high in quality fiber such as chia seeds, flax seeds, sweet and regular potatoes will help fuel probiotics.
You could also take high-quality probiotic supplements which can help boost probiotics naturally in your system.
15 Healthy & Beneficial Strains Of Probiotics
There are many species and strains of probiotics which offer different health benefits. Hence it is vital to understand different strains of probiotics and their health benefits.
Let us look at the top probiotic strains which support healthy digestive system and other health benefits.
1. Bacillus laterosporus – It is a potent strain for a healthy colon and beneficial flora in the intestines.
This probiotic helps fight many fungal infections such as candida, athlete’s foot, nail fungus and toenail fungus etc. It also reduces the chances of intestinal redness which leads to “leaky gut syndrome” (1)
2. Bifidobacterium breve – A probiotic strain you definitely want for its key role in proper colon function, reducing gas, bloating and alleviates constipation.
This potent probiotic also suppresses candida, stimulates the immune system, inhibits E-coli. (2)
3. Bifidobacterium infantis – This is for you if you have occasional constipation or suffer from digestive ailments. It works by releasing an acid which inhibits unhealthy microorganisms taking hold. (3)
4. Bifidobacterium bifidum -This is the most common probiotic bacteria in the body, mostly present in the colon, lower small intestines and breast milk too.
A powerful probiotic strain that boosts the immune system and great to keep bad bacteria at bay. It aids digestion, relieves allergy reactions and great for healthy and normal skin. (4)
5. Bifidobacterium lactis – Very strong and potent probiotic which survives the digestion process and excellent bacteria for people who are gluten sensitive.
This probiotic bacteria neutralizes the wheat protein called gliadin known to harm the intestinal lining and responsible for leaky gut. (5)
6. Bifidobacterium longum – Have to take antibiotics? don’t forget to include this probiotic.
It may reduce the risk for colon cancer and has the ability to soothe body irritation. What makes this probiotic extremely effective is because of its ability to break down carbohydrates, scavenge and neutralize toxins found in the gut.
Bifidobacterium longum also helps in keeping the acid levels balanced in the gut. (6)
7. Lactobacillus acidophilus – A very important strain and colonizes in the small intestine and maintaining the integrity of the walls.
It supports digestion, ensures proper nutrient absorption, and boosts the immune system. It has been found extremely beneficial particularly for lactose digestion.
8. Lactobacillus brevis – This probiotic strain is particularly found in yogurt.
Residing in the gastrointestinal tract, this probiotic boost immune system, soothes colon tissue and improves oral health. (7)
9. Lactobacillus bulgaricus – Another probiotic found in dairy products such as Swiss cheese and yogurt. It stimulates the growth of other beneficial bacteria and used as the first probiotic culture in yogurt.
It creates natural antibiotics in your gut which fight harmful invading organisms, neutralizes toxins and promotes balance.
10. Lactobacillus gasseri – Fairly new found strain, helps digestion and blood sugar levels and fight obesity.
11. Lactobacillus plantarum – It produces an amino acid called L. lysine which supports calcium absorption in the body and aids hormone production.
Great to boost complete immune system and found to be a remedy for bowel disorders.
12. Lactobacillus paracasei – A robust probiotic strain present in the small intestine and colon.
It helps protect teeth from cavities, general fatigue and has the unique ability to support liver functioning.
13. Lactobacillus rhamnosus – It helps kick-starts antibodies and aids urinary tract infections. Promotes overall gut health and boost immunity.
14. Lactobacillus salivarius – It is vital for oral health. This strain protects the mouth by fighting unwanted microbes.
Combine it with prebiotic foods such as tomatoes, garlic, bananas and it will thrive and flourish.
14. Pediococcus acidilactici – It takes care of all the undigested food in the gut and preventing many disorders and diseases.
15. Streptococcus thermophilus – Plays a vital role in discouraging foods like cured meats, spinach, and celery from turning into harmful nitrites.
It also helps prevent allergies by breaking down protein in cheese and casein found in milk.
How To Choose The Best Probiotic Supplement
What you need to keep in mind is that there are different probiotics strains and they provide different health benefits. Some strains provide immunity benefits whereas another would provide you with better digestion and some might help lose weight and balance hormones.
Select the right strains of probiotics which meet your specific need to gain maximum benefits.
Look for reputable brands: Companies who have been around for. a while and known to you would be a better choice rather a maker who is unknown.
Read The Label: Look for information about the species, genus, strain, CFU’s (colony forming units) to begin with
CFU’s: This is the probiotics measurement and should be prominently displayed on the packing and label. Higher the CFU the better and ideally you should look from 15 billion to 100 billion.
Strain Diversity: Do not restrict yourselves to a single or two strains, look for the probiotic which provides at least 10 different strains and no more than 30. Not all the strains will reach your gut because many will perish due to your body’s acid and bile.
Shelf Life and Survivability: Look for a clear statement on the packaging which should say “Potency guaranteed until time of expiration.” This will ensure that you are getting guaranteed CFU’s as claimed. You should also look for a product which is shelf-stable and should not be requiring refrigeration to maintain the potency. Look for labels which say “Refrigeration Not Required” or “Shelf Stable”.
Date of Manufacture: Probiotics are live supplements, fresher the better.
Live Cultures: Try and buy probiotics which say “Live and active cultures” and avoid which say “Made with active cultures”.
There is no doubt that probiotics play an important role in our overall health.
They are also extremely essential for many body functions.
Include probiotic rich foods like kefir, yogurt, sour foods to your daily regime and your gut flora will flourish making you healthier and happier.