Probiotics: the gateway to optimal health!

PROBIOTICS…Its Strength in Numbers!

Did you know that our gut has more than 5,000 strains of bacteria and there are more than 100 trillion microscopic bacterium, good and bad, that proliferate inside our gut [1]?

One important thing I have learned while studying bacteria and digestion is that our health lies in our gut!  It’s a case of strength in numbers and we will strengthen our immune system by increasing the good bacteria which will displace the bad bacteria.

Factors including age, genetics and diet may influence the composition of our microbiome but of these, diet is the easiest to modify and most accessible.

Bad bacteria

is  often caused by the use of over the counter and prescription medication, antibiotics, nutrient poor diet, processed food, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, stress and the list goes on and on!  Having more good bacteria in the gut than bad bacteria is in fact a VERY GOOD thing…. It’s like getting a perfect score on a test paper!

Good bacteria

Research has proven that probiotic bacteria has many functions and can help us in numerous ways:  digestive, nutritional, immune, heart, metabolic and can also reduce the risk or improve certain health conditions [4].  Good bacteria serve numerous functions and contribute to the overall well-being of our body.

Some important health functions of probiotics are [5]:

-helps digest our food

-helps produce and synthesize B vitamins and K

-increases absorption of minerals

-improves mood and mood related disorders

-reduces cholesterol

-prevents and even treats auto-immune disorders (such as eczema, psoriasis, lupus, overactive thyroid)

-treats infections (fungal and bacterial infections, candida and SIBO)

Antibiotics:  a double edge sword!

Did you also know that it can take up to 2 years for your gut flora to return to a balanced and healthy state after taking just one round of antibiotics!  In fact, one of the most common reasons people take probiotics is to help rebuild their microbiome.

Antibiotics can be helpful but they destroy all bacteria – the bad AND the good, unfortunately!

My recommendation is either waiting until you finish your treatment with antibiotics or taking your probiotic at least 3 hours away from your antibiotic.

Quality AND Quantity Matter

Probiotics are measured in colony forming units, CFU’s, which indicate the number of active cells.  These can range from 1billion to over 100billion per serving.  Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements (in capsules, powders, liquids, and other forms) containing a wide variety of strains and doses [2].

Current labeling regulations only require manufacturers to list the total weight of the microorganisms on probiotic products’ Supplement Facts labels; which can consist of both live and dead microorganisms, therefore, has no relationship with the number of active microorganisms in the product [3]. Manufacturers may now voluntarily list the CFUs in a product in addition to total microorganism weight on the Supplement Facts label.

Probiotics must be consumed alive to have health benefits and they can die during their shelf life, it is therefore important to look for the number of CFU’s at end of the product’s shelf life, not at the time of manufacturing.

When Should I take Probiotics?

I take my probiotics in the evening, usually before bed.  Upon waking, I have 1-2 good bowel movements, but this could differ from person to person.  The reason for this is that the more bad bacteria there is in the gut and intestines, the more the good bacteria will push it out of your system.  This is a good thing, so don’t be alarmed if you go number 2 a few times or in large amounts (drink lots of water too to avoid dehydration).

Natural Food Sources

To safely store your probiotics, I recommend keeping them in the fridge.  I also recommend taking a low dose or what I like to call “maintenance” dose regularly alongside a food regime high in vegetables, fermented foods, kombucha, non-dairy yogurt, kefir and prebiotics too!

Here are 13 of my favorite probiotic rich foods:

  1. Sourdough bread
  2. Raw unpasteurized cheese
  3. Brine cured olives
  4. Sauerkraut
  5. Kefir
  6. Yogurt
  7. Kimchi
  8. Kombucha
  9. Miso
  10. Fermented pickles
  11. Apple cider vinegar
  12. Tempeh
  13. Raw honey

Can Babies and Children Take Probiotics?

Probiotics are safe to give to children too but at a lower dosage up to 2 years old but after that age, they can take adult doses, yet I still recommend building up to 10 or 20 billion.

Babies born via C-section are more at risk of developing asthma, allergies and skin disorders (eczema, psoriasis dermatitis), therefore, it is all the more important to start supplementing your baby with low dose probiotics (500million/day for first 3-6 months) right away.  You can gradually increase to 1 billion up to 1 year old and then up to 5 billion afterwards.

Equally important is for the mother to be taking probiotics and to breastfeed until baby is at least 1 year old, ideally.  Keep in mind that what you eat and the health of your body will go directly into your breast milk which will feed and nourish your baby and contribute to their microbiome.

My Favorite Trusted Brands

It’s a good idea to find a few good brands (Genestra, Bio-K and Physica  are brands that I have used and suggested to clients with excellent results) and alternate them every 3 months or so because it’s important to give our gut lots of different strains…remember we have over 5,000 naturally!  It is always best, of course, to consult a holistic nutritionist or natural health care practitioner if you want more guidance and a more complete healthy living protocol.

 

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health
  2. National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Label Database. 2018.
  3. Food and Drug Administration. Policy regarding quantitative labeling of dietary supplements containing live microbials: Guidance for industry. 2018.
  4. Lipski, Elizabeth. “Digestive Wellness 4th edition.  New York, McGraw-Hill, 2012.
  5. Haas, Elson M. “Staying Healthy with Nutrition”. New York, Random House Inc., 2006.