Going Pro: Probiotics 101

gut-health

So you’re walking through the dairy aisle of your favorite grocery store, and you see a carton of yogurt with the words “Probiotics” on it. You pick it up, and read “contains live and active cultures” on the label, you may even read further and see names like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis…but what are they and what are they good for you?

Way back in 2001, an international group of experts met and agreed on this definition for probiotics: “live microorganism which when administered in adequate amount confer a health benefit on the host.” Yeah…, in simpler terms, probiotics are microorganisms that help maintain a healthy balance of “good” bacteria in your gut and can aid in digestion. Sometimes you hear them called “friendly bacteria”. Here’s what you need to know about probiotics:

Probiotics may offer several health benefits.

Depending on which probiotics you’re consuming, you may experience various health benefits. Among those benefits…they help strengthen your intestines against infections, reduce gas production (ewww), boost your immune system (YAY!), and restore or maintain the good bacteria in your gut. They also help your body digest the foods you eat better, so you have a better chance at actually gaining the benefits from those nutrients you’ve been pumping into your system. Nice right?

The easiest place to find probiotics is your supermarket.

Yogurt is the food that most of us associate with probiotics. Be sure to read the label to be certain though, because not all yogurt contains probiotics. You’ll also want to read the label to see if any specific bacteria are listed as well. Keep this in mind, how products are packaged can impact the quality and quantity of the probiotics in any product. Products that are sealed with heat, like some yogurts, can actually kill off those probiotic bacteria, diminishing the number of cultures that actually make it into your system. There are also certain soft fermented cheeses that are good sources for probiotics, such as Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and particularly Gouda.

Not a dairy fan? There are certainly other products that offer the benefit of probiotics such as Tempeh (made from fermented soy beans), Pistachios (about 1.5oz-3oz/day), Sauerkraut (made from fermented cabbage), and Kimchi (fermented and slightly spicy cabbage). Again, be sure to read the labels.

Keep them cool.

If you’re looking to keep your sources around, you’ll need to keep them cool. Yogurt and other dairy sources like buttermilk and cheese do best when kept cool, so do their probiotic partners. Cheese, along with foods like cabbage or kimchi if cooked, can cause the levels of probiotics to decrease or become eliminated altogether.

Probiotics are often linked with Prebiotics.

Something interesting to note, you can feed the probiotics in your body to help them grow! Oatmeal, bananas, legumes, artichokes and honey all contain prebiotics. These are complex, non-digestible carbohydrates that feed the good probiotic bacteria already living in your digestive system promoting gut health. Research done in 2012 also noted, that drinking 2 glasses of red wine daily for four weeks, increased the number of several healthful strains of gut bacteria. The wine’s polyphenols, powerful antioxidants, plus the alcohol may be responsible for the boost. Bonus: blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels all decreased. Drink responsibly though!

Probiotics seem to help people suffering from diarrhea.

About a quarter of people who take antibiotics, find themselves suffering from ‘stuckonthethrone syndrome’, or more commonly known as that gut-wrenching condition known as diarrhea – the result of the antibiotics disturbing the usual balance of bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract. Little do those people know, they could probably lower their risk of experiencing that particular side effect, by taking probiotics.

Probiotic Supplements.

Sure, there are plenty of dietary sources for probiotics, but there are what’s known as ‘super strains’. These strains of bacteria have a superior ability to go after the foods we eat and provide us with the maximum benefits, such as that boost to your immune system I mentioned, protecting you from infections (always welcome), as well as preventing a condition known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. Long story short, it affects your stomach, liver, intestinal lining. The result, your system becomes flooded with blood that has waste in it — toxins, undigested food molecules, yeast and other pathogens start to accumulate in your body. Probiotics can help maintain a balance in your stomach and intestinal tract, that can help prevent this syndrome.

medium (1)I will say, there’s ongoing research into both Leaky Gut Syndrome and Probiotics, as there’s still much controversy regarding what causes LGS, but mediumprobiotics are known to help not just address it in those who have it, but prevent it in those that don’t. A good supplement for probiotics is one that contains at least 500,000,000 living cultures, as well as prebiotics to help keep them alive.

One product I swear by, It Works Greens/Greens-on-the-Go has probiotics, comes in 2 great flavors, and can be added to foods like yogurt to boost the overall number of probiotics you eat. Hit your body with about 2-5 Billion cultures each week, and you’ll help your body maintain a strong internal balance. I HIGHLY recommend adding this product to your daily dietary intake. To feed those probiotics, you may want to consider adding Greens Chews as a snack…they have those prebiotics, and the antioxidant power of 20 cartons of blueberries.

There’s much much more to come on the subject, but the bottom line is, as much as your body will thank you for adding probiotics to your daily food intake, always read the labels of foods that claim to have probiotics added to them. Look for at least 500,000,000 CFU on the label, there’s no limit to how much probiotics you can take, and like always, if you don’t know the answers, ask someone who does. Your health is important.

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