Probiotics, a health food used to ultimately heal the body, starting with the gut. MY true passion as some of you may already know. Yes I talk about poo but that’s another story. Anyway, probiotics are said to hold the key not just for better health and a stronger immune system, but also for treating digestive issues and mental health illness, to name but a few. But how much should we be taking? Is it actually necessary? Do we need to supplement or can we get them in our foods? This is a tricky question because there are so many things to take into consideration and I still not 100% sure, but I will give you a balanced article for you to make your own decision. My go-to gurus when it comes to gut health are functional medicine specialists like Chris Kresser, Dr Axe, Dr Mark Hyman and Dr Perlmutter.
The reason I love gut health is because 80% of our entire immune system is located in our digestive tracts, which means, heal your gut to heal your health.
Probiotics are always discussed when it comes to aiding in better digestion because they are a fermented foods that adds good bacteria to the gut. If we have more good bacteria in our guts then we are able to fight infection, have more energy, not have bloating or gas, our bowel movements are normal i.e. not constipated or diarrhoea, have balanced moods etc.
Our bodies are more bacteria than human, over 100 trillion bacteria to be more precise which massively outweighs the number of human body cells. Does this make us bacteria, haha? Bottom line is that bacteria help with food digestion.
Along with improving digestion there are many other health benefits for probiotics:
- Reduce colds and flu
- Improve dental health
- Treat colitisand Crohn’s disease
- Battle cancer 
- Manage autism 
- Lower cholesterol
- Fight bad bacteria that causes ulcers
- Improve acne
- Lose weight
It’s a good idea to add gut-healing foods to replenish the good bacteria that we lose due to our lifestyle and food choices. I would always suggest going for a whole foods option rather than a supplement but if you prefer the ease of supplementing then choose a good quality one that is soil based as these were found to be the most tolerant for people.
Stay away from general health claims and marketing bullshit and follow these rules from Dr Axe, functional medicine doctor for choosing a probiotic supplement:
- Brand quality— Look for brands that are reputable like Garden of Life, MegaFood, Thorne and Axe Naturals.
- High CFU count —Purchase a probiotic brand that has a higher number of probiotics, from 15 billion to 100 billion.
- Strain diversity— Search for a probiotic supplement that has 10–30 different strains.
- Survivability— Look for strains like bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and other cultures or formulas that ensure probiotics make it to the gut and are able to colonize.
- Stability: Probiotics need to be kept cold in order to preserve their potency.
- Date: The fresher the better when you’re talking about living organisms.
- Living vs. dead: “Live and active cultures” is a better bet than “made with active cultures.” After fermentation, the product may be heat-treated, which kills off both good and bad bacteria (extending shelf life).
- Bacteria type: “Live and active cultures” does not necessarily mean that the kinds of bacteria the product holds have been proven as beneficial. The bacteria strain should consist of two names and two letters: the genus, species and strain. If the label lists two names, it could be any one of hundreds of bacteria without research or proven health benefits behind it.
Probiotic Food options:
- Consume fermented foods and beverages like sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir (water, coconut and full fat organic dairy), kombucha and yogurt (watch the sugar content) on a daily basis. Try making your own kefir, it’s so much cheaper and all you need is the kefir live grains, which cost about $5 and then add your favourite milk – dairy free, water or milk.
- Chia and flaxseeds
- Consume prebiotic foods that act as the food for the good bacteria already in your gut. These include onions, potato starch and fruits and vegetables high in soluble fibre (sweet potatoes, asparagus, turnips, mango, avocados, strawberries, apricots). Eat the rainbow to aid in a variety of different good bacteria.
If however you find that consuming fermented foods and others mentioned above then your gut is inflamed and things need to be treated in a different way. If you have severe leaky gut, SIBO, parasite, FODMap intolerances then you need to not only consider supplementing the probiotic and prebiotic, but also slowly introducing this daily rather than taking the recommended dose. For example, take 1/3 of a probiotic supplement for a few weeks daily and then slowly increase, otherwise you could find your digestive discomfort worsens. It’s a catch 22 because probiotics and prebiotics are required to improve your digestion. That’s why it is so important to go through a proper gut protocol with a health practitioner who can work with your unique symptoms.
If you suffer with digestive discomfort from bloating, gas and acid reflux through to severe constipation, low moods and energy and diarrhoea then please feel free to book a call with me to discuss your gut health and how we can work together to improve it.
What are your view on probiotics?
What are your views on probiotics? Are they in enough of our food or are supplements needed? Let us know in the comment box below!