I received this question from a follower the other day. She was wondering if she should get some supplements to take just because it seems the thing “to do”.
I’ve heard many pros and cons about probiotic supplements. Probiotics are supplements you take to help put good bacteria back into your system due to a loss of bacteria, such as from taking antibiotics.
Some health benefits of probiotics are, reducing inflammation, helps with depression and anxiety, lowers total and LDL cholesterol levels, can reduce blood pressure, enhances immune function, helps with skin disorders such as acne, rosacea and eczema, and a wide range of other health problems.
There are many types of bacteria that are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits. The major three probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and a yeast found in probiotics called Saccharomyces boulardii. These will help with diarrhea, IBS, and lactose intolerances.
There are also, L. acidophilus which is the most important strain of the Lactobacillus species. It supports nutrient absorption and helps with the digestion of dairy foods. B. longum helps maintain the integrity of the gut wall and it is a scavenger of toxins. B. bifidum, is critical for the healthy digestion of dairy products. It also is important for its ability to break down complex carbs, fat, and protein into small components that the body can use more efficiently. L. rhamnosus, is a great travel probiotic. This bacteria can help prevent occasional traveler’s diarrhea.
Ok, so now you know the names of some of the healthy bacteria, don’t be so quick to run to the store to pick up a bottle. Probiotics sold in stores may or may not have live bacteria!! SAY WHAT??? Yes, that’s true so before you waste money on a bunch of dead bacteria, I’ll tell you why. Since probiotic bacteria are living organisms, their health can be affected by their environment. In years past, probiotics had to be kept in the refrigerator, new delivery systems have done away with that for the most part, but, you still need to protect the bacteria from too much exposure to light, heat, and moisture. Not only do you have to worry about the supplements from the manufacturer but where the store is displaying them. They shouldn’t be in the sun or near a heating vent.
The best supplements will use a delivery system that ensures a significantly high percentage of bacteria will reach your intestines alive. Look for details on the packaging or marketing materials. Also look at how the product is packaged. The most preferred packaging will be in thick, opaque bottles with desiccant pouches. There are some new styles of blister packs that also work well.
Also, the probiotic industry doesn’t require that products have expiration dates. So, if you pick up a bottle with no expiration date, should you really buy it? An expiration date on a probiotic supplement is the manufacturer’s promise that the bacteria will remain active and potent at the levels specified on the label until that date.
With all this being said, if you want a heathy gut you can run out and buy prebiotics (which are more or less fiber) and/or probiotics but in my opinion, stick to heathy foods!
Examples of prebiotics are: asparagus, leeks and onions, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, Brussels sprouts, bananas, apples, flaxseed, wheat bran, oats, and legumes such as black beans, soy beans, kidney beans, lima beans and even peanuts!
Examples of probiotics are: yogurt (choose yogurt with active or live cultures), Kefir, a dairy product. Sauerkraut (make sure its unpasteurized), pasteurization kills the live and active bacteria. Tempeh, which is a high-protein meat substitute made from soybeans. Kimchi, which is a fermented cabbage. Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea drink. Pickles that are made without vinegar. Pickles are cucumbers left to ferment for some time in a solution of salt and water. Buttermilk, but only the traditional buttermilk. Cultured buttermilk commonly found in America does not have any probiotic benefits. Types of cheese like gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese. Dark chocolate and soy milk can also be good sources of a probiotic.
These are just a few examples but if you are healthy and can eat one or two different prebiotics and probiotics a day, your body will thank you. The choice is yours.
*If you are having serious problems with any kind of bloating, gas, irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea/constipation, I would suggest to get checked out by your doctor.
If any one else has questions, please write it down in the comment box!
Happy eating!! Laura