Probiotics are live bacteria that line our intestinal tract, keep microbial balance and enhance our nutrient absorption. Do we really need to take probiotics? Often the answer is yes. Ideally we would get all of our nutrients, including probiotics from fthe food in our diet. But due to exposure to toxins, stress and nutrient depleted soil, most of us will benefit from supplementing with probiotics.
We are frequently exposed to potentially pathogenic and opportunistic bacteria. When our gut bacteria is out of balance, these exposures can become problematic and result in various symptoms. The most common being gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms (e.g., bloating, gas, irregular bowels). A lack of probiotics not only affects our GI system, but also our immune system and overall health. With 70% of our immune cells located in our gut, maintaining a balanced and robust gut microbiome is crucial.
Probiotics can vary significantly by type and potency (e.g., bacterial strains, strains from yeast, spore or soil based). The ideal probiotic will vary depending upon our goal. Probiotics can be beneficial for a variety of different reasons. They can support a robust gut microbiome, address an imbalance of bacteria, and support various health conditions. Health conditions that can be supported by specific strains include: cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation, immune support, seasonal allergies, mood support, joint inflammation and GI challenges. An imbalance of gut bacteria can even be a variable with skin rashes and eczema.
Good gut bacteria facilitates digestion and the production of nutrients, like vitamins B12 and K2 which are important nutrients for energy production and healthy bones. A robust microbiome supports our mucosal layer, reducing the risk of leaky gut. When leaky gut is present, we see an increase in inflammation, which over time leads to chronic health challenges as it silently damages tissues and organs. A compromised gut can have a snowball effect. Good health really does begin in the gut!
Beyond supplementing, there are several things we can do to support a healthy gut microbiome. Enjoying fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kefir, kombucha, raw dairy (i.e., hasn’t been pasteurized or heat treated) and yogurt. Add a scoop of sauerkraut on top of your salad or as a side to your meal. With all fermented foods, avoid ones with added sugar. Sugar feeds the unhealthy and opportunistic bacteria in our gut.
Adding prebiotic rich foods will feed our healthy bacteria. Leafy greens, artichoke, asparagus, onion, garlic, Brussels sprouts and other veggies are great for supporting gut bacteria as well as providing a variety of nutrients. Additional high fiber foods that feed our gut bacteria include: nuts, seeds, oats and other grains (if tolerating). Apples, berries, bananas, avocados and other high fiber fruits also feed gut bacteria. If you find you don’t tolerate some of these foods, and they result in GI symptoms, it likely means you have an imbalance of bacteria that needs to be addressed.
Interested in learning which probiotic is right for you? Please reach out, I’m happy to help you determine the best option.