Probiotics. One word. Bombdiggity. My most favourite pack full of the good stuff, bacterial rich essential in ya fridge medicine and something I highly recommend to all my patients. You see, we had a mad time overdosing on antibiotics sadly and now, we’ve needed to do a 360 and come back to strengthening wellness, not necessarily mending illness. It’s not just antibiotics though, the pill has equally contributed – if not more so. I talk about gut health and probiotics quite extensively in my Debunking Ovulation download mostly because the pill has collectively stuffed up our gut health something major. And if that’s not enough of an issue, antibiotics, stress and our ever so toxic lifestyles have come along and been major contributors too. Seems as though up until recently we’ve had things around the wrong way.
Perhaps you’re not sure where to start? Perhaps you love the idea but equally the idea of bacteria is so funky it makes you squirm? I want to make things super simple and give you a little guide to how to tackle your gut health and probiotic needs. After all, fermented foods and probiotics have been around since Noah was putting his finishing touches on the Ark!
Here’s why you need probiotics:
- 80% of your immune function is formed by your healthy gut – this helps protect you from viruses and infections (especially after antibiotics where all the good and the bad has been cleared out leaving your body so open to infection, it’s scary)
- They’re the bee’s knees for managing gut health – think Irritable Bowel Syndrome, reflux, heartburn (all signs your digestive system is totes unhappy).
- Because it is like a big hug from your inners, it helps to treat the root cause of pain, gas and bloating meaning the symptoms are also addressed
- Promotes happy bowels
- Addresses leaky gut
- Attacks infections like Candida and prevents yeast overgrowth to treat and prevent thrush
- Maximises your guts ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals
Like all supplements it can be tricky to work out what’s actually quality and sift through the rubbish products that are out there. There are some wonderful over the counter products (and I’m in no way affiliated to these kids – just sharing what I know). As a practitioner, I like to stick to quality practitioner prescribed products mostly, however I’ve used over the counter varieties from time to time.
There’s also little differences between various products. The probiotics that are drum dried require refrigeration. Those that are using a newer technology known as freeze drying do not need refrigeration.
Here’s what you need to know about the various strains:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus – successfully treats diarrhoea (especially good whilst travelling), treats skin conditions like eczema and food allergies in infants. It is useful for respiratory infections and anxiety. This little beauty goes to work in the digestive tract to balance intestinal microflora.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – supports general immune function
- Lactobacillus plantarum – IBS, diarrhoea, relieves bloating, intestinal pain and inflammation
- Bifidobacterium lactis – constipation and IBS. This strain enhances cellular immune response.
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae – effective to treat dysbiosis, improves digestion and useful for inflammatory bowel disease and post viral chronic fatigue.
Now there are of course more than these varieties, however these are the most common strains that you’ll come across.
What about fermented and probiotic food types?
Of course, I always advocate for making my own probiotics rich food because you are getting a vast range of strains in each food AND they are much cheeper and easy to make.
- In kombucha (fermented tea) you’ll find – Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Acetobacter, Lactobacillus plus a few others like Brettanomyces and a few other strains specific to Kombucha.
- In sauerkraut – Pedioccous and Lactobacillus
- In kefir grains/yoghurt – a HUGE variety including Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Psuedomonoas, Streptococcus as well as yeast varieties also in Kombucha like Saccharomyces plus a few others.
There are other types of fermented foods available – think kim chi and water kefir. All are wonderful for gut health.
Need some guidance on making these foods. Check out my healthtalks episode on probiotics here.
Are probiotics safe?
Hells yeah. If they weren’t, you nor I would be here. Not only are they safe, they are ESSENTIAL. Probiotics up until the 1950’s (when the fridge became a household item) were a diet staple and it’s fair to say kept the population healthy. With the introduction of the fridge, we no longer needed to preserve and pickle our foods but we lost this very powerful healing and health maintaining food.
People ask me all the time about probiotics and pregnancy. I’m not here to tell you what to do – you need to make the choice that feels right for you. But I will say this, the baby will directly inherit the mothers gut health and so if there is some compromise there, it may be a good idea to consume a supplement or food if you feel comfortable.
What about pre-biotics?
Pre-biotics are food for probiotics found in many foods like onions, beans, various legumes and some other produce like asparagus. They are also found in fibres like psyllium and slippery elm (two key ingredients in my gentle body cleanse shakes – watch out for the next round in September!)
How do you know you need a probiotic?
Unless you’re superhuman or from mars, you do. We need to be continually supporting our digestive health. It’s a constant work in progress, and like all wellness, there is no endpoint – it’s all about the journey!
I say to patients, if you’re unsure where to start, a broad spectrum product will absolutely support your needs. Remember, you have many types of bacteria present in your gut and so honing in on just one strain is like taking a single vitamin as opposed to multivitamin. Various strains work together to support overall gut health and colonisation.
Bottom line is this – if your gut can’t absorb nutrients from the food and drink we consume then it can’t do it’s job properly – converting nutrients eventually into hormones! Fix your gut and fix your life. It really does all start here.