All you need to know about probiotics
Probiotics are everywhere at the moment with interest in probiotic foods hitting an all-time high. I’m seeing them on TV commercials and news programs, floating around Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and people are talking about probiotic foods and making their own fermented products like Kefir!
After talking about the importance of gut health and beneficial bacteria for almost a decade I’m so excited that it’s finally becoming a popular topic because now I don’t look so crazy banging on about it so much!
Probiotics are very helpful medicines for relieving conditions like IBS, eczema and psoriasis. They also make hormones and vitamins in your body and support our immunity. It’s also been discovered that probiotics actually talk to each other and send messages to our brain! I wrote a blog post recently about all this and the gut-brain connection (it’s fascinating!), you can read it here. But today, I want to focus on how to use probiotics properly cos I often get emails from customers who want to know why probiotics aren’t helping their IBS or eczema. Some of them complain that taking them makes their symptoms worse!
There’s a really good reason why probiotics don’t always help your symptoms… you might be taking them at the wrong time.
I talk a lot about healing your gut and using 3 steps to do that properly. Step three is Rebalancing. Today we’re going into detail on this step. Rebalancing is about putting the good bacteria back into your gut but it’s the final step in healing your gut because it’s best done AFTER you repair your gut lining.
If you try and add in probiotics or fermented foods while your gut lining is inflamed and irritated, you’ll find they either go straight through you or exacerbate your bloating. The main reason for this is that your gut is inflamed, sensitive and reactive and adding in live bacteria into this mix just makes everything worse!
Probiotics are live bacteria that help you break down and digest your food. As I mentioned, they make vitamins, hormones, send messages to your brain and live in harmony in your gut. But for many people, a disruption in their gut bacteria balance was the trigger for their IBS and leaky gut in the first place. Think about these common situations, they all have one thing in common:
- That overseas trip where you ate that food and got really sick?
- Overseas when you accidentally got ice in your drink and thought it would be okay… and it wasn’t?
- When you’ve had repeated rounds of antibiotics to get rid of a nasty cough that wouldn’t go away?
- When you had thrush or repeated UTIs?
- That year you just kept getting sick ALL the time and couldn’t shake it?
These situations all result in the natural balance of your gut bacteria being interrupted. Leading to inflammation and irritation. Whether it’s through infection, stress, poor diet or antibiotics the end result is the same: the balance of your gut bacteria is disrupted and the numbers shift from “good” to “bad” bacteria.
(I don’t really like using those terms good and bad when talking about gut bacteria, we need all kinds of bacteria in our gut to help provide an overall balance and harmonious community which works together for our benefit… but it’s an easier concept to understand when you start learning about all this stuff.)
So once the gut is healed and your symptoms have reduced so much that you’ve forgotten just how bad they used to be (I know you don’t believe that there will EVER be a time when you forget how bad it is but please trust me – you will and it’s amazing when that happens!) then you are ready to start using probiotics to regain some balance to your gut.
Probiotic supplements or probiotic foods?
When you’re deciding which probiotic is best for you, there are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, you need to know what probiotic strains are in the product you’re looking at. Secondly, how those probiotics strains will or will not help relieve your symptoms.
There are lots of different strains of probiotics, lots of different products on the market and it’s so confusing to know where to start. I always recommend my patients start with a probiotic supplement (like the one below) because it gets the process started, it’s simple and convenient. Click the image to add this probiotic supplement to your cart and keep reading.
A key element of healthy gut bacteria is diversity. You want lots and lots of different bacteria thriving in your gut and to achieve this, you need to start with one that’s got a few strains in it – that’s why I like the one above.
So when you are ready to start on the third step of your gut healing program, take a course of probiotics. Just one capsule a day and to know you’re taking them at the right time in your gut healing process, you are looking for a further reduction in bloating and a regulation in your bowel motions.
Health benefits of different probiotic strains
Bifidobacterium bifidum – attaches to and protects the intestinal cell lining from damage
Bifidobacterium breve – restores colon health after antibiotics
Bifidobacterium infantis – helps relieve constipation and is found in breastmilk, helping infants develop their gut flora
Bifidobacterium lactis – neutralizes gliadin, the wheat protein responsible for gluten sensitivity
Bifidobacterium longum – is anti-inflammatory and helps relieve digestive discomfort caused by stress
Lactobacillus acidophilus – reduces lactose intolerance, relieves allergic response and treats IBS
Lactobacillus brevis – supports colon tissue, improves immunity and boosts antibiotic effectiveness
Lactobacillus bulgaricus – creates natural antibiotics in your gut, promotes digestive balance
Lactobacillus casei – supports immunity and digestion
Lactobacillus gasseri – speeds up metabolism and supports weight loss. There’s also evidence it helps reduce allergic response and relieves asthma symptoms.
Lactobacillus paracasei – helps relieve symptoms of chronic fatigue and treats infant diarrhoea
Lactobacillus plantarum – produces its own antibiotics and relieves bloating, constipation and wind
Lactobacillus rhamnosus – specific for treating UTIs and has been proved beneficial for IBS, traveller’s diarrhoea
Streptococcus thermophilus – supports digestion and breaks down casein, a dairy protein that causes allergies.
Fermented foods contain probiotics too!
After you’ve had the course (or two) of probiotics, you might like to try using fermented foods to continue diversifying your gut bacteria. They are coming back into fashion and you can find heaps of recipes and articles online now about how to use fermented foods to improve your gut health.
I’ve also written a blog on the many secret benefits of fermented foods which you can read here.
The following is a list of my favourite probiotic foods. I like them because these foods help you feel good from the inside out and over time will relieve digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, wind and regulate urgency and frequency of bowel motions – now we all want that!
Yoghurt – obviously yoghurt’s at the top of the list but not all yoghurts are probiotic friendly or even contain probiotic strains. Look for full-fat yoghurts as sugar is the natural enemy of friendly gut bacteria and low-fat/no-fat yoghurt options will have loads of added sugar, Jalna and Vaalia are good supermarket brands. There’s plenty of natural yoghurt brands and you can even make your own. I’ve haven’t found the time to do this just yet but it’s on my to do list.
Click here to watch a video on how to make your own yoghurt it’s so easy!
Kefir – is a fermented milk drink that can be made from water, milk or coconut water. It’s a great probiotic food for the whole family, especially those with lactose sensitivity as it’s 99% lactose free. LiveStrong.com claims Kefir has up to three times the amount of probiotics in it than yoghurt does, but I think it depends on the brand and how you make it. Still, I’m surprised how quickly Kefir has developed its cult following over the last couple of years. There’s lots of people talking about how it helped relieve their IBS symptoms and they swear by drinking it every day.
Miso – is a traditional Asian soup made from fermented rye, soybeans and brown rice. The recipe can be adapted to be made from most grains or beans/legumes and is a good source of probiotics. Word of caution: if you’re on a low-salt diet, go easy with the miso.
Kombucha Tea – now, I’m not a huge fan of Kombucha because I think we all need to be careful when it comes to fungus. Kombucha Tea starts out as fermented tea leaves on a “culture of bacteria and yeasts” – that doesn’t sound yum – but ends up as a probiotic-rich drink. I understand the principle is the same as for all the other foods on this list but there’s something about it that makes me go ‘ick’.
Umeboshi Plums – these babies are often fermented for six months, resulting in powerfully alkaline plums that are renowned for their fatigue-fighting and immune boosting properties. I imagine these benefits are largely due to the probiotic strains found in the plums, once fermented. However, without conducting the experiment myself I can’t make the claim for sure. 😉
Fermented vegetables – once a staple in the diet, fermented vegetables are making a comeback after being lost and forgotten for what seemed like an age. So simple to make, you only need a vegetable of choice, salt, water, a jar with a tight lid and patience. Fermented vegetables are fantastic sources of gut healing nutrients and probiotic food, and are an essential part of a healthy diet.
Kimchi – also becoming quite fashionable now is Kimchi (also known as Gimchi and Kimchee) a traditional Korean dish made of fermented vegetables on a cabbage base. Both the fermented vegetables and cabbage are strongly probiotic and seems easy enough to make from the quick whip-around the web I did while researching this blog. Another food I’ll add to my “to try” list.
Probiotics improve your digestive health… but you have to take them at the right time
I know for many of my patients including probiotic foods in their diet (or a regular probiotic supplement) has been the tipping factor in moving them from good health to “wow, I feel awesome” health – and that’s what puts a smile on my face!
But if you need to go back and heal your gut BEFORE you start taking probiotics and expecting miracles, I highly recommend my 28 day gut healing challenge to get your gut health sorted once and for all. Then the probiotic supplements will be worth their weight in gold.
Don’t wait another day to start feeling better. You deserve a healthy gut.