If you take a holistic approach to your family’s health, chances are you’ve noticed probiotics appearing everywhere from your yogurt containers to appearing even on your local pharmacy shelves. Have you been debating on whether to include probiotics into your families everyday health regime but uncertain if the benefits of probiotics are the real deal or just a new age fad? I’ll get the record straight for you here.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that reside in your gut. We often think of bacteria as bad and we all try to avoid it like the plague, so how can we have bacteria that resides in us? Well, you might be alarmed to learn that the human body has 10x more bacteria that lives in our gut than the actual number of cells in our body.
Good bacterial flora that live mostly in our gut, makes up 70-80 percent of our immune system. These beneficial microorganisms colonize our digestive tract, our urinary and genital systems, and our skin and form the majority of our defense or immune system.
These friendly critters keep the bad bacteria in check and also helps us digest food and synthesize certain nutrients.
Unfortunately, this intricate community of bacteria needs to remain in close balance otherwise, when it is thrown off balance digestive issues and other illness can set in. Factors such diet, stress, frequent use of antibiotics can lead to loss of the “friendly” flora and allow other “bad” bacteria to take over.
Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are your “helpful” bacteria and they offer several health benefits:
- Helps to digest food- aids in digesting and absorbing certain carbohydrates
- Involved in manufacture of vitamin K and B vitamins as well as improving mineral absorption, particularly calcium
- Support a healthy immune system
- Probiotics control overgrowth of yeast and bacteria such as ones that can cause diarrhea, yeast and urinary tract infections
- Probiotics can help to reduce bad cholesterol by breaking down bile salts which leads to reduced cholesterol absorption
- Probiotics can help reduce gut flare up and can help improve inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s and Colitis
- Support overall wellness
The list of benefits of probiotics keeps on growing. Recent preliminary research shows that probiotics can help you to lose weight. Probiotic were believed to have worked by altering the permeability of the intestinal wall and reducing inflammation which can lead to weight related issues such as insulin resistance and diabetes.
Where do I get probiotics?
Now that you know all the great health benefits that probiotics has to offer, how do you take advantage of these benefits? Proper food choices can help shift bacteria balance from an unhealthy one to a healthier one. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods. Below is a list I put together to outline the best probiotic foods for you to add to your diet:
- Kefir-is a cross between yogurt and milk made from kefir “grains”. It is slightly tarter in taste than yogurt and is a delicious way to get probiotics in your system
- Kimchi- an asian form of pickled sauerkraut
- Miso- a staple in Japanese cuisine
- Yogurt- make sure it is plain yogurt free of sugars and syrups
- Tempeh- is made from fermented soybean and is often used as great meat substitute
I recommend people to look to their cultural background to see what works for them.
Is eating yogurt good enough?
While including fermented foods in your daily diet is great, what you need to consider is that unfortunately, many of the fermented products (yogurt, sauerkraut) you purchase at your local supermarket has been pasteurized and heat-treated in someway. This means that many of the beneficial bacteria will have been wiped out during the heat part of the process.
That’s where supplemental probiotics come in. Consider supplementing your diet with probiotic supplements. Probiotics come in pill and powder forms.
How much should I take?
When it comes to dosages, probiotics are measured by the number of live organisms (cells) present or colony forming units (CFU). Most experts agree that roughly 3-10 billion CFU is the general dosage needed by an individual for everyday general use depending on age. However, dosage will also depend the individual and any underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Your best bet is to consult a healthcare practitioner to help you figure out how much to take for you and your family!
Bottom line these ‘friendly’ bacteria are nothing new and with all the positive benefits supported by research probiotics are here to stay! I say probiotics are definitely worth your effort and investment.