Do you need probiotics?

Do you need probiotics?

Out of all the supplements on the market,  the one supplement I’m asked about the most are probiotics.

Common questions I’m asked are: 

Should you be taking a probiotic supplement every day?

What’s better, getting probiotics from food or taking a supplement?

Will taking probiotics heal a disease, health condition, or illness?

Should you be more focused on eating a diet rich in prebiotics, rather than probiotics?

Before I get into these questions and my opinion of probiotics and probiotic supplements, I first want to explain what probiotics and prebiotics are, and how they benefit you.

What are probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms (healthy bacteria, friendly yeast/fungi and organisms) that live and grow in and on your body (they’re not only in your digestive system, they’re also found everywhere inside your body, and on the surface of your body as well). The friendly bacteria and microorganisms work to defend and protect your body from invading bad bacteria and harmful organisms, and they can even help with the breakdown and synthesis of various nutrients as well.

There are many species of probiotics, and within each species can be hundreds of different strains. Examples of well known probiotics include Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Acidophilus, etc.

We are born with colonies of friendly bacteria and organisms already in our gut and throughout our body. Since these colonies of friendly bacteria and microorganisms are alive, this means they’re also continually reproducing and dying as well.

It’s not only important to be eating foods that are rich in probiotics to help re-populate these colonies of friendly bacteria, but also be eating certain foods known as prebiotics that feed and nourish the friendly bacteria and microorganisms.

Foods rich in probiotics

The best source of probiotics is fermented foods and beverages. Fermented foods contain live active cultures of friendly bacteria and microorganisms. When consumed, these live cultures will help to populate the colonies of good bacteria living in your body.

Probiotics - Do You Need Them? -

Examples of fermented foods rich in probiotics:

  • Kefir (dairy or water kefir)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Soft cheeses
  • Creme fraiche
  • Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar (with mother)
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • etc.

Alternatively, you can also take a probiotic supplement, and I will talk more about my opinion of probiotic supplements and what I recommend further in this article.

Whether you are consuming fermented foods or a probiotic supplement, it’s important to know that not all probiotics will live in your body long-term, some will only reside in your body temporarily for a few day or a few weeks before dying off or being eliminated, and others will multiply and populate within your body. Knowing this, it’s always important to consume a variety of fermented foods regularly, and if you take a probiotic supplement, make sure it is a full spectrum probiotic supplement (I recommend: Dr. Ohhira Probiotics).

What are prebiotics?

Since the friendly bacteria and microorganisms in your body are alive, you want to take care of them and keep them healthy and fed so they can continue to grow, multiply, and populate within your body. The friendly bacteria and microorganisms that inhabit your intestines are well known to feed on soluble fiber known as prebiotics. Soluble fiber is indigestible fiber found in all plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, and legumes.

Examples of prebiotics (soluble  fibers):

  • Inulin
  • Oligofructose
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Pectin
  • etc.

Examples of some of the foods that are high in prebiotics:

  • Chicory root
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Cabbage
  • Dandelion greens
  • Garlic
  • Leek
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Beans & Legumes
  • Whole Grains
  • Root Vegetables
  • etc.

What are Synbiotics?

If you were to group probiotics and prebiotics, it would be a synbiotic. Nowadays some supplement companies are making synbiotics instead of just probiotics, which is considered a more active supplement because you’re not only getting the probiotic, but the food for the probiotic as well.

You can also make your own synbiotic meals by making a dish or food that contains both probiotics and prebiotics, like having yogurt or kefir with sliced bananas, or having a green salad with a salad dressing made with apple cider vinegar, garlic, and onion, or having a vegetable meal that includes some sauerkraut or kimchi on the side.

When do you need probiotics?

Always! Probiotics work to protect your body from being invaded and over taken by harmful organisms and bacteria. As I mentioned earlier, not every single friendly bacteria entering your body is going to live forever or even stay in your body, so it’s important to regularly be consuming fermented foods that will introduce more living probiotics into your body, and also foods containing prebiotics that will feed the friendly bacteria already inside you.

If you choose to take a probiotic supplement, I would say it’s generally safe to be taking them regularly, but I would advice you to do your best at some point to find fermented food(s) you like and can eat regularly so that you aren’t always relying on a pill supplement.

What could be killings the friendly bacteria in your body?

It’s important to note that as much as you are making the effort to add probiotics into your daily diet and routine, you must also beware of certain chemicals, medications, and substances that can be detrimental and adversely affecting the friendly bacteria and microorganisms living in your body.

Antibiotics and antibacterial medications, creams, soaps, and lotions are formulated to kill bacteria. Unfortunately that means they not only kill harmful bacteria, but also friendly beneficial bacteria as well. They don’t know the difference between the two and just wipe out everything, and leave you susceptible to being invaded by other bacterias, microbes, and infections. An example of this is a lot of women who take a series of antibiotics end up coming down with a yeast infection. This is because the friendly bacteria have been wiped out by the antibiotics, and an overgrowth of yeast starts to grow. To prevent this from happening, if there is a time where you do have to take antibiotics or some sort of antibacterial or antimicrobial medications, it’s important to also take probiotics (eat fermented foods or take a supplement, or both) during the time that you are taking the medication and for a few weeks following the round of antibiotics and medications. It’s also important to take these probiotics at different times of day than you would the medication, and I would recommend doubling up your dosage or the amount of fermented food you are eating for at least 2-4 weeks after finishing the medication or antibiotics.

Other things that can interfere or kill off the friendly bacteria in your body is also strong chemical detergents, bleaches, and antibacterial soaps. You are much better off using non-toxic household detergents that works just as well, but aren’t harmful to your body.

If you drink tap water that is chlorinated and/or bathe in this type of chemically treated water, I would recommend getting a water filter to remove the chemicals and chlorine, and/or drink bottled spring water instead. The chlorine in treated tap water isn’t doing you any favours, it too could be killing off the beneficial bacteria in your body and when you are bathing or showing in it, you are inhaling the chlorinated water from the steam and even killing off the beneficial bacteria that is living on your skin.

Since much of the friendly bacteria is living in your digestive system, your digestive health is very important, and therefore it’s crucial that you aren’t consuming anything that is irritating your digestive track or causing chronic lose stool or diarrhea. It’s therefore best to avoid foods that you have a sensitivity to or allergic to, and also avoid alcohol, laxatives, enemas, and colonics. Anything that is flushing out your digestive system is also flushing out the friendly bacteria living in your digestive tract (fiber supplements are fine to take, and in fact the soluble fiber will feed the friendly bacteria, but laxatives, even natural laxatives should all be avoided).

Also, beware of stress! Our minds are connected to our bodies, and for those that are very sensitive, extra worries and anxiety can adversely affect your digestive tract which in turn will adversely affect the healthy gut flora.

Can you use probiotics (fermented foods and/or supplements) therapeutically?

Yes! If you suspect there’s a connection between a health condition you have, and being depleted of good friendly bacteria or gut flora, I recommend increasing the fermented foods in your diet and/or taking a probiotic supplement to see if it can help.

What’s most important is consuming probiotic-rich foods or supplements daily, be consistent, and do so for at least a couple of months to see if it improves your health.

The health conditions probiotics can improve are most digestive issues, chronic constipation or diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), some symptoms from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Colitis), food poisoning, malabsorption-related deficiencies, fatigue, skin issues (including rashes and acne), weakened immune system, allergies, etc.

How do you know the probiotics are working?

Certain signs and indications to look out for:

  • Stronger digestion
  • Less bloating and gas
  • Softer skin
  • Less irritation and inflammation of the skin
  • Decrease incidence of illness
  • Increase of energy
  • Better nutrition

What’s a better source of probiotics – fermented foods or supplements?

I’m always going to say food over supplements. I believe fermented foods to be a much more reliable source of probiotics.

Probiotics are live cultures of friendly bacteria and microorganisms and you are guaranteed they’re alive when eating fermented foods, whereas with supplements you never know how fresh they are, and if they were exposed to destructive elements when transported and stored.

There’s times when taking a probiotic supplement can definitely come in handy and be much easier – for example when travelling, or at times when you want to be consuming a larger dose of probiotics and can’t necessarily get it from food.

The probiotic supplements I recommend are Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics – Professional Formula

For more information on probiotics, watch today’s video below!

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