With all of the buzz surrounding probiotics and gut health, it’s likely you’ve heard something about these gut friendly bugs. It’s a topic we’re often asked to clarify by our private practice clients, as well as friends/family, and the media. There’s a lot of information floating around the good ol’ net — some good and others not so good. So today we’re getting science-y to break down the facts, explain how probiotics may help your health, and show you how to get more of them through food and supplements in a safe, effective way. We’re also talking about one of our trusted brands of probiotic supplements, Renew Life® Ultimate Flora™ Probiotics
This post is sponsored by the Renew Life team; all opinions remain our own, as we only partner with brands and products we would use ourselves and recommend to clients. Thank you for supporting the brands that help support what we do at C&J Nutrition!
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
We can’t address probiotics without talking about a little (big) thing called the microbiome. It’s a huge collection of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that live inside and on your body. As individuals, we each have a unique microbiome just like we have a unique set of DNA. The balance of gut microbiota, the army of (100 trillion!) bacteria and yeast that take up residence in our guts, can affect our health in positive or negative ways. This is where probiotics come in.
Probiotics are specific strains of helpful bacteria and yeasts that live in our guts and benefit health.
WHY ARE PROBIOTICS IMPORTANT FOR HEALTH?
Not all of the bacteria that make up our microbiota are good for us. For optimal gut health, you’ll want to tip the balance in favor of the most beneficial organisms. A healthier gut may lead to better sleep, reduced levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in the blood, and even improved mood. Did you know that 95% of your body’s happiness-inducing serotonin is produced in the gut?
We know from scientific studies that certain probiotic strains can benefit health in different ways. For instance, some probiotic strains may promote digestive health, while others have more success supporting the immune system. When it comes to specific health conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and alternative Health, some preliminary research shows that certain probiotics are helpful in preventing diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics and in improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, but more needs to be learned through additional research. One thing that makes studying probiotics especially complex is that each person’s body can react slightly differently to probiotics depending on their natural bacteria and yeast and their health status. For this reason it’s ideal to have a variety of types of the good guys living in your gut’s ecosystem… and keep an eye out for more research coming out in the next few years!
WHERE TO GET PROBIOTICS, AND HOW TO KEEP THEM HAPPY
To keep the good bacteria in your gut happy and healthy, you need to feed them. Prebiotics are food for good bacteria to thrive. You get prebiotics by eating foods rich in specific types of fiber–– the most common are inulin and fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS.)
FOODS RICH IN PREBIOTICS (TO FEED THE GOOD GUT BACTERIA)
Bananas, Apples, Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Artichokes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Beans and Lentils, Asparagus, Oats, and Whole Wheat.
As for probiotics, fermented foods and probiotic supplements are the two main sources. Fermented foods produce bacteria through the fermentation process. Thankfully, fermented foods have been growing in popularity, so it’s easy to find probiotic options on grocery store shelves and also easy to DIY.
FOODS RICH IN PROBIOTICS
Yogurt (dairy or non-dairy, like our homemade coconut yogurt!)
Kefir (milk based or water kefir)
Kimchi (here’s how to make your own!)
Sauerkraut (The fresh kind you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store contains live bacteria. The kind in the can has been pasteurized and doesn’t contain any live probiotic bacteria.)
Other fermented veggies
Probiotic supplements can be very helpful when you’re not eating fermented foods regularly, are not consuming enough prebiotic foods, and/or if you’ve just had a course or two of antibiotics. Antibiotics wipe out ALL the bacteria, good and bad, which can allow the bad bacteria and yeast to overpopulate. A more hefty dose of probiotics may help replenish the good bacteria and restore balance back to your gut. Other things can also throw our gut balance out of whack, like eating too many processed foods and not eating enough fruit, veggies, and fiber-rich foods.
Shelves are packed with probiotic supplement options, but they’re not all created equal. Here are some of the things we advise our clients to look for when choosing a probiotic supplement.
- Consider what you’re looking to achieve. Different strains help with different health goals.
- Choose a supplement with a variety of the most well studied types of probiotic bacteria. We love that Renew Life Ultimate Flora™ Probiotics are made with 3 times more good bacteria than other leading brands, as well as multiple scientifically studied strains to support digestive balance and harmony.
- Check the label to see which types of bacteria are included in the probiotic blend.
- Check the CFU, or colony forming units, to see how many live bacteria you’re getting per serving. We advise clients to look for 15-30 billion CFUs, or above.
- Choose a supplement from a reputable brand with a commitment to ensuring quality ingredients (i.e. the pill contains the amount of bacteria, and type, that it says it does.)
- Know the source of the probiotic and determine whether it may contain any allergens. Certain brands source probiotics from dairy. Renew Life Ultimate Flora™ Probiotics are dairy and gluten free.
- Make sure that the probiotics you take are guaranteed to make it to your gut alive. They need a special way to make it through your stomach acid. Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics use a delayed release capsule to ensure that more probiotics reach your gut.
Do you include probiotics and prebiotics as part of your wellness routine? What are your favorite ways to keep your gut healthy?
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.