Probiotics 101 — Guide to Eating for a Better Gut

With all of the buzz surrounding probiotics and gut health, you’ve likely heard something about these gut-friendly bugs. It’s a topic we’re often asked to clarify by patients, 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!

THE MICROBIOME

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.

WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT FOR HEALTH?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics are specific strains of helpful bacteria and yeasts that live in our guts and benefit 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?

Scientific studies have shown that certain probiotic strains have potential health benefits. For instance, some strains can support digestive health, while others can help boost the immune system. According to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health, some initial research suggests that specific strains of probiotics can be useful in preventing diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotic use, as well as in alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, more research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of their impact. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s body can react differently to probiotics, depending on their natural bacteria and yeast, as well as their health status. Therefore, it’s recommended to have a variety of different types of probiotics in your gut’s ecosystem. Keep an eye out for more research in the future!

What are Prebiotics and why do you need them?

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.)

PREBIOTIC FOODS (FEED THE GOOD GUT BACTERIA) 

Bananas, Apples, Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Artichokes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Beans and Lentils, Asparagus, Oats, and Whole Wheat. 

Prebiotic foods (apple, chickpeas, lentils, garlic, onion, broccoli) and Renew Life Ultimate Flora™ Probiotics
Coconut milk yogurt, fermented garlic green beans, sourdough starter, kombucha, Renew Life Ultimate Flora™ Probiotics

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.

FERMENTED 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!)

Kombucha

Tempeh

Miso

Sauerkraut (The fresh kind you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store contains live bacteria. The kind in the can is pasteurized and doesn’t contain any live probiotic bacteria.)

Other fermented veggies

PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS

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 the 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 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.

HOW TO CHOOSE A PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT

Shelves are packed with probiotic supplements, but they’re not all 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 contain 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 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 and type of bacteria 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. If you follow a low-FODMAP protocol, be sure to check the ingredients for FODMAPS like inulin.
  • Make sure that the probiotics you take will 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.

 
 

5 Comments on Probiotics 101 — Guide to Eating for a Better Gut

  1. Sharon M Bookwalter
    August 16, 2018 at 10:42 pm (6 years ago)

    It’s amazing how many versatile foods are prebiotic or probiotic. This makes it easy to add them to meals. Thanks!

    Reply
    • C&J Nutrition
      August 17, 2018 at 1:31 am (6 years ago)

      So true! They’re foods you’d include anyway…they just serve double (or triple) duty!

      Reply
  2. Dean Jarosh
    August 17, 2018 at 1:27 am (6 years ago)

    I have eaten the home made coconut milk yogurt, Kim chi and Sauerkraut and they are all very good

    Reply
    • C&J Nutrition
      August 17, 2018 at 1:31 am (6 years ago)

      We agree! All our faves, too. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Jo
    August 17, 2023 at 12:51 am (8 months ago)

    What is the most trustworthy Kombucha brand(s) with the most probiotics?

    Reply

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