Probiotics, Digestion, and Gut Health
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Table of Contents
- 1 Probiotics, Digestion, and Gut Health
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Good and Bad Bacteria
- 4 Role of Bacteria in Health
- 5 Prebiotics and Probiotics
- 5.1 What are Prebiotics?
- 5.2 What Are Probiotics?
- 5.3 Benefits of Probiotics & Prebiotics
- 5.3.1 Digestion and Bowel Issues
- 5.3.2 Vaginal and Urinary Health
- 5.3.3 Allergies
- 5.3.4 Food Allergies
- 5.3.5 Eczema
- 5.3.6 Pregnant Women
- 5.3.7 Digestive Issues
- 5.3.8 Weight Issues
- 5.3.9 Contraction Issues
- 5.3.10 Infants
- 6 Probiotics Myths Debunked
- 6.1 Choosing the Best Probiotic Supplement for You
- 7 Choosing the Right Probiotic-Rich Foods
- 8 Planning a Pro-biotic Meal
- 8.1 Start Your Day with Greek Yogurt
- 8.2 Have Pickled Eggs for Lunch
- 8.3 Snack on a Pickle or Three
- 8.4 Turkey Loaf
- 8.5 Probiotics: a Final Word
If you think you are the only one going through digestive trouble, then you could not be more wrong.
At least 25-45 million Americans are keeping you company – and these are just the figures for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While issues such as IBS have become more commonplace, people suffering from often have to either go without treatment or be satisfied with over-the-counter medications. Too often, the problem with these so-called “mainstream solutions” is that they don’t actually target the problem but patch up the symptoms and numb the body.
Recently, scientific studies have credibility to the notion that there are millions of different types of bacteria populating our guts. No discovery could have taught us the inner workings of our body’s digestive system more effectively. The bacterial residents of your gut can be irritated and activated. When this happens, there is a problem.
Sure, there’s a problem. But where is the solution?
The good news is that there are also good bacteria which helps the body keep the bad bacteria from interfering with your immune system and help us stay healthy.
This guide has been written to help its readers understand how probiotics function, how they can help to keep readers healthy, and how they can make that happen.
Using the information provided here, readers can understand probiotics more comprehensively, and could even use them in a way that maintains their health best. The guide has been compiled in order to (hopefully) appeal to three distinct kinds of readers.
The first group that it caters to happens to be the readers who are afflicted by a health condition themselves or know someone who is and need the help that probiotics may provide.
The next group of readers this guide will work perfectly for are those who want to use the information to stay healthy.
The final group of readers that this guide could help is the demographic of Americans who are concerned that abdominal issues could cause other complications and want to be prevent that from happening.
To make navigation easier for the readers, we will mention what they will find in each part of the book here briefly.
The first chapter is all about the different types of bacteria and their roles.
Next, the second chapter focuses on how bacterial influence can be traced to brain development, digestive process, and even our moods.
With that emphasized properly, the third chapter introduces prebiotics and probiotics, their definitions and differences. It also includes a section that explains why they work so well when they are in sync.
The last chapter provides ideas and recipes on probiotics-rich dishes. We hope to make the transition to a probiotic life easier for the readers.
Happy Probiotic Living!
Good and Bad Bacteria
Before we begin talking about the good and bad apples to fall off the bacterial tree, readers need to understand that, whether it is useful or harmful bacteria is essential to our lives. At any given time, the human body carries 2-5 pounds of bacteria and plays a huge role in the bacteria ecosystem. Since bacteria are living organisms they are forever changing. Thus, they are always changing us as humans and organisms.
- The “good” bacteria have been around for almost as long as humans have been eating cheese! Man has found many creative uses for them, from using them to making yoghurt, to pickling things, to making deliciously fermented condiments, such as soy sauce and vinegar!
- At the current rate that we are polluting the environment, we have been fortunate to discover that certain bacteria can even break down oil. These bacteria are now actively used to remove the long-lasting damage that comes after an oil spill.
- Since bacteria is so easy to grow and multiply at such a high rate, they are used to produce insulin and other other necessary proteins. Another advantage to bacteria’s rate of growth is that the end product can be obtained in large quantities as needed.
Three examples of useful bacteria are:
Found in our GI tract, urinary tract and genital system, these bacteria do not cause disease. They fight off diarrhea, IBS, colic, UTI’s, yeast infections and much more. They are also found in some dairy products and fermented foods.
Located in our intestines, these helpful bacteria can be used to fight eczema, yeast infections, hepatitis, lactose intolerance, mumps, Lyme disease and more.
Primarily living in our colon, mouth, GI tract, and upper respiratory system. They play a huge factor in Carbohydrate metabolism and utilizes the host as an energy source.
The bacteria known to cause diseases are called pathogenic bacteria. However, once antibiotics like penicillin had been discovered, the bacterial infections claim fewer victims. Today the scientific world is tasked with fighting new breeds of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Multi-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), among others. The frequent use of antibacterial products has also increased the frequency of immune-related conditions such as asthma and eczema as well.
Three examples of harmful bacteria are:
Though it is normally found in the intestines and is usually harmless, harmful E. coli can be found in contaminated water or food such as raw vegetables and undercooked beef. There are some strains that can cause severe abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and even a life-threatening form of kidney failure.
This breed of bacteria calls the digestive track home. Humans are primarily infected through contaminated food and water. Salmonella infection causes diarrhea and dehydration.
This bacteria is a type found in our intestines. Typically, only select people will become ill; others will be just fine with the material in their system. A person most commonly becomes infected when they’ve been associated with in-patient health care stays and recent antibiotic use. This can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, kidney failure, toxic megacolon, bowl perforation, and even death.
Role of Bacteria in Health
We are all used to hearing that the bacteria in our gut can make us fall ill. They can be the reason behind diseases and significant digestive problems. Much newer, however, is the theory that the bacteria in your gut can also have a direct line to your brain! The reach of the microbes seems to have prompted scientists into investigating the microbiome. This bacterial ecosystem can influence the way we think and even our moods, as the next section will discuss.
This recently discovered connection between the thousand different bacterial species may not be substantial when it comes to their weight in the human body. However, they could hold the key to unraveling the mysteries of the brain that result in autism, depression, and other significant psychological disorders.
So far, the developments that have been made regarding autism are what the doctors and parents of autistic children have suspected. A significant portion of people with autism are also afflicted with some kind of digestive issues, might have food allergies, or are sensitive to gluten. When effort was put into finding more about this link, researchers could distinguish between the microbiome of autistic people and control groups. The common species, Bacteroides fragilis, is found in smaller quantities in some autistic children. The manuscript stating this discovery also involved an experiment where providing the bacteria altered the microbiome makeup of mice and resulted in less repetitive behavior.
Healthy brain development is often connected to the microflora populating your gut. The regions of the brain that decide how we respond to stress and how much of anxiety or depression we feel in such situations are the areas connected to the gut bacteria. Studies on mice showed that the animals became less anxious when raised in sterile (clean) conditions. Another behavioral test showed that the germ-free mice preferred the well-lit area as opposed to the others who spent more time in the dark chamber. The light chamber was considered the aversive section in the experiment and the germ-free mice were showing less anxiety.
The exploratory behavior of the mice in the presence and absence of microbiota suggested the latter’s influence on the brain’s wiring early in development. Similarly, when researchers manipulated gut bacteria with antibiotic treatment, they found surprising results. After being exposed to the antibiotics, the numbers of bacteria in the gut of the mice were reduced along with the bacterial population’s diversity. In these mice, the absence of gut bacteria made them display behavior that was more exploratory. The other mice showed more anxiety-like traits and were less exploratory. This suggests that the changes in the behavior of the mice and in the bacterial profile in their guts were linked to each other. After the antibiotic treatment had ended and two weeks had passed, the researchers tested both groups of mice for both their gut bacterial profile and behavior. It was seen that both had returned to normal in the mice that had been exposed to antibiotics. This indicates that even temporary changes in the number and diversity of the gut microbiota can influence behavior!
Ways of keeping our brain healthy used to be simple and well-known. If you ate healthy, slept the right amount of hours, and exercised regularly, chances are your brain would stay healthy, as would the rest of you. However, the relatively new discovery that the bacteria in our gut has something to do with our overall health has turned everything on its head!
Often known as the second brain, the digestive system, or more specifically its bacterial residents may have a hand in molding the structure of our brain. Consequently, they could also be influencing our moods and thus our behavior.
So far, we are clear on the parts that say that our brain and the digestive system are intricately linked to each other. This raises the question of how they might be linked. Quite easily, in fact, since there is a nerve known as the vagus nerve that starts from the stem of the brain. It then goes down all the way to the abdomen. On the way, it crosses other important organs, such as the lung, heart, and esophagus. Thus forming the gut-brain axis.
The fibers that make up the vagus nerve are predominantly used to carry what the gut’s orders right to the brain!
The next part is the mode of the communication that passes through the gut-brain axis. It takes place via the message that the gut bacteria send to the brain and it is inscribed on the molecules they produce. After they have been produced, these molecules are then shunted off towards the bloodstream. Riding the blood train, they are strong enough to influence behavior by affecting the brain through release of various chemicals. Such chemicals can both be compounds that are neuroactive or hormones.
The origin of the psychiatric and neurological disorders has been indicated to be the gut bacteria. More specifically, it is an imbalance between the numbers of good bacteria populating your gut versus the bad ones or “dysbiosis,” that can result in autistic, anxious, or depressed behavior. Imagine if we could use this link to find out more about the neurodegenerative disorders that are debilitating and still without cure, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Well, now we can because they have also been linked to gut health. It is thought that due to a combination of stress causing factors, our gut reaches a pro-inflammatory state. In simpler terms, it means by being stressed out, we can give rise to a bacterial imbalance.
According to the APA, we’re mostly made of bacteria that collectively make up the microbiome. Using beneficial bacteria to treat the disorders of mind and mood might be possible in two ways. The first way is that the subjects be given the microbes themselves for mood and anxiety improvement. The other way could be to design drugs that behave in the same way that these bacteria do, mimicking their metabolic functions once it has been administered. This new branch of research could also do wonders in coming up with ways to manage chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorders also found in people who face anxiety and depression.
Some of the ways that our gut microflora keep our gut healthy:
- They help break down, digest, and absorb food
- They maintain the pH level of the colon to the right acidic level so that bowel movements stay regular
- They make our digestive systems capable of digesting dairy products
- They eliminate gas problems and keep our breaths smelling good
Our small intestine is colonized by the Lactobacillus species. It not only happens to be the most significantly recognized type of bacteria but also the most important one when it comes to digestion. Its importance lies in the fact that it helps us digest the indigestible carbs that we so love to gorge on.
These carbs include dairy products that could be found on most lists that state common food sensitivities. The bacteria ferments the sugars present in the carbohydrates and as a result, produces lactic acid. The acid once released, in turn, stimulates the release of other digestive juices. It also has positive effects on our immune system and causes the different parts of the digestive system to release digestive enzymes. Lactic acid is also beneficial for us because it will raise the rate of absorption for minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, and magnesium.
By the production of lactic acid, which is actually a byproduct of the metabolism of the microflora, the pH in the colon becomes slightly acidic. Other acidifiers that are also released by the good gut bacteria include acetic and butyric acids. There is a reason behind keeping the colon environment acidic – it makes things uncomfortable for the pathogenic bacteria. Of these, the most notorious happen to be the ones that are gas producing and these bacteria need the colon to be slightly alkaline, if they are to thrive. If these pathogens cannot survive, then they cannot multiply in our gut. The pH ideal for digestion falls somewhere between 6.7 – 6.9.
The carbohydrates that form most dairy products take a long time to be digested. Throughout the process, they also require that they be supplied with digestive enzymes at every step and in sufficient quantities. In order to digest the sugar lactose that is a common constituent of milk and milk products, our digestive system needs the enzyme lactase. People who are lactose intolerant are this way because their bodies do not produce enough quantities of the enzyme lactase.
Goodbye Gas Problems and Bad Breath
Nobody likes to be on the receiving end, if the problem happens to be excessive gas and bloating. Under ideal conditions and in a healthy gut, this gas will be expelled. However, under less than ideal conditions, this gas is absorbed into the blood and reaches the lungs from where it is exhaled. That is the reason it manifests as bad breath or halitosis.
One of the causes of gas happens to be a digestive system that is not functioning as well as it should. Incomplete digestion of food may be one reason but there is another reason i.e. overgrowth of undesirable bacteria.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
What are Prebiotics?
A prebiotic is a particular kind of plant fiber. It has an important part to play in our digestive system. This is because it is food for the good bacteria that are colonizing our colon. As you will read below, the probiotics are the source of good bacteria that are living in the gut. Prebiotics, on the other hand, act as a fertilizer for those good bacteria. Due to prebiotics, the good bacteria can thrive, survive, and multiply. It is important for the good bacteria to continuously multiply as it keeps the good-to-bad bacteria ratio heavier on their side. The more the number of good bacteria in the gut, the lower the numbers of the bad ones will be. Higher proportions of the bad bacteria can cause all sorts of health issues.
While our bodies cannot digest these plant fibers, they do promote the growth of many of the good bacteria we need. The health benefits of these bacteria are well known. As mentioned before, the reach of these bacteria is quite long, which is why they can influence gut balance, mental health, anxiety, depression, and stress. The good news is that no amount of bacteria or heat can destroy the prebiotics.
What Prebiotics Do
Increased Mineral Absorption
Prebiotics have been known to improve the absorption of minerals in our bodies from the food that we consume. This increased absorption happens without the prebiotic binding the minerals or modifying them in any way. Due to the presence of these prebiotics, the osmotic balance of the bowel changes. This increases the volume of fluid in the bowel so the minerals can dissolve in it more readily.
What Are Probiotics?
What are probiotics, in the first place? Probiotics are live bacteria that help prevent disease. They are most helpful in our digestive system or GI tract as large amounts are typically found in the intestines and colon. They are created naturally by our bodies but we can also find them in certain foods and supplements.
Stronger Immune System
When children’s diets were supplemented with the bacteria, Lactobacillus casei, the concentrations of circulating immunoglobulin A (IgA) increased. Involved in protecting the body from diseases, the increasing levels of IgA reduced the duration of diarrhea caused by the rotavirus. Similarly, when people ingest yogurt, there is increased production of defensive substances produced by the white blood cells.
Cancer Causing Enzymes and Agents Reduced
Two probiotic strains, lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, causes the production of enzymes that activate mutagens and carcinogens in our body.
The main takeaway from this chapter should be that both the good bacteria i.e. probiotics and the substances that promote them i.e. the prebiotics work together synergistically. Look at this way, every organism needs to eat to survive and for prebiotics, there is only one thing on the menu for all three meals of the day via prebiotics. When the probiotics are happy, so is the health of our gastrointestinal tract.
There are products available on the market that combine the two because of how well they work together. Known as Synbiotics, including them in your life could restore GI health or maintain it. Such supplements are not the only way to include synbiotics in your life, however. Enjoying bananas with a cup of yogurt is as beneficial and rich in synbiotics as many supplements. Similarly, indulging yourself by having tempeh with stir-fried asparagus is another way you can achieve that.
Benefits of Probiotics & Prebiotics
Digestion and Bowel Issues
Clostridium Difficile Diarrhea
Taking antibiotics can often result in diarrhea, which may or may not resolve by itself. Why this happens is because antibiotics can kill the good bacteria that protect our gut. C. difficile is a bad bacterial strain that will proliferate when there are no good bacteria to stop it. Its activity can inflame the gut and cover it with plaque. Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus are two probiotics can help prevent this type of diarrhea.
Traveler’s Diarrhea (TD)
TD is usually caused by the presence of Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (E. coli). As the name suggests, it refers to a condition that includes diarrhea as one of its symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, fever, cramps, weakness, decreased appetite, and dehydration are the other symptoms. In some people, the disease takes a week to dissipate and may even results in hospitalization. Making prebiotic foods, such as yogurt and kefir can reduce your chances of suffering from TD. Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus will also effectively prevent this disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD is actually a group of autoimmune inflammatory conditions. These are related to your gut and include conditions, such as Crohn’s Disease.
Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn’s Disease
The inflammation of the colon mucosa is called ulcerative colitis. On the other hand, the Crohn’s disease could affect any area of the digestive tract and cause the entire intestinal wall to become inflamed. Probiotics can be of use when it comes to IBD treatment and prevention. They can prolong the remission period and improve the disease state in patients experiencing IBD.
Gastroenteritis is the name given to a condition when the GI tract is suffering from a severe inflammation. The symptoms that accompany this disease include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Since one way to treat is by providing the patient with antibiotics, it can also affect the gut microflora. However, probiotics have a role to play when it comes to both preventing and treating the disease.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Probiotics can reduce the symptoms of IBS. Bifidobacterium infantis happens to be one such strain that decreases IBS symptoms.
Ulcers of the stomach or duodenum are mostly caused by the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori. On the other hand, our friendly bacteria i.e. probiotics can decrease the number of H. pylori. Doctors prescribe antibiotics for this condition but if probiotics are taken along with the antibiotics, there is a higher chance of eradicating H. pylori.
This autoimmune disorder makes people allergic to gluten. It can result in a person losing weight, suffering from diarrhea, and bloating. Probiotics may help by producing chemicals that prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to intestinal cells.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria both help the body break down lactose and thus reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. In fact, to get a good helping of lactase enzymes, you can always eat yogurt containing live active cultures of these enzymes.
Vaginal and Urinary Health
Using Probiotics in Urogenital Infections
The strain of bacterium that is predominant in the vagina happens to be Lactobacillus. Believe it or not, it is protective in many ways of the organ that it inhabits! Adhering to the epithelial cells, it can make the place crowded for the bad bacteria. It also produces lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to inhibit their growth. If there is an imbalance in the vaginal bacterial population, the risk of various types of infections, STDs, and pre-term labor increases.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
BV is different from a yeast infection and remains the most common cause of vaginal infections. Its symptoms are mentioned below:
- Off-white vaginal discharge
- Unpleasant smell
The bad news for women with bacterial vaginosis is that antibiotics will not treat the condition for all of them! The good news is that the medication can be made more effective by adding probiotics to the treatment.
One surprising cause of bacterial vaginosis happens to be frequent use of spermicides. Using the substance can be fatal for the Lactobacilli that keep the concentration of bad bacteria in check. Thus, the use of spermicides regularly can increase BV likelihood. L. acidophilus is another very useful probiotic that has been used to treat BV via vaginal suppositories. Regular consumption of yogurt that has live cultures of the same bacterium can also decrease future incidences of BV in women with history of the disease. It’s also wise for women who’ve had a history of BV or yeast infections to take probiotics whenever they take antibiotics.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
If there is a bacterial infection anywhere in your urinary tract, then you could develop a UTI. The symptoms commonly associated with UTIs include:
- Cloudy urine
- Painful urination
- A frequent need to urinate
UTIs are more common among women than in men. In fact, half of all women will develop a UTI in their life and most cases are not once-in-a-lifetime kind.
The bacterium, E. coli, happens to be the main culprit when it comes to causing UTIs. Usually, the doctor will prescribe that the patient completes an antibiotics course. However, we all know the damage that antibiotics can do to the digestive system. This is why we should continue to prioritize alternative methods of health-regeneration like fermented milk products, like kefir and yogurt. Since these foods will also contain probiotics, they can help reduce the chances of developing UTIs.
A yeast infection is fungal in nature and is mostly caused by the fungus Candida albicans. The commonly reported symptoms in case of yeast infections are as follows:
- Whitish discharge
Surprisingly, being diabetic can increase the likelihood of contracting a yeast infection in women. Consuming yogurt every day that contains live culture can be a solution. This practice has been known to reduce yeast infections and restore the vaginal pH balance to the right level. It is understood that increased pH levels can be involved in development of yeast infections.
Some other causes of yeast infections include:
- Antibiotic treatment
- Steroid use
- Birth control pills use
Doctors generally prescribe antifungal medication to treat yeast infections. However, there are other methods to treat yeast infections that do not involve medication. Among the probiotic strains that can be used to treat such an infection are:
- L. acidophilus
- L. fermentum
- L. rhamnosus
While asthma continues to plague households all around the world, science has yet to find something that can stop or prevent it. The best that research has to offer are treatment options. However, in one asthma study, providing the probiotic Lactobacillus casei to children resulted in fewer episodes of hay fever. It is still true that a lot more research is required to get into prevention mode.
It may seem weird that we include the gut flora from your digestive system and good respiratory health on the same list. Maybe, after having read that the gut flora can influence your brain, it does not seem so unlikely anymore. A balance between the bacteria that help your body and the ones that harm it also regulates you immune system. Thus, it is hardly much of a jump from strong immune systems to allergic reactions.
Often, we eat something which appears to be a threat to our immune systems. As a result, it attacks the consumed food and food allergies are the result. While this can happen potentially with any food, peanuts and other nuts, feature high on the list when it comes to food allergies. Some people are also allergic to eggs, milk or dairy products, shellfish etc. Other culprits that might lead to allergic reactions happen to be mold in the food.
Usually, food allergies end in a person displaying the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
Extreme symptoms can manifest in the form of a swollen tongue that constricts breathing. There is a difference between being allergic to a particular kind of food and just having intolerance towards it. Lactose intolerance, for instance, is an example of the latter. It usually means that the person who is lactose intolerant will not be able to digest dairy products that contain the sugar, lactose. This is not an allergy.
While young, we are likely to be allergic to milk, peanuts, or eggs. As adults, it is more probable that some of us will be allergic to shellfish and other nuts along with the aforementioned foods. Children often outgrow their allergies as they grow up. Of course, a higher proportion of people in Japan would be allergic to rice than in the Netherlands. It all depends on the types of foods that you consume on a regularly basis.
Colic is often caused when an infant being allergic to milk and soy. Due to the two systems i.e. digestive and immune, still being in developmental stages, infants cannot digest the two foods properly. The result is inflamed gut that makes them colic. As is mentioned below, addition of probiotics to the baby’s diet can speed up the development of the digestion and immune systems.
It is obvious that more research might be required to see if probiotics can prevent food allergies or not. Nevertheless, it is plain that they do play a role in moderating the response of our immune system that constitutes an allergic reaction. Probiotics can even decrease how severe these reactions are or make them infrequent.
Known as eczema or atopic dermatitis, this skin disorder can manifest in painful ways. Since an infant’s immune system takes some time to develop after they have been born, eczema is considered as a red flag. It signals that something is wrong when the immune system is not strong enough to develop an allergic reaction. The problem is in some people, the skin disorder can follow them into adulthood.
Even more troubling is that there is a link between eczema developed in infanthood and asthma in later life. This is why; it seems like extremely good news that probiotics can treat eczema. Of the many strains that can successfully alleviate its effect, two happen to be Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. Supplementing their diet with probiotics daily can prevent children with eczema from asthma and decrease the overall likelihood of eczema in all kids.
With pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many changes and not all of these changes are pleasant to say the least. Researchers have been looking for ways to make this phase of life smoother for women and now they can with the help of probiotics! The major effects of probiotics during pregnancy center on alleviating the digestive issues commonly experienced by expecting women.
Some of the advantages that consumption of probiotics can have over both the mother and the child include:
- Decreased likelihood of having a premature birth
- Shortening of the time required to lose the pregnancy weight
- Less chances of experiencing gestational diabetes
- Lower chances of the child experiencing death of intestinal tissue, eczema, asthma, obesity, diabetes
One of the many things that a pregnancy can send into disarray happens to be the mother’s digestive system. Woman who are expecting have been commonly known to face everything from heartburn to constipation and vomiting. When pregnant women consume probiotics, the proper bacterial balance in their gut is restored, which also improves their digestion.
Even after they have delivered the baby, some women will retain the belly fat. While by itself the increased weight would not be an issue but it has been linked to other serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease. Probiotics can help with weight management.
Reuteri is also a part of breast milk and can make muscle contractions less hurtful for the mother if the substance is consumed during pregnancy.
The consumption of probiotics can also benefit the developing fetus during pregnancy. One of the many effects these supplements will have on the baby is an improved immune system by the time they are ready to be born.
Feeding a newly born baby with a diet that is rich in prebiotic on a daily basis is also advantageous. The reason being that the diet caused the production of gut bacteria found in infants who had been breast-fed. After all, breast milk may have no substitute but this comes pretty close.
Pregnant mothers who have eczema can decrease the chances of their babies having it, if they take prebiotics during pregnancy. The effect can be made even stronger, if the infant is also given prebiotics for several months after birth.
Many babies will not stop crying for hours on end because they get colic. The problem is that we have been unable to find the reason behind babies developing colic. However, we do know now that imbalance in gut bacterial population may be involved somehow. The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri is known to help colicky babies and reduce the time they spent crying drastically.
Probiotics Myths Debunked
Any Ol’ Strain Will Do
No, it won’t! Strain specificity matters when it comes to selecting effective probiotics. How do you find out which strain a certain bacterium belongs to? You read its name – the strain is the last part of its name. For example, if you are holding a supplement that contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, then Lactobacillus is the genus that the bacterium belongs to, rhamnosus is its species while GG happens to be the strain.
If you want to know how important strain specificity can be, the following examples should clue you in:
- Less than 5% of the strains of Lactobacillus fermentum tested can withstand being immersed in the mixture of digestive fluids within our body and thus be able to do their intended tasks.
- Only 1 strain of Bifidobacterium bifidum of the ones that were tested could stick to the wall of the GI tract and defend it against Salmonella
I Can Rely on Food Labels
That’d be a no again! You will find many brands that do not accurately inform their consumers about how many bacteria they might be consuming when they ingest that particular food. You do not get any useful information by reading a label that simply states it contains “live bacteria”/ “live cultures.” Additionally, the labels on many probiotic products often don’t give accurate microbe counts either. Then there are supplements that will tell you the microbe count that was alive when their product was packaged. That does not tell you if the count remained the same when you consumed it. The faulty information act has become such an epidemic that you will find brands delivering half the amount of microbes than they claim to be producing.
Keeping Probiotics Outside the Fridge Makes Them Useless
While it is true that some probiotics will require refrigeration, this need will vary from one product to another. Read the label and only refrigerate if it is directed. Technology that allows today’s probiotics stay stable in a state of suspended animation is available now. Keeping probiotic in the fridge if it does not require it will not boost its activity in any way.
All Probiotics Should Have Enteric Coating
A lot of research has been done to disprove this myth and it shows the reverse is true. A special coating, such as a capsule that could withstand stomach acid may not be the best solution. Breaking through the enteric coating takes a lot of heat. It does not seem worth the trouble to enclose the probiotic inside a capsule with such care when the heat required to break the capsule open might destroy some of the probiotics! That means, taking two servings of probiotics where one has an enteric coating and the other does not, both will not be equally effective. The encapsulated or enteric-coated probiotic supplement will likely lose some of its usefulness when the heat breaks it open. On the other hand, the one without the coating will fare better in the intestinal tract.
Choosing the Best Probiotic Supplement for You
Colony Forming Units (CFUs)
This is the unit of measurement for probiotics and should be displayed on the label of the supplement openly. Choose a supplement that falls in the range of 3-50 billion CFUs. At the lower end of the spectrum is a supplement that can potentially be taken daily. Higher potencies will require the inclusion of other factors, such as the age of the person taking them, how much stress they are exposed to, what kind of diet they are on, and whether or not, they have a digestive or immune system that is compromised.
Read the rest of the label for the following pieces of information:
- The strains of the microorganisms that the supplement contains
- Not all probiotics will survive the heat or cold. Therefore, read the storage instructions carefully
- Stay away from brands that get away with potentially dead probiotic bacteria by mentioning “viable at time of manufacture”. More on that below.
Packaging and Product Delivery
Probiotic supplement manufacturers can package them in different ways. Choosing the right packaging method could be the most important factor when considering a probiotic supplement. This is because it does not matter if the supplement boasts the most varied and highest quality ingredients. If the bacteria do not remain alive and healthy while the bottle languishes on the shelves in a store, then they will be of no use. Similarly, the bacteria that you are paying for and depending upon should also reach your gut in that condition for them to be effective. Look for the words caplet or beadlet technology and you will come off better than not. An encapsulated supplement is more likely to survive the stomach acid treatment than others will be.
One useful thing to check when looking for the perfect probiotic supplement is to look for something else! Check to see if the brand that you are interested in also has prebiotics in it. As explained before, the food that our hardworking probiotics need. Some of the ingredients that could clue you in include Inulin, gum arabic, and chicory root. These are some examples of prebiotics but by no means a comprehensive list.
An example is probiotic supplements that are vegan or vegetarian friendly. If you are following either lifestyle, then you will prefer supplements that use vegetarian capsules. Thus, when in the market, check to see if the brand that you are buying does not have gelatin capsules. You might have other preferences that are only important to you. Therefore, think carefully before reaching for the first probiotic supplement that you see!
When choosing the right supplement for yourself and your family, a good rule of thumb is to check the brand you are buying. If it is a company that has been around for years, then that is preferable over other brands. This is because they have been making probiotics for a while and would most likely have studied them more than a new company would have. If you are not familiar with any of the brands, then the smart thing to do would be to use a trusted third-party certifier to see if they are any good or not.
Choosing the Right Probiotic-Rich Foods
What does it mean for a food to be probiotic-rich? These are foods that will have live, beneficial bacteria in them. When you start including them in your life, they bring with them the benefits of those good bacteria to your daily diet. If you think this is something that the modern age has invented, it isn’t! The story of fermentation is as old as time itself. Humans have been fermenting everything from milk to meat. In the olden days, it was done to prolong the shelf life of foods since there were no refrigerators. Today, we know that the good bacteria did a lot more than good for our ancestors than keep the milk from turning sour!
Identifying Probiotic-Rich Foods
The first thing that you need to be able to do before you can take advantage of the health benefits of probiotics is learn to identify probiotic-rich foods! Keep in mind that most of the naturally probiotic food will contain a mixture of different bacterial types. The following species are commonly found in our food:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Bifidobacterium lactis
Now that you know which type of bacteria you are most likely to encounter in your food, you can move on to the next bit of information. Following are some examples of the foods and the types of bacteria that they usually contain. L. bulgaricus and L. acidophilus, S. thermophilus, and various Bifidobacteria can be found in yogurt with live cultures. In cheese, pickles, miso, Kimchi, and sauerkraut, you are more likely to find the Lactobacilli strains while in kefir, you will also find Bifidobacteria.
An easier way to find out the strain and/or species of probiotic in your food is to see what the label says. As mentioned above, you should pay attention to what it actually says. Be on the lookout for good probiotic products that will have labels that read, “Contains live (or active) cultures.” When you find such a label, go read the ingredient list and it will most likely detail the type of bacteria in the product. Yet another thing to keep in mind is that if you are buying a product, such as sauerkraut, you won’t find the kind of probiotics that it contains. The way these products are manufactured makes it difficult to know the bacteria that they contain
Dairy Probiotic-Rich Foods
This is an example that most of us are familiar with. Yogurt can be packed to the rafters with probiotics. This property has helped put many yogurt manufacturers in the lead in the probiotic market. They have taken the initiative and helped educate the public about the benefits of probiotics. In the U.S., the regulations put forth by the Food and Drug Administration require that at the very least Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus be included in any product that is being marketed as yogurt. Again, caution must be taken to ensure that the bacteria in your yogurt sample are live/active to get probiotic benefits.
Yogurt manufacturers often add two other species of bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria, to their product.
It is important to look for the live culture part on the label of any yogurt you buy in the market. The reason being that during pasteurization, which is also part of the manufacturing process, the heat naturally kills off many bacterial cultures. As you can well imagine, it also takes many of the good ones along with the bad ones. Alternatively, you can always make your own yogurt at home. If the label on a yogurt product says that it contains live cultures, it means the manufacturers likely added it after pasteurization.
Similarly, some brands sell sweetened yogurt or ones that have artificial flavors added to it. The problem with these products is that they may taste good but adding those ingredients could have reduced the probiotic efficiency. It wouldn’t thus matter whether the cultures were added before or after pasteurization in such a case.
There is a simple way to understand how the probiotic content in various cheeses can be increased. The more aged a cheese is, the more probiotic content it will have. However, probiotic content can also be added to the cheese. Two species commonly found in cheeses available in the market are L. rhamnosus and B. lactis.
Kefir is actually a milk product that is produced when it is fermented in the presence of lactic acid bacteria and Saccharomyces or yeast. While it is rich in probiotics, Kefir, has a lower proportion of bacteria by weight as compared to yogurt. Nevertheless, it has more variety of strains of bacteria in it. You can find it in the organic sections of most supermarkets.
During the churning of cream or milk to make butter, a sour liquid is left behind. This liquid is known as buttermilk and is rich in probiotics. In the buttermilk that is available in the market, sweet milk is used and supplemented with bacteria.
Various beans and grains are fermented to make this Japanese seasoning. It has miscellaneous uses, such as a sauce that can be used during cooking, a spread that can be eaten with crackers, or a dollop of it could be used to top the soup of your choice. If you are going to add it to a hot dish, make sure that you do it after you are done cooking or you might end up killing the probiotics by exposing them to heat.
This product is an alternative to meat. Unlike tofu, this high-protein soy product is not made from soybean milk. Instead, soybeans are fermented and then used to make tempeh. Tempeh is available at most health food stores.
When cabbage is allowed to sit for a few days, the amount of lactic acid bacteria in the vegetable increases. Again, if you buy this food from the market, be sure to buy from a brand that is trustworthy. Due to the way it is manufactured commercially, the sauerkraut may taste okay but have no bacteria since they would have been killed during processing.
If buying from the market, then strive to buy a brand that mentions that the product is uncooked. Alternatively, you can also make your own sauerkraut at home. The Korean version, Kimchi, is spicier and can contain more than 30 Lactobacilli strains!
Pickled vegetables are actually fermented in vinegar and could potentially be rich in probiotics. With the warning in mind that you have to look for vegetables that have not been pasteurized, you can buy your pickles from the supermarket or make your own.
Planning a Pro-biotic Meal
Start Your Day with Greek Yogurt
- Whole Milk Yogurt – 16 oz. serving
- Paper towels
- Glass bowl
- Towel to cover the bowl
- Take the bowl and put the strainer in it. Line the insides of the strainer with the paper towels or cheesecloth.
- Add the yogurt to the strainer that you just lined and cover the bowl with a towel.
- Move the whole apparatus into your refrigerator and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
- When you check the yogurt the next time, the whey should have strained into the bowl.
- Separate the liquid by pouring into a mason jar.
- The solid that you have left behind is deliciously thick Greek yogurt.
- Enjoy with a spoonful of honey!
Enjoy a Glass of Sweet Potato Fly
- Mace ½ tsp
- Sweet potato 1 large
- Sugar ½ -1 cup
- Whey ¼ cup
- A Lemon
- Crushed and Cleaned Eggshell
- Grate the potato and rinse with water to remove as much starch as you can.
- Add and mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit in a warm spot for about 1 ½ days
- After the required time has passed, strain the liquid and save it in a jug.
- Let the liquid ferment for another day or more, if you want more fizz.
- Refrigerate and use
Have Pickled Eggs for Lunch
- Eggs ½ a dozen, hard boiled and peeled
- Starter ¼ cup
- Salt ½ tbsp
- Water (filtered)
- Pack a 1-quart jar with the eggs.
- Add flavorings, such as beetroot, of your choice
- Put the salt in a small amount of water, dissolve it completely, and then add to the starter.
- Pour over eggs.
- If more water is needed to cover the eggs completely, add more.
- Let the eggs sit in a cool place for 12 – 36 hours.
- Store in the fridge and use it within 2 weeks.
Dip a Chip in Probiotic Salsa
- Chopped Tomatoes 6
- Seeded and chopped chilies 1 cup
- Dried Oregano 4 tbsp
- Cumin 1 tbsp
- Chopped Garlic 4 cloves
- Chopped Onion
- Sea Salt 4 tbsp
- Combine everything except for the salt in a bowl.
- Start pouring the mixture into a mason jar but keep pounding it so that you can fit all of it in.
- Keep adding some salt as you do.
- Fill the jar so that there is an inch of space at the top, which is needed for the vegetables to expand.
- If there is more space, then fill in with more water to cover it.
- Let the jar sit in a warm spot and ferment for 1 ½ – 3 days.
- Keep checking up on it and if you find mold on the surface, remove it. You can also add more brine if the level has fallen.
- Keep tasting the salsa and move to the fridge when you find the taste and tartness you prefer.
Snack on a Pickle or Three
- Pickling cucumbers 8 cups
- Dill a bunch
- Garlic 8 peeled cloves
- Pickling spices 1 ½ tbsp (you can use cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and mustard seeds)
- Sea Salt 2-6 tbsp
- Before using the cucumbers, soak them in cold water for a few hours.
- Transfer to the Mason jar and add the herbs and spices to the cucumbers.
- Keep sprinkling sea salt as you go.
- To some water, add the salt and make a brine solution.
- Pour it over the cucumbers and fill the rest of the jar with more water until it they are completely covered.
- Place the lid on the jar and let it sit in a warm spot for 2 to 5 days.
- Taste the cucumbers throughout the fermentation period and remove them when you find the taste to your liking.
- Ground Turkey ½ pound
- Egg ½
- Chopped Carrot
- Chopped Onion ½
- Diced Red Pepper ½
- Chopped Celery Stalks ½-1
- Worcestershire Sauce ½ tsp
- Sea Salt
- Mustard ½ tbsp
- Garlic Pepper Powder
- Parsley 1 tbsp
- Combine everything in a loaf pan
- Bake at 350 F for ½ hour
Nurse a Cup of Kombucha Tea
- Water 1.75 quarts
- Sugar ½ cup
- Black or green tea or a mixture 4 tea bags
- Starter tea 1 cup or Store-bought kombucha
- 1 scoby
- To make the tea base, boil water and remove from heat when done. Then add the sugar and stir it until it has dissolved completely. Throw in the tea bags and let them steep in the hot water until it has cooled down.
- Once the steeping is done, you will have to add in the starter tea. Before you do that, let the tea cool down completely. Pick the tea bags and throw them away and only then, stir in the starter tea.
- After that, transfer the mixture into a glass jar and gently slide in the scoby. Cover the jar with a cloth.
- Let the jar sit for 3-5 days at room temperature and make sure that you pick a spot that is not in direct sunlight or where the jar won’t get jostled.
- As you keep checking on the jar, you will see that a new cream-colored scoby layer starts to form on the surface. Do not worry about any small brown bits that you can see floating inside the jar.
- Once the allotted time has passed take a bit of the tea out in a cup and start tasting it every day. It will be up to you to decide that the right amount of sweetness and tartness have been reached.
- Now that the tea is done, you can lift the scoby out of the kombucha. You can use it to make the next batch of tea.
- Remove a cup of starter tea from the kombucha in the jar and store it for the next batch of tea you will be making. Once that is out of the way, pour the fermented kombucha into bottles. You can also strain it to remove any solids that are floating around in your tea.
- This is also the time to add any flavorings of your choice to the tea. You can also infuse the kombucha with the flavorings and let it sit more for a day or two.
- Store your tea at room temperature and ensure that it is out of direct sunlight. Let it stay that way for a day or two so that it gets carbonated. Use within one month.
Probiotics: a Final Word
In the 21st century, an increased understanding of the way the human body works requires health-conscious consumers to recognize the benefits probiotics can offer. A healthy dose of probiotic-heavy food can turn to aid in the alleviation of a myriad of significant and daunting health issues. From stomach issues to issues with the intestinal track, the place of probiotics has never been more pronounced.
There are good and bad bacteria which help to fill the intestines and bodies of humans everywhere. By maximizing on these good bacteria through the use of probiotics, Americans and health-aware individuals all over the world can improve their health. In a world full of both pros and cons, stick with probiotics.