Probiotics- how to get them from foods and through supplementation?

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Every person has her or his own distinctive blend of specific probiotics strains in the gut.

In majority of the cases, getting more probiotics into your body doesn't require you to go and get additional supplementation in a form of pills, as they are found in foods and drinks. But if you are anyone who has been taking many courses of antibiotics in your life due to various illnesses, have not eaten so healthily in the past, live in an environment filled with toxins- you will most probably do good by adding good probiotics as supplements to your diet for a period of time.


Healthy people, who are mindful about what they eat, can consume anywhere up to 20 billion CFUs of probiotics from food and supplements daily.


How to get probiotics from food?


There are number of probiotic foods you can add to your diet to improve your gut health and to see the below health benefits:


  • Better digestion, as good gut bacteria crowds out bad bacteria

  • Stronger immune system as it stimulates secretion of IgA and regulatory T cells, which both support immune function

  • Probiotics destroy candida, which result also in better breath

  • Increased energy

  • Better looking skin as probiotics help for example with psoriasis and eczema

  • Reduced chances of catching flu and cold

  • Weight loss

  • Healing from leaky gut


You should consume a variety of different types of probiotic foods as they provide your body with a different type of bacteria.


Your body needs different type of probiotic bacteria, below are different species of probiotics:

  • Lactobicilus & Bifido species (not good for people with SIBO)

  • Sporebased species, like bacillus subtilis (taken with food and help to grow Lactobisilis and Bifido species)

  • Saccharomyces boulardii species (it's a beneficial yeast, has immune benefits, good against candida)


You should always start with by adding more probiotic foods into your diet that are rich in good bacteria:


Kefir

Very similar to yoghurt, this fermented probiotic drink is a unique combination of milk and fermented kefir grains. 'Kefir' originates from Turkey and Russia and means 'feel good'- it has been consumed thousands of years. It has slightly acidic flavour and it contains anywhere from 10 to 34 different strains of probiotics. It's fermented with yeast and bacteria and is much higher in probiotics and lower in lactose than yoghurt.


Sauerkraut

It's typically made from fermented cabbage, but can also be made from other vegetables. Though it's not diverse in probiotics, it's high in organic acid, which supports the growth of good bacteria. It's also high in vitamin C, natural lactic acid bacteria and digestive enzymes.


Coconut Kefir

It's made from young coconuts by fermenting the juice with kefir grains. It is typically not as high with probiotics as dairy kefir, but has some strains beneficial for your health. You can make a refreshing drink by adding some water, lime juice and stevia to coconut kefir.


Water Kefir

Made by adding kefir grains to sugar water, which as a result of fermentation turns into a fizzy drink filled with probiotics. As it's dairy-free, it's a great option for vegetarians and vegans. You can also add spices, herbs and fruit to the drink to customise it for your liking.


Low-Sugar Kombucha

Is a fermented drink, made from black tea, raw cane sugar and its most important ingredient, SCOBY- a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria. Its origins are from Japan and it has been consumed for over 2,000 years. Main health benefits include digestive support, liver detoxification and increased energy.


Natto

It's a dish from Japan containing fermented soybeans and contains an important probiotic Bacillus subtilis, which improves your immune system, supports cardiovascular health and also helps to digest vitamin K2. In addition it's loaded with protein and contains anti-inflammatory enzyme nattokinase.


Yoghurt

Though yoghurt is most probably the most known food for containing probiotics, it's important to choose plain, organic and preferably from goat's or sheep's milk rather than from cows milk.


Pickles

It's important to note here, that pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics. Only pickles made with salt and water turn on the fermentation process.


Kimchi

It's a Korean version of sauerkraut and created mixing a main vegetable such as cabbage with other foods like radishes, carrots, garlic, ginger, onion and adding some spices, sea salt and fish sauce. It's a flavour-filled probiotic-rich food to add next to your savoury meals.


Miso

Widely used in Japan, it's made by fermenting soybeans, brown rice and barley with koji. Koji itself is a fungus and it can take anything from few days to few years for the fermentation process to complete. Apart from well-known Miso soup, you can add miso to stir-fries, marinades or spread it instead of butter on a cracker.


Kvass

A fermented drink from Eastern Europe, where it is made of either barley or rye or probiotic fruits and beets including vegetables like carrots. Kvass is known of its blood and liver cleansing properties.


The above is just some examples of probiotic foods to consume on a regular basis. It's always best to focus on getting probiotics into your body via food and supplement when necessary.



What to look out for when purchasing probiotics as supplements?


  • High CFU (Colony Forming Units) count- you should aim for 20-30 billion CFUs for adults and 10+ billion or children, but do consult with your healthcare provider as depending on your health condition you might need different strains of probiotics and avoid specific ones. With great probiotics, the CFU number on the packaging states the CFUs at expiration and not at creation.

  • Strain diversity and survivability- it should include different strains like Lactobacillus plantarum, Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus subtilis, Saccharomyces boulardii and other cultures to ensure the probiotics make it to the gut and are able to colonise.

  • Live and active cultures are better than 'made with active cultures'. The product could have been heat-treated to extend the shelf-life, but which kills both the bad and good bacteria.

  • Includes prebiotics- for probiotics to grow in the gut they need prebiotics. They help increase probiotics level in the gut. Very good quality probiotic supplement contain both prebiotics and other supplementary ingredients to support digestion and immunity. These ingredients (ideally fermented) can be astralagus, hemp seeds, flaxseed, ginger, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, milk thistle, turmeric etc.

  • Stability- look for shelf-stable probiotic that contains soil-based organism. Don't trust probiotics that should be kept in the fridge as those typically don't past the stomach as they are not stable.

  • Includes postbiotics- these are produced as a byproduct of the fermentation process that is carried out by the probiotics in the gut. Some examples include organic acids, enzymes, carbonic substances and bacteriocins. They help to maintain colonic and intestinal homeostasis. Better probiotics also include these to help support the growth of probiotic good bacteria, lower inflammation diseases and oxidative stress. These may help lower blood sugar and prevent diabetes


When do take probiotics?


It's recommended to take your probiotics first thing in the morning 15-30 minutes before your breakfast or in the evening 2 hours after your last meal.


Not everyone needs probiotic supplements


If you have chronic digestive problems, you may not do well with probiotics, as your microbiome might not work right. In this case it's important to discuss with your health care provider before adding additional probiotics to your diet.

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