It is official: Probiotics now have a cult following. Have you taken a stroll through any convenience store lately? Well, if you have, then their popularity and ultra-effective benefit is no secret. From being infused into pizzas, bread, pickles and chocolate, brands now list “live cultures” on hand sanitizers, breath mints and mouthwashes.
There seem to be good reasons for the hype. Probiotics are certain bacteria, that when taken in the right doses, can add good microbes to your intestinal tract, help with weight loss, and boost overall mental health. According to some research, “a healthy microbiome is instrumental in staving off inflammation, a risk factor involved in illnesses like colds, cancer, heart diseases, arthritis, and cognitive decline .”
Want to live healthy and happily ever after? Chow down some probiotics, apparently. Unfortunately, it’s not that straight-to-the-point. Caveats abound with this perception, since our digestive system play host to over 3,000 species of good bacteria, with each playing a different disease-fighting role. So what should you do?
You can never go wrong with Yogurt and Kefir
Microbes convert milk into yogurt and kefir, giving them that slightly tangy taste and creating the needed probiotics. These smooth, creamy dairy products have been fingered as healthy and containing different types of active microorganisms. You should try them out.
Discover the joys of pickles
Naturally culture your own pickles and veggies with water, salt and spices. Right from your kitchen, try tossing them in some green beans, carrots and beets to get awesome results. For some guidance on how to keep bad bacteria out, follow recommendations by Pickl-It on how to use jars with special airlocks.
Try out some soymilk
Luckily, there are a handful of foods that aren’t dairy but can give some probiotic power. Cultured soymilk is definitely one. Comparable to yogurts, it is already bolstered up with vitamin D and calcium, making it a great boost for live, active cultures. With its suitability for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant, it is easy to see why it is so popular.
You need sauerkraut, the lacto-fermented veggie
There are already a million reasons why you should be eating probiotic-foods on a daily basis, but here’s another: This cabbage condiment is fermented by several lactic acids, giving it a distinctive sour taste. Home-made sauerkraut can also serve as toppings for hotdogs and sandwiches.
Go for the mildly-sour bread
The fiber-rich sourdough bread is an undoubtedly gut-healthy meal. It is made with good-for-you ingredients that contain strains of lactobacillus, a type of bacteria that relieves gut discomfort. Also, if you have diabetes, sourdough is a healthy bread option. That is because it has the likelihood of stabilizing blood sugar levels after meals.
Give yourself a boost
Getting foods, drinks, and supplements that contain probiotics is virtually easy these days. Interestingly, some probiotic strains are proven remedies for common health issues. In a study by the American Medical Association, findings show that taking antibiotics and probiotics at the same time can reduce the associated risk of diarrhea by 42%. It may just be time to get some of those good bacteria into your gut!
Ignore the media hype
Sounds crazy, but probiotics are now being pumped into unfermented foods. Even with delicious flavors and live culture labels, don’t count on them—particularly because some of these products undergo heating. And high temperatures are likely to destroy the good bacteria. So, be sure of what you’re getting.
Pick your supplements wisely
Generally, probiotics are well-tolerated. However, side effects could occur, especially if a particular strain is not suitable for a health concern. Always check with your doctor first to make sure a particular probiotic supplement will help your condition.
Here are some things to look for:
- For potency, check that the colony forming unit (CFU) is up to a billion.
- To be safe, seek out brands that contain both Lactobacillusand Bifidobacterium strains.
- Labels should include a dosage, product handling directions, and an expiration date.
- Check if a brand includes prebiotics (ready-made food sources for the bacteria).
What exactly do probiotics do for you?
- To wade off diseases, the human body is made of millions, if not trillions of bacteria that reside in the skin, mouth, intestines, urinary and genital tract. But when we take antibiotics, they kill some good bacteria, making the body vulnerable to pathogens. Fortunately, the S. cerevisiae boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 strains of probiotics are excellent for reducing symptoms of some infections like antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
- With the rise in douches, spermicides, and the use of antibiotics, it is little wonder that a large number of women suffer from urinary infections, yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Even in perfectly hygienic conditions, intestinal bacteria can find their way to the vagina and urinary tract. The encouraging news is that, probiotics have some good effect on health “down there.” We’ve waited a long time for this one, ladies!
- Maybe your health and general well-being is looking topnotch. Or maybe you’ve already popped a pill or two for that flu or cough. Either way, some exposure to the microbes found in probiotics can boost your immunity. Note that they may not be safe for people with compromised immunity like the elderly, pregnant women, children, and HIV/AIDS patients.
- Probiotics can keep inflammatory diseases and allergies under control. Strains like the Lactobacillus rhamnosuscan reduce the risk of skin diseases such as Eczema and acne. Simply incorporate the power of probiotic organisms into your diet to get the desired results.
- At the risk of sounding gross, even with all that brushing and flossing you do, your mouth contains a myriad of bacteria. Yes, you read that right. To fight off bad bacteria in the mouth and improve oral health: Grab some probiotics.
- It is quite easy to slash cholesterol, shed unwanted weight and burn belly fat. Probiotics with specific enzymes responsible for cholesterol re-absorption in the gut can do the trick. Keep your cholesterol level low and look more radiant than ever!
So what about prebiotics?
Common foods like dandelion greens, asparagus, bananas, garlic, whole grains and onions contain prebiotics that can improve the growth of probiotics in your gut. We agree, there is no magic pill for chasing out hunger, but research suggests that these non-digestible low-carb foods could be your strongest weapon against hunger and high food consumption.
Eating indulgent meals and sweets desert like brownies and pizzas may be good for lazy days. However, a healthy gut acquired from ingesting prebiotics, plays a key role in relieving digestive issues.
With any kind of condition, getting an accurate diagnosis of what ails you is the first step to a treatment plan. However, people have been consuming probiotics for years, so we know they are safe.
According to Stephen Freedman, MD, a probiotics researcher and associate professor at Alberta Children’s Hospital, research shows that probiotics aren’t harmful—especially if you’re healthy. “If you’re very sick, I wouldn’t recommend taking any supplement without asking your doctor.”
 K. Tallmadge, Diet Simple, 1st ed. Washington, D.C: Regnery Publishing, 2001.