You have over 1 trillion bacteria in your body with the total equivalent weight of around 4 pounds! Some of these bacteria are good guys and some are bad guys and they directly affect your immune system and overall health. The good guys are the beneficial microbes that help your body and you want to keep around. The best ratio for a healthy person will be about 85% good bacteria to 15% bad bacteria.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that inhabit the digestive tract and skin and contribute to the overall health of the host. Your gut alone can contain as high as 1,000 different types of probiotics that are categorized as yeasts as well as bacteria.
The latest research is discovering that each species of probiotic provides different benefits.
The benefits are so diverse and the types of species are almost innumerable at this point. However, scientists have been able to pin down some of the contributions that several species make to the human body. For instance:
- Lactobacillus is known for aiding in weight loss and obesity prevention. In particular, the presence of Lactobacillus Gasseri was found to help reduce abdominal adiposity (obesity) (1) in adults in a randomized controlled trial.
- Lactobacillus Plantarum has been shown to help patients with IBS (2) as well as keep disease-causing, pathogenic bacteria from getting out of control by creating a healthy barrier in the intestines.
- Bifidobacteria is generally present in healthy, breastfed infants and will continue to colonize into adulthood. This species is able to alleviate infectious diarrhea and have positive effects on the immune system (3) According to Front Microbiol, “Bifidobacterium longum, B. breve, and B. bifidum are generally dominant in infants, whereas B. catenulatum, B. adolescentis and, as well as B. longum are more prevalent in adults.” (4) Bifidobacteria has also been found to promote short-chain fatty acid production as well as create an environment for healthy aging. (5)
- Bacillus Subtilis, a soil based organism, can outcompete E.Coli (6) as well as have a positive effect on mood disorders like depression. (7) It has also been discovered to create vitamin K2 and B12 as well as reduce C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels. (8)
The study of the beneficial microbes, known as probiotics, is relatively new and surprising discoveries are happening every day in regards to specific beneficial species. From hormone health to brain health and even skin health or healing from autoimmunity, probiotics have been found to be highly effective for a healthy lifestyle.
Where Probiotics Can be Found
Upon birth, a baby, who doesn’t have many beneficial bacteria in their systems, come in contact with trillions of good guys through the vaginal canal as well as mom’s breast milk. This is the first introduction the human body will have with probiotic beneficial bacteria.
Mainly, probiotics can be found in the food we eat. There is a caveat though. If the food we eat is ultra-sanitized, pasteurized and heat treated in other ways, all beneficial microbes die. So when I say the food we eat, I mean the whole-food without labels, that doesn’t come processed in a package and, if it does, it hasn’t been pasteurized and ultra-sanitized.
Foods that have high levels of probiotics:
- Kvass (a fermented beet drink)
- Kefir (can be in water or dairy kefir)
- Yogurt (dairy or coconut or even nut milk yogurt)
- Cultured Veggies
- Fermented Soy
- Raw Cheese
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Lactobacillus Plantarum is found in saliva, cultured veggies, sauerkraut and even kimchi and B. Subtilis is found in natto which is fermented soy!
If your diet doesn’t consist of eating fermented vegetables daily, it should. Be sure to try and add as many of these foods as you can because each one has different strains of probiotics that will promote a healthy well-being.
Despite your best efforts for eating fermented foods, sometimes you can fall short and a probiotics supplement can come in handy. I will talk about my favorite ones below. Just remember, the rule of thumb is to get your probiotics, vitamins and minerals from whole, God-made food first!
The Benefits of Probiotics
Here’s a short list of the ways that consuming probiotics can help your body and allow you to feel good every single day as well as fight off disease and many pathogens that you will come in contact with.
- Enhanced oral health (9)
- Allergy reduction
- Reducing or eliminating kidney stones (due to lowering oxalate levels) (10)
- Help our bodies absorb micronutrients (11)
- Improve Thyroid hormone conversion
- Help with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Improve Fibromyalgia symptoms
- Decrease Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms
- Improve Multiple Sclerosis symptoms by improving the gut-brain axis
- Promote healthy skin and reduce the symptoms of Psoriasis
- Help skin fraught with Eczema (12)
- Help with gas and bloating
- Reduce fatigue
- Improve digestive upset
- Aid in healthy weight loss
- Reduce and even eliminate headaches
- Boost immune function (13)
- Increase short-chain fatty acid production which is the main source of nutrition for the cells in your colon and have been found to help obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (14) (15)
- Manufacture some vitamins like K2 and B12 (16)
- Improve antibiotic-resistant diarrhea (17)
- Provide positive results with C. Diff (18)
- Reduce IBS symptoms (19)
- Remit constipation
- Aid in healthy cholesterol levels (20)
- Improve overall blood pressure (21)
- Reduce overall body inflammation
- Reduce or eliminate UTI’s (22)
- Improve Autoimmunity and Chronic Illness (23)
Who Should Take Probiotics?
Honestly, in our day and age, everyone should be taking probiotics and eating daily doses or probiotic foods. However, those with the following ailments should unequivocally be consuming probiotics multiple times a day:
- If you have taken antibiotics
- If you suffer from Leaky Gut
- Those who suffer from allergies (24)
- If you have eczema (25)
- When diarrhea sets-in, whether chronic or not
- If you get sick a lot
- Those who are smokers
- If you are under high stress
- When your diet consists of a lot of processed food
- If you have autoimmunity
- Those who need to lose weight
- If you suffer from mood disorders like depression or anxiety (26)
- Those with Autism
- If you have memory problems (27)
- Those with OCD and/or ADD/ADHD (28) (29)
- If you have unhealthy levels of cholesterol
- If you have high blood pressure
Who Shouldn’t Take Probiotics?
There is not one human on the planet that shouldn’t take probiotics as God designed our bodies to live a symbiotic life with probiotics. However, there are a few things to consider when taking a probiotic supplement or eating probiotic-rich foods.
- If you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, it is wise to consult your physicians of the safety and efficacy of probiotics for you.
- If you have had an organ transplant, you should consult your practitioners about taking probiotics.
- If you have had part of your digestive tract removed, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor about probiotic use.
The three bullets above do not necessarily mean DON’T take probiotics, They simply mean, check with your doctor.
If you are currently on a round on antibiotics, it’s best to wait until your round is done before consuming probiotics or, at least be sure to take your probiotics 2-4 hours from your antibiotics.
Potential Side Effects of Taking Probiotics
It’s important to note is that if you have never purposely consumed probiotics, and/or your immune system is compromised, then you’ll want to start VERY slow with your probiotic intake.
When I was recovering from being on my death bed and my immune system was greatly compromised, initially I couldn’t even tolerate probiotic supplements or probiotic-rich foods. While doing the intro stage of the GAPS diet, I had to titrate up my dosage very, very slowly so that my body would not go into a further healing crisis. Be aware, if you experience extreme gas or bloating or even an increase in your symptoms to back off probiotics or lower your dose.
Also, different strains can have different symptom outcomes. For instance, Saccharomyces Boulardii, which is a good yeast, can cause overactive symptoms when taken for those with chronic yeast problems. It doesn’t mean you can take it, it just means you need to be hypervigilant to pay attention to your symptoms when taking it and back off if needed. Ideally, you want the yeast to overpower the bad.
Other side effects to be aware of:
- Bad bacteria die-off which can cause a myriad of symptoms:
- Worsening of symptoms you already have
- Rare sepsis in cancer patients (30)
Precautions for Buying Probiotic Supplements
- Many strains of good bacteria cannot withstand the acid in your stomach and so it’s a great idea to find a brand with enteric-coated capsules that will remain intact through the stomach acid and deliver the probiotics safely to the small intestine to colonize.
- Beware of low-quality probiotics. These include stains grown on GMO foods, ones that contain unhealthy filler ingredients like, gluten, maltodextrin, dextrose, other GMO sugar and sometimes pasteurized dairy.
- Be cautious of probiotics that don’t require refrigeration. Although there are some varieties, like soil-based organisms, that don’t require refrigeration, most do need a cool temperature to stay alive. It’s a good idea to call the company of the brand you want to purchase and ask them how they ensure that their bacteria stay alive and if can they prove it to you. The best idea is to just eat whole-foods that are rich in probiotics!
- Sometimes a brand of probiotic contains only one or two strains. While these can still be beneficial, it’s important to get a variety of strains. The more strains the better the probiotic will be for your microbiome. A good rule of thumb is 8-30 different strains.
- Beware that you are taking a high enough dose (in the billions) of good bacteria. A brand with at least 6 billion CFU’s is a must for a maintenance dose. For a therapeutic dose, the dosage should be 12-25+ billion CFU’s.
- Be sure that the brand you buy lists the bacteria species on the bottle.
- Look at the reviews of the brand before you buy. Be sure to purchase from a trusted and reputable brand.
My Favorite and the Safest Brands of Probiotic Supplements
I always rotate the brand of probiotics that I use because different brands have different strains. Rotating plus eating foods rich in probiotics will give you a huge variety of good bacteria inhabiting the microbiome of your body.
Make Your Own Fermented Foods Seasonally
This is my favorite book about fermenting foods
It will teach you how to make your own fermented foods according to what is available each season. It helps you understand how simple making fermented foods are and teaches you the easy step-by-step process. Plus the pictures are absolutely gorgeous!
You can also find lots of other books about fermenting foods here.
It’s really simple to make your own fermented foods at home. Actually, it’s an ancient tradition!
If you want to make your own Kombucha at home, you can go here to follow the step-by-step instructions and get all the supplies you’ll need.
Kombucha has good yeast in it that can be helpful for balancing a yeast dysbiosis in the digestive system.
Here’s a surprising food item you can ferment or buy fermented.
It tastes amazing and we use it to help ward off sickness.
I also have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to fermented foods.
You might want to check it out!
Probiotics Every Day
Now that you know what probiotics are, who they are for, how they can help you and where to find them, it’s time to get probiotics into your life every day. Start by eating food rich in good bacteria to help balance out your microbiome and any dysbiosis you may have. If needed, add a probiotic supplement to increase the number of good bacteria and add a variety of strains to your body.