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The Pros (and Cons) of Probiotics

There is no singular supplement I recommend more than a daily probiotic.  Look into my fridge on any given day and you will find 3-4 bottles/brands.  You will also find all my favorite probiotic foods, tempeh and miso, saurkraut and kimchi, followed by a batch of my favorite coconut yogurt kefir.  I can confidently say I could be the poster-child for a probiotic pusher.

The term, probiotic, is Greek for “promoting life”.  Probiotics are different strains of bacteria that naturally exist in your digestive tract to keep your body in optimal health.  Bacteria can be a very good thing, the right kinds and amounts of good bacteria aid in production of certaine vitamins, play a critical role in immune function, and dictate metabolic diseases and mental health.

Gut health, microbiome, probiotics..the research is relatively new and a hot botton, in particular vast research is being done to find out more about gut bacteria and its influence on our health and our risk of disease. For these reasons, I am fascinated and tuned in to all topics bacteria related.  The ongoing question, how do we alter our gut biome, how do we increase diversity and quantity of good bacteria, and are probiotics worth the hype?

The Cons

It’s rare that I would start with the negatives of something that I so widely promote, but in this case, the cons are temporary or limited to the quality and makeup of the probiotic supplements and not the concept itself.

For a limited few people, the initial adjustment to probiotic supplementation can cause uncomfortable cons.  These should all go away within a few weeks of use and are the result of the body adjusting to a change in bacterial climate. You could either see an increase in frequency of bowel movements or experience constipation, you could also notice an increase in flatulance.

To reap the numerous PRO’s, you must be diligent in taking probiotics that meet the following:

  • Avoid probiotics with soy, these are hard to digest and absorb.  Soy also contains phytoestrogens that can add to hormonal imbalance
  • Avoid probiotics with dairy, these create inflammatory environments in the body and are counterproductive
  • The supplement should be enteric coated so that is can travel through your digestive tract without being killed first by stomach acid
  • The probiotic should contain diverse bacteria strands, not a singular strand
  • In most cases, the probiotic should be kept refrigerated

The Pros 

  • Immune System Boost – Approximately 70-80% of your immune sytem lives in your gut, the addition of probiotics increases defense against exposure to bad bacteria and illness causing germs.  A lack of good bacteria leaves you susceptible to colds, flus, infections, and even more serious illness
  • Gentle Cleansing/Detoxification Support – The body is a detox machine, with bowel movements being one of the ways we detoxify on a daily basis. If you’re not going frequently, toxins accumulate, and this includes bad bacteria.  Probiotics assist in this detox, helping the body eliminate toxins and waste through improved digestive processes.  For some health experts, three bowel movements per day is the ideal goal for optimal wellness, the appearance of your bowel movement also matters, your BM should be banana like in shape and shouldn’t feel difficult to pass.  This is an uncomfortable topic for some people, but one of the easiest indicators that good bacteria is present in your gut.  Pay attention to your BM’s and you will notice a difference after getting started on a daily probiotic.
  • Increased Energy – If increasing energy naturally is a goal for you, probiotics are a must.  A large portion of your energy goes towards digesting food – that means taking away energy you need to make it through the day.  When you have a good balance of probiotics in the gut, digestion becomes less of an energy expenditure.  Your body digests easier, and conserves energy for other activites, like making it through a workout and getting through lunch 😉
  • Effortless Weight Loss – As probiotics move waste along and throughout the digestive system, they are detoxify material that may otherwise be stored as excess weight. Improved digestion almost always contributes to effortless weight loss, the probiotics add to that and can decrease the bad intestinal bacteria associated with obesity too.
  • Glowing Complexion – Clear, glowing skin is a telling sign of a healthy digestive system.  Beauty does come from the inside out, no cream or lotion can do what a healthy gut full of good bacteria can do for your complexion. Your skin is your largest organ an largest eliminator of toxins and by supporting digestion with probiotics, toxins are more likely to break down in the liver before they accumulate and overwhelm the skin.
  • Natural Allergy Treatment – Research indicates that the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut is associated with reduced risk of allergies. Even your gut bacteria balance while pregnant can impact your child’s likelihood of suffering from allegies. Balancing microflora and adding beneficial bacteria are preventative ways to treat allergies, not just the symptoms.
  • Improved Urinary Tract Health and Improved Women’s Health – The reproductive system also benefits from a balance of diverse and good bacteria. Bad bacteria can overpopulate the vagina, from the use of birth control, diet, and lifestyle habits.  If you suffer from yeast infections or UTI’s, taking a probiotic can offer relief, probiotics introduce new good microflora and reduce reoccurence. The probiotic strain Lactobacilli is particularly beneficial for restoring the friendly bacteria in the vagina.

Now that you know the Pro’s….

  • Probiotic supplements are the most concentrated souce of probiotics, allowing you to take billions of cultures/strains in one pill, these also contain diverse bacteria strains.  My most recommended probiotic supplements:
  • In addition to supplements, probiotics are found in unpasteurized fermented foods; kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, sauerkraut, coconut kefir, miso and yogurt.
  • Commercially prepared yogurt is not all it’s cracked up to be, this is a food that is marketed as source of probiotics, when it’s often made from milk that contains high levels of hormones and antibiotics, in addition its strands are man-made and not created from naturally occuring bacteria strains.  All of this, plus the high sugar content in many commercial yogurts, only counteract any benefit of the probiotics. For this reason, I prefer coconut water or coconut milk kefir and coconut yogurt instead.

 

 

 

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