Feeling gassy & bloated after a meal or having chronic indigestion and heartburn is so common and has become the norm in our society that it affects over 60 million Americans every year! Taking a pill before or after dinner to alleviate the pain associated with suffering from these conditions is not a solution to the underlying problem but only a temporary relief from the symptoms. With more and more people under stress and pressure, rushing through meals and eating on the go, and consuming highly processed foods, it’s no wonder we have indigestion! Additionally, prescription medications or antibiotics kills off not only what ails you, but also the good bacteria that lives in the gut, thereby worsening the problem and creating another. There are also many toxins we’re subjected to every day that decrease digestive function, affecting our ability to utilize nutrients and rid ourselves of cholesterol and triggering chronic inflammation in the body, which also causes many chronic conditions and diseases.
Our intestinal health is critical to our overall well-being as many chronic issues and diseases stem from the health of our digestive tracts where 80% of our immune system is located. Many people with health issues, such as thyroid imbalances, chronic fatigue, joint pain, psoriasis, and many other conditions don’t realize that these illnesses originate in the gut.
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Your gut contains both beneficial and harmful bacteria with the balance of gut flora being approximately 85 percent good bacteria and 15 percent bad bacteria. If this ratio gets out of balance, fungus, yeast or bacteria affects the body in a negative way. The good news is that consuming certain types of probiotics consisting of various strains of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus from foods and supplements can help bring these ratios back into balance and alleviate many types of ailments.
So How DO You Get More Probiotics Into Your Life?
Here Are 6 Ways You Can Revive Your Gut Health With Probiotics:
- EMBRACE THE SOUR! Add apple cider vinegar and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi to your meals every day. While they contain a small amount of probiotics, the healthy acids contained in these foods promotes the growth of good bacteria and balances the pH in your system alkalizing the body. Using a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water or dressings, is an easy way to start each meal. Sauerkraut and kimchi are fermented foods, rather than pickled, and are usually eaten in combination with other foods to promote good bacteria growth. Watch the sugar content in pickled foods as it feeds the bad bacteria!
- CONSUME PROBIOTIC-RICH FOODS like goat’s and sheep’s milk yogurts, kefir and coconut kefir. Similar to yogurt, kefir, is a fermented dairy product with a unique combination of milk and fermented kefir grains where the yeast breaks down the lactose in the milk and provides a much higher dose of probiotics than yogurt. Coconut kefir contains less probiotics than dairy kefir, providing a non-dairy option, and has a smoother, less tart flavor than kefir.
- NOT ALL YOGURTS ARE BENEFICIAL! When you see probiotics advertised as a beneficial to your health on the labels of common grocery store yogurts like Dannon or Yoplait, they do not contain enough of the good bacteria strains needed to promote good health. On the contrary, they can be instrumental in feeding the bad bacteria because of the enormously high sugar content, often making conditions worse.
Instead, stick with full-fat, plain Greek yogurt or goat’s or sheep’s milk yogurt, adding your own fruits (whole or pureed) for a much healthier option. These yogurts are much higher in protein and good fat and very low in sugars, providing a high dose of the probiotics you are looking for.
- DRINK KOMBUCHA! An effervescent fermented black tea that’s started by using a SCOBY, also known as a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Kombucha has been around for over 2,000 years originating in the Far East. Many health benefits have been made about kombucha, primarily digestive support, increased energy and liver detoxification.
A genuine kombucha mushroom is self-sustainable, propagating a new baby kombucha mushroom each time, that is used in your next batch. One reason to use genuine kombucha mushrooms to make home-made kombucha, vs. buying it at the store, is that a good thing just cannot be packaged or processed. It ends up taking away some portion of the quality or essence when creating something ‘safe’ and with a shelf life in such large quantities. Commercial kombucha found in stores, limits the process of the yeast fermentation and culturing to prevent continued carbonation. This process leaves you with less varieties of bacteria and yeast, which are then pasteurized (the heat during pasteurization kills the probiotics) negating the many health benefits. Further, kombucha ‘teas’ sold in tea bags, while convenient, do not offer the same qualities that occur specifically during fermentation existing in pure, raw kombucha liquid.
- TAKE A PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT: It’s important to know that there are different types of strains of probiotics and the benefits experienced with one probiotic strain may be completely different from the health benefits of another. Certain strains of probiotics support immunity, others digestion, and some even help burn fat and balance hormones, and some are all-purpose. Do your research on which one is best for your condition or situation and talk to your doctor about these and the effects of any other medications you are taking in combination with probiotic supplements.
- PICK THE BEST PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT: Not all probiotics are created equal and there are several things to look for when searching for probiotics. Make sure that the label states the full genus, species and strain of the probiotic, and that it contains a high CPU (colony forming units) count at the time of manufacturing, between 15-100 billion CPUs. As many probiotics don’t make it past the stomach, search for a probiotic supplement that has 10–30 different strains that are able to to make it to the gut to colonize like bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, lactobacillus rhamnosus. Again, do your homework and look for brands that have strains that support your specific needs.
A Few Final Things To Note About Probiotics
Make sure you’re reading the labels! A label stating it’s made from “live and active cultures” is better than it stating it “contains active cultures” and avoid brands that make general health statements. Do your best to create habits and routines to reduce substances that can destroy the good bacteria in your system like sugar, processed grains, GMOs, antibiotics and stress from your life. Introduce good bacteria by consuming at least two servings a day of probiotic-rich foods that support probiotic growth and find a probiotic supplement for your specific symptoms with at least 10 or more strains of the probiotic you need with a minimum of 15 billion CFUs.