Did you know maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut (including your stomach and intestines) is vital for good health? Everyday diet, lifestyle factors, fatty foods, alcohol, and some medications can throw this out of balance, leading to stomach irritations, bloating, diarrhoea, cramping, and in women - urinary and vaginal health issues. Probiotics are live bacteria (living organisms) and yeasts that are in your body which are often called "good bacteria” because they help keep your stomach healthy.
Your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases, but taking a probiotic as part of your daily (or at least weekly) diet, acts to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal and digestive system, which in turn helps to fight illnesses, diseases, and enhance immune functions of the body. It is also often prescribed for women while taking antibiotics, to limit the negative effects antibiotics can have on women’s health.
Ten great sources of ‘Good Bacteria’
Probiotics are naturally found in your body and you can also find them in some foods and vitamin supplements. There are some sources for probiotics with more to offer than others but the following list of ten probiotics should provide you with a great source of “good bacteria”.
- Yogurt (live cultured yogurt or greek yogurt made from the milk of cows, goats or sheep) - It can contain Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Made from bacteria that ferments the natural sugars in milk, yogurt is a classic food that just about everyone has had before. Research has shown links with yogurt to have positive effects on the gut microbiota and is associated with a reduced risk for gastrointestinal disease and improvement of lactose intolerance. Please note however, there is a large variation on the quality of yogurts and it is recommended when buying yogurt to look for three things: 1) that it comes from goats, sheep or A2 cow’s milk; 2), that it has been grass-fed; and 3) that it is organic.
- Kefir - Kefir is a popular drink in Europe and the kefir grains are usually added to milk. This mixture is then left to ferment for a day. This fermentation process breaks down the lactose in milk to create a lactose-free product. You can also find kefir made from soy, coconut, or rice milk. Kefir has a slightly acidic and tart flavour and may contain up to 34 strains of probiotics. Kefir is similar to yogurt, but because it is fermented with yeast and more bacteria, the final product is higher in probiotics.
- Miso - Miso is a traditional Japanese spice found in many of their traditional foods. It is created by fermenting soybean, barley, or brown rice with koji. Koji is a fungus and the fermentation process takes anywhere from a few days to a few years to complete, with the end result a red, white or dark brown paste with a buttery texture. Miso soup is famous throughout the world, and it is very easy to prepare. Simply dissolve a tablespoonful of miso in a pot of water filled with other ingredients of your choice.
- Natto - Natto has a distinct odour (often considered pungent) that is a popular dish in Japan and it is a type of fermented soybean. Natto contains the extremely powerful probiotic bacillus subtilis, which has been proven to bolster your immune system, support cardiovascular health, and enhance digestion of vitamin K2. Natto can also contain vitamin B12, which is lacking in vegan diets and is one of the highest plant-based sources of protein.
- Fermented Cabbage - Sauerkraut (German) and kimchi (Korean) are both fermented cabbage products offering the healthy kind of bacteria or probiotics. Sauerkraut is not diverse in probiotics but is high in organic acids (what gives food its sour taste) that support the growth of good bacteria. Sauerkraut is also high in vitamin C and digestive enzymes and is a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria, such as lactobacillus. While kimchi is created by mixing a main ingredient, such as Chinese cabbage, with several other foods and spices, like red pepper flakes, radishes, carrots, garlic, ginger, onion, sea salt and fish sauce. The mixture is then left aside to ferment for three to 14 days.
- Tempeh - Hailing from Indonesia, this fermented soybean product created by adding a tempeh starter to soybeans is then left to sit for a day or two to create another source of probiotics.
- Brine-cured olives - Olives that are brine cured are an excellent source of probiotics.
- Salted gherkin pickles - These fermented devious treats are also a little recognised source of probiotics.
- Fermented cheeses - Aged cheeses from goat’s, sheep’s and A2 cow’s milk are particularly high in probiotics, including thermophillus, bifudus, bulgaricus and acidophilus. These cheeses are created by fermentation and the process involves adding microbes to the starter product (a culture of lactic acid bacteria) and allowing it to ferment. The fermentation process can take a few days or a few years depending on the specific desired finished product. The end result, is cheese, while aged cheeses may have more beneficial bacteria.
- Apple cider vinegar - Great for controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and even weight loss, apple cider vinegar is a great daily addition that will bring many benefits. Drink a small bit each day or use it as a salad dressing.
Benefits of ‘Good Bacteria’
By adding some or all the probiotic foods listed above into your diet, you could see the following probiotics benefits:
- Stronger immune system
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy from production of vitamin B12
- Better breath because probiotics destroy candida
- Healthier skin, since probiotics naturally treat eczema and psoriasis
- Reduced cold and flu
- Healing from leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease
- Weight loss
How to choose the best probiotic supplements
It is important to note that there are different types of strains of probiotics. The probiotics benefits experienced with one probiotic strain may be completely different from the health benefits seen from another probiotic.
Certain strains of probiotics support immunity, others digestion, and some even help burn fat and balance hormones.
If you want to use probiotics to help with a specific health concern, it is vital to select the right probiotic for the right condition.
Types of ‘Good Bacteria’
- Bacillus coagulans - an endospore probiotic that’s heat-resistant and improves nutrient absorption. A probiotic that has also been shown to reduce inflammation and symptoms of arthritis.
- Bacillus subtilis - an endospore probiotic that’s heat-resistant. Elicits a potent immune response and supports Gut-Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT). It also suppresses growth of bad bacteria like salmonella and other pathogens.
- Bifidobacterium bifidum - the most dominant probiotic in infants and in the large intestine, supports production of vitamins in gut, inhibits harmful bacteria, supports immune system response, and prevents diarrhoea.
- Bifidobacterium breve - helps colonise healthy gut community and crowd out bad bacteria.
- Bifidobacterium infantis - alleviates irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, diarrhoea and constipation.
- Bifidobacterium longum - supports liver function, reduces inflammation, removes lead and heavy metals.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus - relieves gas, bloating, improves lactose intolerance.
- Lactobacillus brevis - shown to survive the gastrointestinal tract, boost cellular immunity, enhanced natural cytotoxic T cells (T-killer cells) and kill helicobacter pylori bacteria.
- Lactobacillus bulgarius - a powerful probiotic strain that has been shown to fight harmful bacteria that invades your digestive system and is stable enough to withstand the acidic digestive juices of the stomach.
- Lactobacillus casei - supports immunity, inhibits helicobacter pylori and helps fight infections.
- Lactobacillus reuteri - provides strong protection against infections and help maintain a healthy immune system.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus - supports bacterial balance and supports healthy skin, helps fight urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and reduce anxiety by reducing stress hormones.
- Saccharomyces boulardii - a yeast probiotic strain that restores natural flora in the large and small intestine and improves intestinal cell growth.
- Streptococcus thermophiles - a probiotic used in the production of true yogurt promotes gastrointestinal health.
Most probiotic supplements today are destroyed by your stomach acid before they ever get to your digestive tract. So, when reading a probiotic label, it should reveal the genus, species and strain of the probiotic. The product should also give you the colony forming units (CFUs) at the time of manufacturing.
There are five specific things you want to consider when buying a probiotic supplement:
- Brand quality - look for brands that are reputable like Swisse, Bioglan and Nature’s Way from Australia and Garden of Life and MegaFood from USA.
- High CFU count - purchase a probiotic brand that has a higher number of probiotics, from 15 billion to 100 billion.
- Strain diversity - Search for a probiotic supplement that has 10–30 different strains.
- Survivability - Look for strains like bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and other cultures or formulas that ensure probiotics make it to the gut and are able to colonise.
- Research - Do your homework and look for brands that have strains that support your specific needs.
If you're looking to find out more about your digestive system, take a look at the wide range of probiotics that Australia Health Warehouse have to offer:
- Bioglan Bio Happy Probiotic 50 Billion Double Strength
- Nature’s Way Restore Probiotic 100 Billion
- Swisse Ultiboost Inner Balance Probiotic 35 Billion
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