I'm certain you have heard the lingering tales of probiotics. My effort for this post will be to shed some light on what they are, why they are important, and how we can get them. I often say that just like Christ to the believer is the center of our lives our digestive system is the center of health. Serving a God of infinite order the placement of our gut being in the center of our bodies is also an indication of how important the strength of our digestive tract is for our over all wellness.
Inside our intestines are billions of bacteria. I remember how grossed out I was when I learned that little piece of information. So bacteria in and of itself is not bad, we need bacteria to survive. So probiotics refers to "good bacteria". Sometimes we'll hear this be called our flora. The problem is when the bacteria or flora becomes infected. Infection can take place several ways: poor diet (keep in mind most think they eat healthy and don't), stress, antibiotics, illness (illness although usually stems from poor gut health and could be avoided with better gut health), prescription medication, and improper lymphatic system drainage into our gut. So much disease is linked to unhealthy flora. Correction of it can change lives.
My first line of defense is a healthy diet. If you eat meat then clean, organic grass fed beef, organic pastured free range chickens and turkeys, and lamb are the best choices, no pork. Organic free range eggs are a wonderful addition to the diet if you don't want too much meat. Wild caught fish with fins and scales, no bottom feeders or seafood is best. Consume lots of organic leafy greens, and organic brightly colored veggies. Organic granny smith apples and berries are great! Other fruits are okay too, but watch intake of tropical and dried fruits for large amounts of sugar. Gluten free organic whole grains are a healthy choice. If you want to do dairy, raw is best because all of the healthy bacteria is in tact. If its illegal or hard to find in your state, only pasteurized is okay, avoid ultra-pasteurized and homogenized. Goats milk is much easier on our digestive tracts, and not inflammatory like pasteurized cows milk. Raw nuts, seeds, nut butters, extra virgin olive oil, organic virgin coconut oil, and Celtic sea salt are good choices as well.
An incredibly helpful type food to eat that aid in digestion and keep strong flora are fermented foods. The fermentation process for preserving food has been around for centuries. Before refrigerators people would lactoferment their foods. When we ferment the foods wonderful healthy bacteria are added to the food, and when we eat them, it aids our flora in staying healthy. Some examples of fermented foods are kimchee, sauerkraut (not the kind in the can, get organic), tempeh, kefir, and yogurt. Keep in mind not all yogurt is the same. Pasteurization kills a lot of beneficial bacteria.Consumers can look for the National Yogurt Association’s Live & Active Cultures seal on packaged yogurt. This means the product did contain live cultures when it was made, although it is no guarantee that the beneficial bacteria will still be alive after shipping and storage. Full fat, unsweetened goats milk yogurt and Greek yogurt are the best bets if you cannot find the seal. You can make your own yogurt or kefir at home. You can also lactoferment just about any veggie you want, and I'll talk more about it in a post coming soon.
Something to note is when our gut flora "the healthy bacteria or yeast" becomes infected that it feeds on sugar. It is not discriminatory either, any sugar will do, white sugar in a Snickers, high fructose corn syrup in cereal, fructose from fruit, raw local honey, maple syrup, and the list goes on...the infected yeast eats it all. One particular strand that gets infected frequently is called Candida Albicans. So the only real way to kill the yeast is to starve it. The goal is to keep the sugar out for a period of time, depending on how severe your case of Candida. Some people it may be 2 weeks some 1-2 months, and some perhaps a lifestyle change with diet is in order. It can be more pleasant than you think.
A crucial add in daily as well should be a good probiotic supplement. You might be saying, do I really need to buy one of those? Well, what's it worth to you for you and the kids to not get a cold during cold and flu season? Can you afford to take time off from work for a weeks worth of the flu?I equivocate taking a probiotic supplement to insurance. We can already see how crucial our gut health is in the grand scheme of things. We can't afford poor health or illness to prevent us or our families from thriving. Unless you live on an island and grow all your own food, eat a ton of fermented foods, don't consume sugar ever, eat mostly a raw food diet, and never go out to eat then perhaps you don't need one. A probiotic supplement helps fill in your gaps. This will ensure some good bacteria is getting put back into the body.
Many times when we go to see our mainstream doctor they are very quick to prescribe an antibiotic if we are fighting some type of infection. Doctors are notorious for prescribing them to young children with ear infections. Unfortunately what doctors don't know or don't tell there patients is that these antibiotics wipe out all of the bacteria, good, bad, and indifferent, this leaves our systems wide open for greater infections, repeat illnesses due to a very unbalanced gut flora. If you make the choice to fill the script be wise an replenish your or your child's body with a good probiotic supplement.
Now before you run out and get one please know that it can be an overwhelming task in choosing one since there are a gazillion of them, and they are not all equal. Also within probiotics each bacterial strand is different and necessary to help different parts of the body. One of the more well known strands is called acidophilus. This particular strand is important in women for vaginal health. Any itching, yeast infections, or urinary problems are most likely due to need for healthy acidophilus. That is not the only strand we need though, and you are short changing your health to only include that one.
Here is a list of the strains we will usually see:
- B. bacterium breve- helps with diarrhea, allergies, gas, and irritable bowel syndrome
- B. bacterium longum- helps prevent disease
- B. bacterium bifidum- helps maintains balance in intestines
- B. animalis- helps aid in proper digestion
- L. acidophilus- helps with digestion, vaginal health, absorption of certain minerals
- L. bulgaricus- helps with digestion
- L. casei- helps fight off harmful bacteria
- L. lactobacillus- helps fight of pathogens like E coli and salmonellae
- L. plantarum- helps with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and colitis (found in fermented foods)
- L. rhamnosus- helps boost immune system
- S. bouldarii: helps fight diarrhea
- S. thermophilus- helps prevent transformation of nitrates into cancer-causing nitrites
- Bifidus- helps fight pathogens
Here are my recommendations for probiotic brands on the market. I can tell you that for three years my sons and I have been taking Garden of Life brand probiotics called Primal Defense. My children take the one for kids. Our immune systems have become very strong, and we rarely get sick. If we do it doesn't last long at all, half a day to one day tops. I believe that is in part to taking these probiotics. I do not work for Garden of Life, I simply believe in this particular product. Albeit you can buy them in the stores on my blog if you choose. Something special about Primal Defense are the SBOs or soil based organisms.The SBOs are healthy bacterial that live in the soil that allow plant life to grow and flourish. They help to benefit our guts in the same way. I don't know of any other probiotic line to have them.
Another brand which I think has merit is New Chapter. They have a probiotic line using fermented foods like organic soy, Jerusalem artichokes, and apples. What I think is neat is the concept they use. Most companies remove the strain from the foods the bacteria is produced on once the desired amount of strains are reached. Instead what New Chapter does is they keep the strains and food together. They say that by doing this the probiotics continue to replicate and provide more benefit to the digestive tract. You can buy these at the independent health food store I work at in Fuquay-Varina, NC called The Vine Health Shoppe.
I hope that I have shed a little light on what probiotics are, why we need them, and that you will consider a healthier diet as well as find a supplement right for you. For more information go to www.probiotic.org to learn about the different strains and what they do.