What You Need to Know About Probiotics

Woman Making Heart Shape with Hands on Stomach

Probiotics may be the key for a better immune system and overall better health. New research shows that probiotics may be more important than was once thought. Probiotics are responsible for healing digestive problems, neurological disorders, and mental health illness.

This guide to probiotics will tell you everything that you need to know about probiotics including the top probiotic foods to eat and the top probiotic supplements to take.

What Are Probiotics

Probiotics are the bacteria that line the digestive tract. These bacteria help support your body’s ability to fight off infections and to absorb nutrients. There are 10 times more probiotics in your stomach than there are cells in your entire body.

Probiotics Illustration

Your digestive system and skin are host to about 2000 different types of bacteria. The good bacteria in the gut is responsible for:

  • Production of vitamin K2, butyrate, and vitamin B12
  • Crowding out bad yeast, fungi, and bacteria
  • Creating enzymes that get rid of harmful bacteria
  • Stimulate the secretion of IgA and the regulatory T Cells

Probiotics are a part of our systems since the time we are born. When a baby is in the birth canal of its mother the baby is exposed to the bacteria of their mother for the first time. The birthing event begins a chain of events inside the GI tract of the infant and the GI tract will begin producing good bacteria.

How Probiotics Work

As mentioned there is both good and bad bacteria that resides within the gut. The balance of good to bad bacteria should be around 85 percent good to 15 percent bad according to digestive experts. If this ratio is out of balance dysbiosis occurs. This is where there is too much of a specific type of bacteria, fungus, or yeast that affects the body in a negative manner.

How Probiotics Work Illustration

Consuming probiotic rich foods and supplements can help bring the ratios back into balance.

Your Gut And Your Health

Perhaps the most overlooked reason that the digestive tract is critical to our health is because almost 80 percent of the entire immune system is located throughout the digestive tract. This percentage is quite astounding.

In addition to being an important and large part of the immune system, the digestive system is also the second largest part of the neurological system. This is called the enteric nervous system and it is located within the gut. This is why the gut is often referred to as the second brain.

Many people who have health issues such as chronic fatigue, psoriasis, joint pain, thyroid imbalances, and autism, as well as many other conditions do not often realize that these illnesses start in the gut.

Human Gut Illustration

If the above issues plus many others are connected to the health of our gut, then it is important to understand the elements that are essential for keeping our gut healthy. Consider this, according to the NIDDK (national institute of diabetes and digestive and kidney diseases), over 60 million Americans suffer from some type of digestive disease.

There are over 230,000 citizens in the United States who die of digestive related diseases each year and over 1.9 million more become disabled. Digestive diseases and disorder costs the United States over $100 billion a year.

While these numbers are staggering, poor gut health actually affects many more people than these statistics show. This is because your digestive health affects your entire physiological system. The many toxins that we subject ourselves each day decrease the functions of our digestive systems. This affects the body’s ability to utilize nutrients, get rid of cholesterol, and triggers chronic inflammation, which is the cause of many chronic diseases and conditions.

The best way to restore digestive health is to balance out the good and the bad bacteria in the gut. If you want to be healthy you have to consider eating foods that are probiotic rich or taking probiotic supplements each day.

Woman Having Digestive Problems

In order to improve the gut flora balance it is important to avoid things that kill off probiotics. Some of these toxins, foods, and stressors include: sugar, tap water, gmo foods, grains, prescription antibiotics, chemicals, medications, and emotional stress.

If these things are not addressed the micro-organisms can become imbalanced. When this happens your gut becomes a breeding ground for viruses, bad bacteria, fungi, parasites, and yeast. The only way to fix these problems is to eliminate the foods that feed bad bacteria and to eat probiotic rich foods and take probiotic supplements.

Probiotic Benefits

As you can see probiotics play an important role in keeping your gut healthy and the benefits of probiotics are quite significant. Some of the top proven benefits of probiotics include:

  • Improve digestive function
  • Prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections
Immune System Illustration
  • Boost the immune system
  • Help fight food borne illnesses
  • Manage and prevent skin issues such as eczema in children
  • Helps heal inflammatory bowel conditions such as IBS

Other possible benefits of probiotics that are currently under research include:

  • Colic treatment
  • Kidney stone treatment
  • Reduce the need for antibiotics
  • Treatment for crohn’s disease and colitis
  • Prevention of gum disease and cavities
Woman Showing Face Acne
  • Liver disease treatment
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Battle cancer
  • Manage autism
  • Improve acne
  • Weight loss
  • Kill bacteria that causes ulcers

Probiotics Side Effects

There are very few side effects of probiotics. One side effect that may occur is diarrhea. This typically only occurs when you take too many probiotics too quickly. It is a good idea to start off with a small amount such as one probiotic capsule a day and then work your way up as needed.

Overall, the side effects of probiotics are fairly positive.

Good Probiotics

When it comes to probiotics for men and probiotics for women, the best sources often come from the food that you eat. There are several health benefits associated with eating a diet that is rich in probiotics.

Eating Soy Beans with Sticks

Fermented foods provide the best sources of probiotics. Fermented foods have been consumed for more than 5000 years and in the past 100 years there are certain cultures that excel in providing foods that are rich in probiotics. For example, Indians eat lassi, Germans eat sauerkraut, Kimchi is popular among Asians, Kenyans eat amasi, and Russians consume raw yogurt.

Fermented foods provide the body with more probiotics and different strains of probiotics than any type of supplement. When fermented vegetables were tested it was found that they had over 30 strains of probiotics and trillions of probiotic units. This is equal to an entire bottle of a probiotic supplement.

While getting probiotics from food is the best source, there are good probiotics supplements as well. These supplements can be useful for those who do not want to or do not have access to fermented foods on a regular basis.

Woman Eating Yogurt

One of the aspects that make probiotic benefits from fermented foods amazing is the fact that they help kill off bad bacteria.

Healthy bacteria or probiotics will live longer than unhealthy bacteria, which can help end the reign of bad bacteria in the gut. This decrease in bad bacteria such as h. Pylori and candida lowers the rates of inflammation and helps keep the body from becoming ill or developing diseases.

Top Probiotics Foods

For those who want to begin a probiotics rich diet, here are the top ten foods to consider.

  • Kefir - this is a fermented dairy product that offers a mix of kefir grains and milk. Kefir is similar to yogurt, but is fermented using yeast, which means there is more bacteria in the final product making it have a higher amount of probiotics.
  • Sauerkraut - made using fermented cabbage and some other vegetables, sauerkraut is actually not diverse in probiotics. However, it has a high amount of organic acids that support the growth of good bacteria. It also has a high amount of digestive enzyme and vitamin C.
Sauerkraut in Wooden Bowl on Table
  • Kimchi - a cousin of sauerkraut, kimchi is the Korean version of cultured vegetables. The main ingredient is chinese cabbage and the mixture includes several other spices and foods such as radishes, red pepper flakes, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, fish sauce, and sea salt.
  • Coconut Kefir - is made by fermenting coconut juice with kefir grains. This is a dairy free option of kefir and provides the same probiotics as traditional dairy kefir.
  • Natto - consists of fermented soybeans and is popular in Japan. Natto contains bacillus subtilis, which is a powerful probiotic that can boost immunity, enhance the digestion of vitamin K2 and support cardiovascular health.
  • Yogurt - live cultured yogurt is made from goats, sheep, or cows milk. This is the most popular probiotic food. One of the issues with yogurt is that there is a range of quality when it comes to what is available. When purchasing yogurt look for ones that are made from goat, cow, or sheep’s milk that is grass fed and that it is organic.
  • Kvass - traditionally made from fermenting barley or rye, Kvass is a popular drink in eastern Europe. More recently, kvass has been made from fruit, beets, and other root vegetables such as carrots. Kvass contains lactobacilli probiotics that have both liver and blood cleansing properties.
Jar of Kvass on Table
  • Miso - is made from fermented rice, barley, or soybeans. The fermentation process can take a few days to several years to complete. The end result is a white, red, or dark brown paste that has a buttery texture. Adding this mix to some hot water creates a soup that is rich in probiotics.
  • Kombucha - is a fermentation of black tea. The process is started using a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria. The primary health benefits of kombucha are increased energy, digestive support, and liver detoxification.
  • Raw Cheese - A2, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk aged cheeses are high in probiotics including bulgaricus, bifidus, acidophilus, and thermophillus. Make sure to purchase raw cheese and not pasteurized in order to get the probiotic benefits.

Choosing Good Probiotics Supplements

Most people, including including both men, women, and children need some type of probiotic boost because of diets high in carbs, overuse of antibiotics, and the consumption of fluoridated and chlorinated drinking water. All of these things kill off probiotics and this can change the digestive tract.

Pouring Water Into a Glass

When considering the best probiotics it is important to note that there are several strains of probiotics. The benefits from one strain of probiotics could be completely different than the health benefits from another type of probiotic. Some strains of probiotics support digestion, others immunity, and some even help balance hormones and burn fat.

If you are planning to use probiotics for a specific health issue it is important to choose the right probiotic for your needs. When looking at the label of a probiotic it should show the species, genus, and strain of probiotic. In addition the colony forming units or CFU at the time the product was manufactured should also be included.

Look for brand quality, a high CFU count, strain diversity, and survivability. Make sure that you do your homework and research the brands that offer strains of probiotics that support your specific health needs.

Probiotic Strains

Here are some of the top probiotic strains to consider and what they are good for.

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum: supports vitamin production in the gut, supports immune system response, prevents diarrhea, and inhibits harmful bacteria.
  • Bifidobacterium longum: reduces inflammation, removes heavy metals and lead, supports liver function.
Probiotic Strains Illustration
  • Bifidobacterium breve: helps to colonize healthy gut bacteria and crowds out the bad bacteria.
  • Bifidobacterium infantis: alleviates symptoms of IBS, constipation, and diarrhea.
  • Lactobacillus casei: inhibits h. Pylori, supports immunity, and helps to fight off infections.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: helps relieve gas and bloating, improves overall lactose intolerance.
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus: this is a powerful probiotic strain. It has shown to fight off harmful bacteria that may invade your digestive system. It is stable enough to withstand the acidic stomach acid. It naturally produces antibiotics and neutralizes toxins as well.
  • Lactobacillus brevis: boosts cellular immunity, kills h. Pylori bacteria, and can survive the GI tract.
Lactobacillus Acidophilus Under Microscope
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus: supports healthy skin and helps support the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract. It also can help fight respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and can reduce anxiety by lowering the amount of stress hormones.
  • Bacillus subtilis: a heat resistant endospore probiotic. It suppresses the growth of bad bacteria such as salmonella or other pathogens.
  • Bacillus coagulans: improves nutrient absorption. It also has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and can reduce inflammation.
  • Saccharomyces boulardii: restores the natural flora in both the large and the small intestine. It also improves growth of intestinal cells. It has been proven to be effective at treating inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s. Additionally, it has anti-toxin affects, is antimicrobial, and can reduce inflammation.

Digestive Enzymes

When considering probiotics it is also important to look at digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are important as they act as catalysts to speed up specific chemical reactions in the body, which is important for overall digestive health.

Man Holding For Stomach

The duodenum, which is the shortest part of the small intestine is a really busy place. It is here that amino acids are extracted from protein and cholesterol and fatty acids are taken from fats. It is also where simple sugars are taken from carbohydrates.

This is also where all of the macronutrients are broken down into molecules that are small enough to be carried by the blood stream and help boost metabolism in order to ensure that it runs effectively. Micronutrients that have not been cleaved by the stomach acid are released and then transported to the bloodstream as well.

Intestinal enzymes are extremely important and help with several complicated processes. Some of the enzymes include:

  • Aminopeptidases - degrades peptides to amino acids
  • Lactase - converts lactose into glucose
  • Cholecystokinin - helps digest fats and proteins
Maltase Enzyme Illustration
  • Secretin - controls the secretion of hormones
  • Sucrase - converts sucrose into monosaccharides and disaccharides
  • Maltase - converts maltose into glucose
  • Isomaltase - converts isomaltose

Pancreatic enzymes deal primarily with amino acids and fats and include :

  • Amylase - converts carbs into simple sugars
  • Lipase - converts triglycerides into glycerol and fatty acids
  • Elastases - degrades elastin
  • Nucleases - converts nucleic acids to nucleosides and nucleotides
  • Phospholipase - converts phospholipids into fatty acids
  • Chymotrypsin - converts proteins into amino acids

Digestive enzymes are extremely beneficial and essential. They break food down into fatty acids, amino acids, cholesterol, nucleic acids, and simple sugars, all of which help create DNA.

Best Digestive Enzymes

When it comes to the best digestive enzyme supplements products come from 3 main sources. Natural digestive enzymes come from fruit sources such as papaya and pineapple. Other sources for digestive enzymes include animal sources such as pancreatin that is sourced from hog or oxen and plant sources from yeast, fungi, and probiotics.

Pinneapples on Table

Digestive enzyme products come with a large amount of ingredients. Some supplements contain only plant based enzymes. These are aimed at vegetarians and typically contain bromelain, which is an enzyme that comes from pineapple. Others may include papain which is an enzyme that comes from the papaya.

When considering a digestive enzyme supplement it is important to consider one that offers a full spectrum blend to help with overall digestive improvement. Here are some tips for finding the best digestive enzymes:

  • Gallbladder issues: purchase a supplement that includes bile salts and lipase
  • If betaine HCL is listed as an ingredient make sure that pepsin is included as well
  • Lactase helps with sugar absorption from dairy products
  • Herbs: both ginger and peppermint can help with digestion

It is important to choose a supplement based on your needs. Some people benefit from pancreatic enzymes as well and most products contain a level of pancreatin, which is a combination of all 3 of the pancreatic enzymes. Make sure to look at the levels in order to ensure they meet your particular needs.

Conclusion

Both probiotics and digestive enzymes play an extremely important role in a person’s overall health. Probiotics are necessary for fighting off bad bacteria that can become harmful and cause all types of health issues. Digestive enzymes help with the process of breaking down food and turning it into micronutrients that can be used throughout the body.

Man Eating Salad And Showing Thumb Up

There are several steps that you can take in order to improve your overall digestive health. First, it is important to try your best to remove substances from your diet that can destroy healthy bacteria. This includes grains, sugars, tap water, GMOs, and antibiotics. It is also important to consider the emotional stresses in your life and try to get rid of as much stress as possible as this can adversely affect your overall well being.

Next, try to eat at least two servings of foods that are rich in probiotics each day. The list above is a good start to finding foods that are high in probiotics. There are other foods that have probiotics as well, but the ten above have the most and provide the best overall sources for probiotics. It can be difficult to include these foods in your diet each day, but it is possible and you will benefit from the effort.

Finally, take a good probiotic supplement. The supplement should contain at least ten or more strains of probiotics and have a CFU of a minimum 15 million. Make sure that you read the labels of any type of probiotic supplement that you choose to take. When reading the labels it is also important to make sure that you choose one that will target the particular issues that you may be having.

Woman Offering Yogurt

Taking these initial steps to improve your overall gut health can be extremely beneficial for your entire being. The health of your gut is extremely important. Afterall, almost 80% of the immune system resides in the gut. It is important to make sure that you are eating the right foods and taking the right supplements in order to support the digestive system. When the digestive system is capable of doing its job properly, you are going to feel better overall.