In the case of digestive spirals, I love a good probiotic. Why is this?
For starters, probiotics are golden for the gut. They promote healthy intestinal flora, immune support, and overall happy vibes in the GI tract.
To shed a little clarity on probiotics, they’re the itty bitty bacteria that help with the balance of microorganisms in the intestines. We actually make over 500 types of these healthy bacteria in our very own digestive tracts. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are fermentable fiber which help support these teeny pros. Foods rich in prebiotics include raw garlic, flax, bananas, onions, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes. Throw all that in a blender and you’ve got yourself a power gut smoothie (just kidding).
Back to probiotics, here are four major ways they can soften any blows to our gut health…
1) Travel. Business trips, family vacays, backpacking adventures and long hours of air travel can wreak havoc on our digestion. I definitely could have used a probiotic at my sister’s recent knot tying celebration in the Dominican Republic, where I got hit with a classic all-inclusive resort food bug. Luckily this occurred post-wedding dinner. Probiotics come in handy travel packs like Dr. Ohhira Probiotics, which contain 900 million colony forming units of bacteria – whoa!
2) Antibiotics. Taking antibiotics for nasty infections can wipe your system of healthy flora. In this case, a probiotic supplement is a trusty sidekick in reducing antibiotic side effects.
3) Yeast. There’s good yeast (like nutritional and Brewer’s) and bad yeast (Candida). No one wants an excess of unsavory yeast in the body, and probiotics like Lactobacillus can help sort this out. They limit unhealthy bacterial and fungal growth, and restore our pH balance. Woohoo.
4) Immunity. Probiotics help tackle immune triggered inflammation and dysbiosis (ie. microbial imbalance), which is awesome – especially if you struggle with an irritable bowel or gluten allergy.
Yogurt is likely the most popular probiotic source out there, with brand name active bacterial cultures like B.L. Regularis (a name Danone actually coined, and got sued for due to exaggerated health claims – check out the Canada class action lawsuit here).
Interestingly, Danone’s Activia yogurt brand also partnered with the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation on advocating the benefits of enriched probiotic yogurt and a healthy lifestyle. But for many of us, processed dairy products can trigger a slew of inflammatory tummy troubles and congestion (not to the mention the sketchy artificial sweeteners or high sugar content for us type 1 diabetics). So mainstream yogurt isn’t necessarily our best bet for probiotic wealth.
If you’re off the dairy wagon, or simply cutting back, you can still find probiotics in minimally processed plant-based or natural dairy form. These gut buddies are often available in capsules or chilled bottles. Bio-K+ offers dairy, soy and organic brown rice based probiotics (they suggest 1/4 to 1 bottle per day for adults) and nowadays it’s fairly easy to source out yogurts made from rice, soy and coconut milk containing added probiotics. Other probiotic sources include fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, nutritional yeast and micro algae (go seaweed!). The label should always read “live and active cultures”.
Probiotics react differently with each digestive system, and supplements come at a steeper premium so best to do some brand recon. Go with your gut!