Pro = in favour of. Bio = life.
Pro-life, i.e., probiotics.
A couple months ago I was visiting Cafe Gratitude in San Diego. I went in, I knew exactly what I was gonna order; the peaceful flight with a replenished cold pressed juice on the side.
I was ready to set up shop, sit back and let the health benefits of their all organic + vegan kitchen, work its magic on me.
The waitress who took my order offered me a drink special –
“This week we’ve got a cold pressed juice with over a trillion count of probiotics – a whole week’s worth”
I was like, ummmmm, no it’s okay, thank you, and placed my order – “today I am Peaceful and Replenished.”
Off she went to put in my order, and my quick, trigger fingers took to google.
What are probiotics? What are the health benefits of probiotics?
All I knew about probiotics at that point was that they were “healthy bacteria” and help with digestion. But a TRILLION count of probiotics in one drink? A whole WEEK’S worth?!
What was I missing out on?
Well, since my stay in California, I’ve done some pretty lengthy research on probiotics so you don’t have to. And I’ve disseminated my findings here to share with you in the hopes of answering some questions I think many of us are wondering.
First up: What are probiotics and what do they do for the body?
A: the literal definition of probiotics is; bacteria – live bacteria that assist with the overall health of our microbiome and our immune system. These are the “good” kind of bacteria that:
- Keep pathogens (harmful bacteria) at bay,
- Aid with digestion, skin health & more,
- Help the body to break down / process nutrients,
- Reside in the gut and promote healthy immune function.
It doesn’t stop there though (and it shouldn’t), because it’s not just about what probiotics do, but what they CAN do. I.e., treatment + probiotic therapy.
Q: What is probiotic therapy?
A: Self-dosing with probiotics, in any and all of its forms, can be a proactive way of preventing disease and pathogens from getting all up in your gut’s grill.
Interesting (to me) is how we as North Americans prefer to consume probiotics compared to our European counterparts.
European diets, particularly northern Euro, are rich in fermented foods (high in probiotics). On the flip side, North America (for the most part) is more into supplement form.
Got a problem? Take a pill… Not really my jam.
Q: What foods are high in probiotics?
A: Fermented foods are particularly high in probiotics. Hence, the rise of kimchi (fermented cabbage).
The fermentation process of foods is essentially where the probiotics (tiny microorganism / healthy bacteria) begin to form – the natural way.
Food & drinks high in probiotics include:
- Pickled cucumbers / pickles
- Kombucha Tea
- Microalgae (spirulina, chlorella + blue-green algae)
- & more
And if dairy’s your thing, opt for yogurts and kefir (fermented dairy) products like kefir milk, or kefir goat milk. These can also be high in antioxidants, but like any packaged food item, read the label. Yogurts can be traps of high fructose corn syrup, sugar + a ton of unnatural, artificial ingredients.
A note on chocolate. While in and of itself, chocolate is not a food high in probiotics, it serves as a conduit for the microorganisms to survive in your gut. Essentially, it helps your body process and retain the health benefits of probiotics.
Q: What are the health benefits of probiotics?
A: Healthy gut. Digestion. Gastrointestinal function – treating diarrhea. Vaginal health. Clear skin.
Need more? Here’s a quickie on each:
Gut Health + Digestion
Probiotics like to dwell in the gut. And I think by now we should all have a good hand on the benefits of a healthy gut (check a couple resources out below**). But essentially, the more probiotics you’ve got in your gut, the more they can keep the pathogens (which cause disease) in check to promote healthy immune function.
** For a good grasp on overall gut-health, check this article out by Dr Amy Myers and Alejandro Junger. And this one from goop called “The Good-Skin, Healthy-Gut Guide to Probiotics” is also particularly helpful for gut-health knowledge.
Gastrointestinal + treating IBS
Studies show that probiotics are an effective treatment for reducing diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotic therapy has even been found to help patients with Crohn’s disease and can help in the recovery process of patients with ulcerative colitis.
To all my female friends out there, as I’m sure you know, your vagina is a finely balanced ecosystem, with several contributing factors. It’s a delicate balance that can be thrown off from things like antibiotics, to hormones, to birth control medication. Probiotics have been found to help maintain balance and restore health within the vagina, and to be helpful for common problems such as yeast infections and UTIs.
Inflammatory skin conditions like rashes, or in more severe cases, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea and/or acne – are often symptoms of a greater root cause. The root, usually stemming from the gut.
By ensuring you maintain a healthy gut – by eating a clean diet, constant (moderate) exercise, and of course, self-dosing with healthy bacteria such as probiotics, may cure symptoms like poor skin health or irritating skin conditions.
Q: Should men be taking probiotics?
A: why not?!
I mean, it’s not like we’ll garner the vaginal benefits since we’ve got an entirely different kind of balanced ecosystem down there. But the rest of the health benefits stand strong.
Q: What is the best form of consuming probiotics?
A: you’ve got two options.
- Naturally, as it occurs in the fermentation process of foods from the earth.
- Supplement form.
Can you tell which one I’m bias to?
Back to the question though, the if you’re looking for the BEST form of consumption, you’ll get different answers depending on who you ask. It can be argued both ways.
Some will tell you that the supplement form is best, as it’s an instant hit of pure probiotics to the body. I’ll tell you that I believe everything in life, including food, should occur naturally.
Think of the fermented foods as the ecosystem that the probiotics need to grow in. The food is their home, their natural habitat. And consuming the foods, means we consume the probiotics in their full form. And often times, consuming the foods, helps our bodies properly process the probiotics, kind of like how chocolate acts as a conduit for the probiotics, in order for our bodies to fully benefit.
Q: How can I integrate probiotics into my diet naturally and regularly?
A: opt for fermented foods that you actually enjoy. If you’re not that into pickles or sauerkraut, you’re not gonna want to keep eating them on a regular basis.
Often, I think we’ve got a pretty good hand on the foods we like and don’t like. And throwing new ones into the mix may seem weird, but it’s just a matter of finding out how you like to eat it best.
Nick Joly | Inspired by Nick