You’ve probably heard of probiotics and you likely know that they have some significant health benefits. Because they’re considered a supplement, it’s always best to learn as much as about probiotics as you can before you add them to your routine. In fact, you should discuss their use with your doctor before making a purchase, especially if you have any health conditions or take any medications. In the meantime, use this handy guide to help you see how incredibly beneficial probiotics can be for you and your family.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics come in the form of foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms that are responsible for maintaining a healthy level of good bacteria in your gut. While you might think that bacteria are a bad thing, it pays to understand how the good kinds can help you achieve your health goals. The most common kinds of bacteria found in probiotics are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, but there are a wide variety of others as well. These strains of bacteria operate differently, each one working on a different aspect of your gut health, which translates to the health of your entire body.
What Foods Contain Probiotics?
While supplements like these are perhaps the easiest way to get probiotics into your diet, there are some foods that you can eat to boost your intake as well. Some of the foods that contain probiotics are an acquired taste so if you don’t like them, talk to your doctor about a supplement instead. Foods that contain probiotics include the following:
- Yoghurt – make sure you choose a product that states that it contains live and active cultures
- Kefir – this is a fermented milk drink made from either cow’s or goat’s milk
- Sauerkraut – otherwise known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is a tasty addition to hot dogs and cold cut sandwiches
- Tempeh – made from fermented soybeans, tempeh makes a healthy meat substitute
- Kimchi – this is a fermented vegetable mixture, flavoured with species and served in many Korean dishes
- Miso – used as a seasoning, miso is made from fermented soybeans and contains many other beneficial nutrients
- Kombucha – similar to black or green tea, this is a fermented drink, but more research is needed to find out about its benefits
- Pickles – as cucumbers pickle, they become high in probiotics, though keep in mind that those pickled in vinegar don’t contain probiotics
Buttermilk and some kinds of cheeses also contain small amounts of probiotics. The best way to get a variety of them is to eat all of the foods that contain probiotics. They are all easy to find, fairly affordable and easy to incorporate into your meal plan. There are also proprietary food products designed merely to be a probiotic delivery method – usually a yoghurt-type drink.
Why Eat Probiotics?
There are many health benefits that you can take advantage of when you get plenty of probiotics in your diet. The reason for that is because you are allowing your gut to be populated with beneficial microorganisms that encourage these health benefits. Many aspects of your general health are tied to what’s going on in your gut according to probiotics expert Alicia Harper.
When these probiotics are able to flourish, they help your body more efficiently manufacture important nutrients, including vitamin K and many of the B vitamins. It also enhances metabolic function and boosts your immune system.
Probiotics are also responsible for balancing the amount of good bacteria in relation to the bad. When the bad kind is more plentiful, you increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, conditions all common in Canada. By flooding your gut with probiotics, you are able to counteract the bad bacteria so that you are healthier and at a lower risk of these conditions.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
As mentioned, probiotics work inside your body to encourage good health and prevent health problems. Understanding how probiotics can benefit you is a good way to decide how much and how often to include them in your meal plan. Again, make sure you do this under the supervision of your doctor for the best results.
According to Harvard, one of the biggest benefits of probiotics is their effect on digestive health. This is also one of the most researched findings having to do with probiotics. Some medical experts recommend using probiotics to counteract the diarrhoea often associated with taking antibiotics, especially if they are used for extended amounts of time. This works because antibiotics tend to kill off the good bacteria in your gut and the probiotics help it reflourish. Probiotics also show promise as a way to treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other digestive infections.
Another reason to give probiotics a try is for their potential to encourage weight loss. Studies have found that people who are overweight and obese have a different kind of gut bacteria than slimmer people. Animal studies indicate that repopulating the gut of overweight animals with faecal matter from leaner animals allows the larger animals to lose weight. While probiotics alone can’t be used as a viable weight loss method, it can help reduce belly fat, but should be used in conjunction with a healthy eating and exercise program.
There are other lesser known health benefits. Probiotics may help fight inflammation, making them valuable for health conditions that cause it. They’ve also been shown to sometimes alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Probiotics may also have a positive effect on immunity, lowering the risk of infection and even fighting off the common cold. For people with skin conditions, like eczema, acne or rosacea, probiotics can in some cases be useful for alleviating the symptoms.
As with anything else, you need to understand the possible side effects that go with using probiotics so you can plan for them if they arise. Most canadian people tolerate probiotics well and don’t suffer any side effects. However, some canadians may notice mild digestive discomfort as their bodies adjust according to Healthline. It’s important to note that people with compromised immune systems, such as with HIV or AIDS, should not use probiotics as they raise the risk of dangerous infections.
Probiotics certainly have a place in most people’s meal plan, and you may notice benefits soon after beginning your regimen. If not, stick with it. As your digestive tract adapts and the probiotics begin to do their work, you should start seeing positive results that you are going to be happy with.