Probiotics: Healthy Gut, Happy Heart

 

What is a probiotic? When I say this to people I am either met with a gleeful “They have completely changed my life!” or a “What is that?”

Let’s start with discussing the human gut micoflora.  In our stomach, we have bacterium (both good and bad), yeast, and fungus. Yum, right?

Daily exposure to processed foods, a lack of healthy fiber, fruits and vegetables, over-sanitizing, chemicals/toxins in our environment and products, and especially antibiotic usage leads to a disruption in the balance of our digestive systems. The bad bacteria wins and the good bacteria gets wiped out. And then we feel like, ironically enough, poo.

You’ve probably been told before by your Obgyn to eat yogurt, as it contains acidophilus cultures, or to take a supplement as it can help with women’s issues, such as yeast infections or bloating during your period.

In 2012 and I started taking a probiotic supplement. I did this after my son started taking them to help with constipation (we had a tough transition from breast milk to formula) and it greatly helped him.

I was also on a personal quest to feel healthier and shed some weight. After having two children in 3 years, I am 30 pounds lighter than in my engagement pictures and 70 less than my top weight while pregnant with my son. I attribute it to changing to organic foods, clean eating, exercise, and of course probiotics!

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I also started using apple cider vinegar circa 2012.  I don’t use it daily- just when feeling bloating or after a sugar bender (it does happen)!  On top of avoiding excess sugar and eating a clean diet, apple cider vinegar can  bolster a healthy gut:

“Millions of people around the world struggle with candida and yeast.  The side effects can be bad breath, lack of energy, UTI’s and digestive issues.  ACV contains probiotics and a type of acid that promotes the growth of probiotics which help kill off candida.  Remove sugar from your diet and consume 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar 3x daily as part of a candida cleanse.” [4]

Today my family is a probiotic powerhouse. We take pill probiotics daily. I drink Kombucha tea most days of the week.  I make our berry smoothies with unsweetened Kefir, my kids eat a balance diet with powdered probiotics and organic yogurt daily, along with prebiotic fibers from grains and fruits and vegetables.

lifeway kefirDid you know you can make your own Kefir out of grains? I had a friend get me started on homemade Kefir. It’s really easy.  You can also purchase store-bought Kefir in the yogurt section. We use Lifeway Brand. It’s like liquid yogurt in a bottle. They make it flavored but it’s a sugar bomb, so buy plain or unsweetened.

 


Probiotic and Prebiotic Basic Information

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“Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, while prebiotics are found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes. In addition, probiotics and prebiotics are added to some foods and available as dietary supplements.

Although more research is needed, there’s encouraging evidence that probiotics may help:

  • Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics.
  • Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections.
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu.” [1]

Per Dr. Mercola’s website: “Probiotics help in the production of both vitamin K and B vitamins, and promote mineral absorption. They also aid in metabolism and the breakdown of toxins.” [5]

So really the question is: “Why wouldn’t you incorporate probiotics into your health and wellness regiment?”  You may be crazy not to try them!

We are a healthy family- everyone is in a proper weight range and feeling great. Colds often stay as just colds with the occasionally ear infection or slight fever. Even the stomach bug I caught this year was tolerable. It’s easy to get probiotics if you know where to look…


Probiotic Rich Foods

Probiotics can be taken via supplement or be found naturally occurring in foods and beverages. Fermented foods and dairy in particular.

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“Most probiotic organisms occur naturally in cultured milk products, such as yogurt with active cultures, acidophilus milk and kefir, as well as natural pickles and sauerkraut. ” [3]

Foods that Contain Probiotics: Yogurt, Kefir, Kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), Tempeh, Sauerkraut, Pickles, Kombucha tea (fermented tea), Soy Milk, some Milks may have it added, Dark Chocolate (antioxidants as well), Microalgae (can add to smoothies-I’ve never tried this), and Miso Soup.

Foods that Contain Prebiotics: Whole grains, bananas, raw or cooked onions, raw garlic, honey, Jerusalem artichokes, raw asparagus, beans, raw dandelion greens (add to salads), and raw wheat bran (add to cereals or oatmeal).

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When cooked many prebiotics lose their fiber, so eat raw when possible. Try for 5 grams of prebiotic fiber per day. Of course, buy organic also. Toxins and chemicals make it harder for your body to function properly.


Immune System Studies

Did you know that up to  80% of our immune system stems from our gut? [5]

“There’s evidence that without adequate normal flora, the immune system can’t work properly, lessening resistance to infection.” [3] [4] Dr. Weil  mentions especially after a round of antibiotics you need a probiotic supplement to re-establish a healthy gut flora as the antibiotic will wipe out the good bacteria.

Researchers are starting to study the effect of our gut flora on our brain activity, which may foster the development of integrative food-as-medicine and supplement approaches for dealing with issues like depression or anxiety; rather than being reliant on mainstream medications.

The answer to immune issues may be in figuring out how our stomachs play a role in our histamine responses (allergic responses).  “Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.” [5]

As a mother with a child with a peanut allergy, I am extremely vested in the outcome of these early study trials.  We give our child probiotics almost daily (Culturelle kids powdered probiotic) and it’s also found in his multivitamin (Rainbow Light Children’s Vitamins plant based nutrition). You can Order here from Amazon.

Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne gave 60 children who are allergic to peanuts either a probiotic along with a small dose of peanut protein or a placebo:

“Lead researcher Associate Professor Mimi Tang said more than 80 per cent of children who received the protein and probiotic were able to tolerate peanuts without any allergic symptoms at the end of the trial. “This is 20 times higher than the natural rate of resolution for peanut allergy,” she said. Twenty-three of the 28 children who received the probiotic with the peanut protein were able to eat peanuts after the study. The effect lasted for two to five weeks after treatment. The strain of probiotic used in the study was Lactobacillus rhamnosus.” [2]

 Again, these are clinic trials, do not attempt to give any food allergic child anything they are allergic to!  We were thrilled last year when our son’s IGE levels dropped dramatically in just 12 months.  Our allergist explained that it cannot be attributed to any one factor at this point. However, luck may be on our side that he may outgrow the allergy.

We keep praying and we wonder if the probiotic use is what is helping?


Final Thoughts on Probiotic Use

Cartoon green butterfly caterpillar insectTry Probiotics!  There is nothing to lose. You will notice a difference, especially if you take them for 30 days or more. I took a 2 week hiatus from probiotics this winter and ended up with a stomach bug. No kidding!

I also took probiotics while pregnant and nursing my daughter.  My Obgyn suggested it would help any constipation issues. Post C-section was so much easier after having my daughter for that very reason. Of course, ALWAYS check with your personal doctor first.

I would buy a 30 day supplement (pill or liquid) and take it regularly.  You can also order here. Always store as directed either refrigerated or on a dry shelf. I personally use probiotics with 1 billion CFU (colony forming units) or more.  This is per Dr. Weil’s website. You want plenty of CFU’s to make it through your stomach acid and into the lower GI tract. Start slowly incorporating supplements and foods in your diet.

You wouldn’t buy a dog without buying a leash, so make sure you are incorporating plenty of prebiotic rich foods into in your diet! Recall, the prebiotics fuel the probiotics.

This article gives information on probiotic amounts to look for when buying: Recommended Dose for Probiotics: LiveStrong.com.  I  felt it a little conservative, but it may be better for beginners.

My family has been taking probiotics since 2012 and it has greatly helped our digestive health and overall well-being.


Easy Probiotic Smoothie Recipe:

In a blender, add 1 cup frozen organic berries, 3/4 cup unsweetened Kefir, 1/2 cup Vanilla Almond or Soy milk, 1 cup flavored yogurt, 1 tsp honey, 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Blend well. You can also add vanilla protein powder. Or chocolate protein powder and 1 drop peppermint essential oil (Young Living brand).


Always check with your doctor or physician before starting any sort of supplement regiment. They can recommend trusted brands and amounts safe for consumption. This advice is not regulated by the FDA nor intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any diseases.  If you are on any medications, are pregnant or may become pregnant always consult your doctor first.

Sources:

  1. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.  Consumer Article: Do I Need to Include Probiotics and Prebiotics in my Diet?  Mayo Clinic:   www.mayoclinic.org
  2. Scott, Sophie. January 28, 2015.   Probiotics Offer Hope for Children with Peanut Allergies. www.abc.net.au
  3. Weil, Dr.  Vitamin Library: Probiotics Article. and “What’s the Point of Probiotics?” . Accessed January 2016.  www.drweil.com
  4. Axe, Dr., 20 Unique Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar.   www.draxe.com
  5. Mercola, Dr. Probiotics Found to Help Gut’s Immune System. Dr Mercola website.

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