Probiotics & Gut Health: Part II - Where to Find Probiotics
In the last post of this series, we covered what probiotics are and why they are so vital to our health. Today, we are covering where exactly to find them in both food and supplement form.
When beginning any routine with probiotics, make sure to take it slow! A little bit goes a long way. Start small and slowly increase the amount your are taking over time.
Let's start with where to find probiotics in food, as "food first" is always my go-to phrase!
Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food
Probiotic foods contain live and active bacterial cultures. The carbohydrates in the food are broken down and are easier to digest. Note that pasteurization kills bacteria, so food can be fermented without containing probiotics.
1. Raw Fermented Sauerkraut, Pickles, or Vegetables
Choose refrigerated products for all varieties of fermented veggies, as the shelf-stable products will have been pasteurized thereby killing all the good bacteria! Look for raw and organic on the label! Add a little bit of fermented veggies to your breakfast - a little will go a long way! And when you are looking to save a little money, make your own sauerkraut! It is simple and cheaper than buying sauerkraut in stores.
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that contains probiotics. Look for real kombucha (unpasteurized, organic, etc), not a "probiotic drink" that claims to
have probiotics added to it (along with extra sugar too of course!)
Real food doesn't have ingredients. Real food IS ingredients.
This is a tough one, as crappy yogurts like Activa are marketed as containing lots of probiotics. Don't believe those lies. Look for a plain, full fat, grass fed, organic yogurt whenever possible to reap the true rewards of probiotics in yogurt. Avoid low-fat/fat-free and flavored varieties at all costs. Simply add your own fruit and nuts to switch up the tangy flavor!
Look for raw, unpasteurized, and organic vinegar. My favorite is apple cider vinegar. I add it when I make homemade bone broth to pull nutrients from the bones.
My pick: Bragg
Now it's time to move to supplements! Probiotic supplements are becoming more and more popular. It is important that you look for quality over quantity. Here's what to look for on the label:
1. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains are preferred
These are the most studied and common strains of probiotics.
2. No extra ingredients
Make sure there is no sugar, corn, wheat, dairy, soy, or other additives.
3. 8 billion organisms/dose is preferred
If it is 8 billion+ or if it isn't labeled on the bottle, don't buy it!
4. Look for numbers after the strains of bacteria
This numbering system is an optional extra step that shows that they strains have been purified, tested, and registered.
5. 6 strains or more
Make sure there are at least 6 strains in your probiotic. You can definitely have more, but be cautious of brands that advertise 100+ strains - it's often a ploy.
Remember, when purchasing a supplemental probiotic, it is important to spend a little bit more for quality, rather than going the cheap CVS route. Trust me, your gut will thank you!
In our last post in this series, we will cover other strategies for healing the gut and digestive process that goes beyond probiotics. Stay tuned!