What are probiotics?
Probiotics are tiny living organisms that have been scientifically proven to benefit your health. They are usually bacteria, but may be yeasts or other microscopic critters. They can be similar to the “good” bacteria already in your body, particularly those in your gut. The most common probiotic bacteria are from the Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium groups, although many other types of helpful bacteria.
Each group of bacteria contains many species and many strains within each species. Different strains have different benefits for different parts of your body. Probiotics only remain in your body temporarily, so the benefits of eating probiotic foods disappear after a few weeks if you stop eating them.
People who suffer from IBS often benefit from increasing the number and diversity of probiotics, because these help to break down FODMAPs in the bowel properly and prevent windy, gassy, bloaty IBS symptoms.
Here are my top tips for improving your gut bacteria:
- Ensure foods that advertise “live bacteria” contain over one billion CFU (coliform units) per serve.
- For probiotic supplements, check that they contain least 8 – 10 healthy bacteria strains.
- In addition to a supplement, aim to eat probiotic-rich food every day (1 billion CFU). Rotate between a small tub of yoghurt* containing live bacteria; ½ cup milk kefir* or water kefir; ¼ cup unpasteurised kimchi or sauerkraut; and some fermented soy bean (miso, tempeh) if possible (* these dairy choices may need to be lactose free, if you are lactose intolerant).
- Reduce the need for antibiotics for issues such as urinary tract infections through preventative measures.
- If you do require antibiotics, continue to use a probiotic supplement, but take the probiotics several hours apart from antibiotics.
- Choose fermented foods (carbohydrate broken down by bacteria or yeast without oxygen) that use salt and whey rather than “pickled” foods that contain vinegar.
- Make or buy Kimchi to use instead of pickles as a condiment to add flavour to Asian foods.
- Make or buy Sauerkraut (not heat treated) to use instead of pickles as a condiment to add flavour to meals.
- Learn more about probiotics from the experts.
- Learn more about fermenting foods. Seek out a local food fermenting course or experts in your local area.
- Pregnant and immune compromised individuals should seek medical advice before using probiotics.