Probiotics are one of the most exciting areas of study right now as more and more research is pointing towards the health of our gut microbiome as the literal key to a thriving body and mind.
From your immune system to your metabolism, from your mental health to your digestive system all are strongly correlated with the health of your gut, and the ecology of your resident 100 trillion or so gut bacteria.
In this guide we will look into the role of our gut in our health, how probiotics work, the best probiotic foods and supplements you can get as well as optimal dosages to bulletproof your health.
It all starts in the Gut
This complex collection of organs work together to extract nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the food we consume so they can be used and absorbed by the body. But this is only half the equation…
Meet your gut buddies
The importance of the gut in our health has been studied as far back as Hippocrates (460 BC) who some historians attribute to saying “all diseases begin in the gut”.
But what has puzzled researchers is how this mechanism works, how it differs from one person to another, and how certain foods can help some thrive while cause disease in others.
What started in the 1680s with the primitive study of human microbes in patients with different conditions lead much more recently to the understanding that we are not alone…
Immediately after birth our skin, mouth and gut become colonised by a wide range of microbes which settle in our body and co-exist in a somewhat symbiotic relationship. This community also called the human microbiota feature good and bad microbes which outnumber our human cells by an astonishing factor of 10!
But It’s only recently in 2007 when the Human microbiome project was launched that we have started to identify each microorganism’s role in health and disease thanks to genome DNA sequencing technology.
The result is the start of a new wave of promising research into how specific microbe communities identified by DNA sequencing (also known as our microbiome) lives and communicates in symbiosis with your cells.
Together they help turn your food into essential nutrients, and play a vital role in your immune system
How your microbiome influences your health
Your microbiome features hundreds of trillions of bacteria, which is roughly 10 times the number of cells you have in your entire body! Some of these bacteria species called probiotics have a positive influence in our health including:
- Playing a key role in your digestive health helping extract energy and nutrients from food
- Up to 80% of your immune system starts from the Gut, your gut bacteria promote your immune system and offer antimicrobial protection
- Complementing the deficiencies in our digestive system
- Helping the production of hormones such as serotonin
- Affecting your body weight and body composition
- Contributing to appetite regulation
- Impacting your mood, motivation and mental health
- Destroying candida which can lead to better breath
- Healthier skin, with positive benefits for managing eczema and psoriasis
- Increased energy from B12 vitamin production
That’s quite a list!
But we also have bad bacteria species which digest food incorrectly, can add toxins to our foods and cause a deterioration in our health.
According to the American Nutrition Association, the ideal ratio between the “good” probiotic kind and “bad” bacteria is around 85% good, and 15% bad.
But a suboptimal diet, prescription antibiotics, sugar, tap water, grains, stress, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, ageing and illness can affect our gut bacteria and disrupt this careful balance.…
So whenever you consume commercially raised meat, eggs or dairy products, you may also be consuming low doses of antibiotics every day!
To make matters worse modern food distribution decimates our foods natural probiotics by commonly soaking foods with chlorine and refrigerating fruits and vegetables on their journey across the world.
All these factors can break this sensitive balance and cause bad bacteria to take over the neighbourhood denying your body of all the positive benefits and in the short term likely make you experience depression, sugar and carbohydrate cravings, digestive issues like bloating, gas, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhoea, as well as make you more prone to catching common colds, getting skin rashes, experiencing fatigue, aches and muscular pain.
In the long term, gut bacteria imbalances have been found to be involved in over 40 diseases, such as IBD, obesity, diabetes, carcinoma, HIV, autism as well as being a contributing factor to poor sleep, rheumatic and kidney diseases.
The solution to optimising your gut flora: Populating your gut with Probiotics
1/ Load up with Fermented foods rich in probiotics
Un-pasteurised fermented foods are great sources of probiotics, these include:
Raw milk or coconut Kefir or Lassi yoghurt
Goats milk yoghurt
Pickled cabbage sauerkraut, gherkins, beetroot, carrots or cucumbers
Natto (fermented soy)
Beware though that many commercial yoghurts are typically pasteurised, destroying many of the naturally occurring probiotics plus they typically contain added sugars, glucose-fructose and artificial sweeteners which will hinder your gut health.
2/ Probiotic supplements – The ideal solution if you won’t like the taste of fermented foods or want a wider variety of probiotics
Probiotic foods are great, but the problem is not everyone likes the taste of fermented foods!
Also sourcing a wide variety of fermented or probiotic-rich foods to eat throughout the week can be a challenge, especially when many supermarket bought foods come pasteurised, pre-cleaned or from industrial farms…
In these situations taking a probiotic supplement for 1-3 months, 2-3 times a year is recommended to fill the gaps in your nutrition, repopulate your good bacteria and ensure a wide coverage of different probiotic strains.
Our gut bacteria can get decimated after a round of antibiotics, and even under normal conditions need to be repopulated on a frequent basis so probiotic supplements are ideal after a treatment of antibiotics, or can be taken daily to supplement your diet and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
Lastly if you are about to travel to a foreign country with a high chance of getting travellers diarrhoea supplementing could provide added insurance.
When choosing a probiotic supplement, you need to look for the following criteria to ensure quality and efficacy:
- The bacteria strain in the product should be stomach acid and bile resistant so that they can reach your gut unscathed.
- Your probiotic supplement probiotic count should be guaranteed to at least 1 year from date of manufacture, not only at date of manufacture for optimal results.
- Look for a product which contains at least 4 billion CFU per serving, with a wide variety of probiotics organism shown to work for your condition.
Here are some of the most studied strains:
Lacto-bacillus (L GG Culturelle, L casei, L. acidophilus, L. para casei, L rhamnosus, L. gasseri, L. plantarum, L.reuteri) – Has been found beneficial for abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, weight management, immunity, depression, and cholesterol.
Bifido-bacterium (B. Infantis, B. lactis, B. animalis, B.breve, B.longum) – Has been found beneficial for abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, travellers diarrhoea, weight management, immunity, depression, and cholesterol
Bacillus (B. Coagulans) – Has been found beneficial for abdominal pain, bloating, constipation in adults with IBS.
Streptococcus (S. thermophilus) – Has been found beneficial for diarrhoea
Saccharomyces (S. boulardii)- Has been found beneficial for abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and travellers diarrhoea.
If you are looking for an effective supplement check out Daily ProBio XL, a high strength multi-strain Probiotic supplement containing 20 billion CFU per capsule.
This can be used daily for 2-3 months at a time together with improved eating habits to take advantage of the following probiotic strains:
- Bifidobacterium breve PXN25 980m CFU
- Bifidobacterium infantis PXN27 200m CFU
- Bifidobacterium longum PXN30 400m CFU
- Lactobacillus acidophilus PXN35 1.7bn CFU
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus PXN39 190m CFU
- Lactobacillus casei PXN37 7.8bn CFU
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus PXN54 6.9bn CFU
- Streptococcus thermophilus PXN66 1.9bn CFU
Daily ProBio XL is guaranteed to have 20 billion viable organisms per capsule to one year from the date of manufacture, and is stable at room temperature so doesn’t require refrigeration!
3/ Feed your gut bacteria with prebiotics
Prebiotics are food for your gut microbiome. Prebiotic foods contain a non-digestible fibre such as oligosaccharide, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), inulin or polysaccharides which are fermented by your gut buddies and used as an energy source.
Top prebiotic sources include:
Yacon root (you can get this in supplement format)