I think it’s the perfect time to talk some more digestion – the all-important system that we’ll be relying on so much tomorrow. Today, I want to talk about my all-time most favorite digestion topic: probiotics.
Today I want to give you a basic breakdown of the most important things that you need to know about probiotics.
- What are probiotics and prebiotics?
- What do probiotics do for us?
- (Plant-based) food sources
- Probiotic supplements
What are probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that contribute to a healthy gut environment – they’re our very own community of health-promoting microbes.
Prebiotics are fermentable fibers that serve as food + nourishment for our healthy gut bacteria.
(Many prebiotics are also considered FODMAPs. Missing out on prebiotics is one of the main reasons I don’t recommend following a low FODMAP diet forever!)
What do probiotics do for us?
Probiotics are probably most well-known for supporting healthy immune + digestive systems but additional benefits are also being studied.
An imbalance in gut bacteria has been associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), bacterial overgrowth, colorectal cancer, and more.
We still need more studies to explain exactly how specific strains work for specific people + conditions but we are discovering more and more about the significant role that our gut bacteria plays in health + wellness.
You can find probiotics in fermented foods, like:
Prebiotics are found in high-fiber foods, such as:
- Whole wheat
Should you take a probiotic supplement?
If you have a depressed immune system, digestive troubles, or any of the conditions I mentioned above, a probiotic supplement could be beneficial for you.
Probiotics are generally safe but, of course, check with a dietitian or doctor to be sure. (You can learn more about working with me one-on-one here.)
Look for a probiotic with a high level of CFU’s – I usually recommend at least 10-15 billion but this also varies person to person.
[CFU’s] = Colony Forming Units aka the number of healthy bacteria in a probiotic supplement. Be sure to investigate supplements and/or foods that market live cultures/probiotics for their CFU level. Many products don’t contain enough beneficial bacteria to make much of a difference.
It’s also difficult to recommend a specific brand or strain because I’ve seen a lot of variability in what works best for people. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are common probiotics that have been well-researched. Saccharomyces boulardii is a specific probiotic strain that has been shown to improve diarrhea symptoms. It’s sold as Florastor here in the U.S. (I have no affiliation with the company.)
For more on gut health…
If you’re as obsessed with probiotics as I am, you might find parts I-II of my digestion series interesting:
You may also like these probiotic-packed tempeh recipes!
Can we just talk about the fact that probiotics are pretty much the coolest thing ever? The fact that we have a sizable army of healthful bacteria living inside of us still amazes me.
I hope you found this Digestion Series interesting and helpful! I want to know, what questions do you still have about probiotics and/or digestion? Comment below so I can be sure to cover it!
And have a very, very, happy Thanksgiving!