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Last Updated on May 14, 2021

Top 10 Natural Probiotics for a Healthy Gut and Strong Immunity

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Top 10 Natural Probiotics for a Healthy Gut and Strong Immunity

How often have you heard the expression “you are what you eat”?

This is partially true. However it goes deeper than this and I’d say that you are what you absorb. All the great food in the world doesn’t mean a lot if your body is not digesting and absorbing it properly. Today we’re looking at how important gut health is not only for digestion but your overall health and immunity, and what natural probiotics you can include in your diet to have a healthy gut.

Probiotics and your gut health

Your gut or microbiome, is a collection of bacteria that are critically important for how your body functions. The majority of the DNA in your body is actually taken up by these gut bugs and by definition, you are technically more bacteria than you are human. These gut bugs are keeping you alive along with protecting you against germs, breaking down food to release energy, making vitamins and even controlling your mood.

When the balance of good to bad bacteria gets out of whack, then you can be looking at issues like:

  • Constipation
  • Excess internal gas
  • Chronic diahrhhea
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and cramping
  • Development of food intolerance

Your immune system will also be suppressed leading to easier sickness. Your gut balance can be thrown off by things like sugar, antibiotics, alcohol, lack of physical activity, smoking and not getting enough sleep among a bunch of other things.

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So, how to improve your gut health? Probiotics can help.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can improve your gut health when consumed in adequate amounts. There are a lot of different types and getting a wide range is very beneficial. They also promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

Top 10 Natural probiotics to include in your diet

Since you want as many good gut bacteria as possible, here are the best food sources to find them in:

1. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage that is filled with probiotics. It’s made from sweetened black or green tea. Many brands now include other healthy ingredients in it such as ginger, chai, or a greens extract.

Kombucha is extremely popular right now and easy to find. It’s best to start with 4 oz a day and can be consumed on an empty stomach in the morning or at any other points in the day.

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2. Kefir

Kefir is similar to kombucha in which it’s a fermented beverage but this time coming from milk. This does sound a bit weird but is very healthy. It’s made with ‘kefir grains’ which are strains of bacteria that give the milk its probiotic content and gives a light carbonation. It’s also full of a ton of nutrients, protein and looks to be a better probiotic source than yogurt.

You can use it as a marinade, salad dressing and even in baking.

3. Pickles

Yep, the Snooki favorite! You’re looking at cucumbers that get pickled in salt and water and left to ferment using their own lactic acid bacteria. Pickles made with vinegar don’t contain probiotics but traditional pickles do. They will also give you Vitamin K and are low in calories. Remember not to go with the deep fried variety though.

4. Miso

The Japanese sesasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It’s turned into a paste and is popular for use in soups. Besides probiotics, miso is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

5. Yogurt

This is probably the main go-to food choice for probiotics but you want to be sure of a few things first.

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Many commercial varieties of yogurt are more deserts than a health food especially the ‘fruit on the bottom’ types. Most of these colorfully packaged yogurts contain so much sugar that you’re probably taking a few steps backward.

Go for natural, unflavored and make sure that it says on the package what it contains. If the package doesn’t indicate clearly its nutrients and ingredients, there’s a good chance that a lot of the good bacteria was destroyed during processing.

6. Sauerkraut

Don’t wait for Oktoberfest and a beer stein the size of a Buick, sauerkraut is good all the time! Similar to pickles, sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that is fermented by lactic acid and bacteria. It’s easy to make and can last for months in the fridge.

Along with probiotics, it contains vitamin C, vitamin B and antioxidants. It’s easy to use on said sausages or hot dogs, can be a side dish, in sandwiches and even in stews. (And no a hot dog is NOT a sandwich.)

7. Kimchi

Kimchi is like the Korean sauerkraut. It’s made from cabbage but can also include other vegetables and is seasoned with things like garlic, red chili flakes, ginger and salt etc. The lactic acid bacteria in kimchi helps make it great for digestion and contains vitamins, minerals and iron.

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8. Dark chocolate

Yes, this is actually a probiotic source. Dark chocolate contains fiber and your gut bacteria is able to break down and ferment this and other compounds and also creates anti-inflammatory effects that boost your health.

You want to make sure that you’re consuming dark chocolate that has at least 70% cacao in it and not a Toblerone that’s the size of your head. A square or two a day can provide you with some great health benefits.

9. Green olives

Salt water brined olives undergo a natural fermentation. Since olives contain lactic acid bacteria, this helps give them a good probiotic content. There are two different strains of live cultures associated with olives that are helpful to combat bloating and helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome. (And no it’s doesn’t count if you get your olive content from happy hour martinis!)

10. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is made with a yeast starter which gives it a bit more of a meaty, tender bite to it. It’s why you find vegan meat and bacon alternatives made from it. It’s a great probiotic source that is very versatile to use but also contains a lot of protein. In a 3-ounce serving, you’ll get around 16 grams of protein.

Wrapping it up

We are learning more and more about how important it is to keep our microbiome as healthy as possible. Luckily it’s not hard to include great sources of probiotics that can help boost your gut health and with that your overall health with it.

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Try the above suggested natural probiotics, include them in your daily meals and you’ll gradually see improvement in your gut health!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Published on September 17, 2021

How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits

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How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits

Probiotics are a popular topic among health enthusiasts and medical professionals, alike, and rightfully so! As individuals seek to improve their health by becoming advocates for themselves, probiotics are often a good choice to become part of their new health-focused regimen.

However, there are some ways that will allow you to maximize the health benefits that you can get from probiotics. Read on to learn more about how to take probiotics for the best health benefits.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics

are living bacteria that provide countless health benefits when ingested. These bacteria are naturally occurring in the gut but can—and should—be replenished through external means. The gut contains beneficial bacteria that make up the microbiota and plays a key role in maintaining health in both the body and mind. A healthy gut keeps the digestive process working smoothly, which prevents free radical and toxin build up in the body known to lead to many acute and chronic illnesses[1]

It is also thought that probiotics secrete substances that trigger the immune system to react more strongly, thereby preventing pathogens from being able to take root and cause illness.[2]

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Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

Taking too many probiotics is not a common issue. For those who have taken too many probiotics (and each person will need to find their own tolerance level), they will likely experience gut disruptions and gastrointestinal side effects.

Probiotics are generally safe regardless of the amount taken, and any side effects are generally mild. It is impossible to take a toxic level of probiotics. The most common side effects of taking more probiotics than you can tolerate are gas, bloating, and diarrhea. These side effects can be treated individually and are generally corrected after 24 to 48 hours and stopping the probiotics until they are resolved.

It can be tempting to discontinue probiotic use altogether after a negative experience out of fear of another bad reaction, but simply reducing your dose and taking your probiotic as directed should prevent further issues. It is important for those with a weakened immune system or serious illness to discuss probiotic use with their healthcare provider before starting a probiotic regimen.

Can You Take Prebiotics and Probiotics Together?

As probiotics grow in use, prebiotics is beginning to get attention as well. Prebiotics come in supplement form but can also be fiber-rich foods that feed good gut bacteria. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in the gut while prebiotics maintains the gut microbiome by feeding the good bacteria we have in the gut. Because of this relationship between prebiotics and probiotics, it is perfectly acceptable to take them together. However, if your diet already contains healthy, fiber-rich foods then you will likely not require prebiotic supplements.

Prebiotics contain fibers and natural sugars that encourage the growth of essential gut bacteria. They are easy to digest and keep the gut in balance. Prebiotic foods contain fiber and can include bananas, garlic, and dark leafy greens. Probiotic foods contain live cultures and include miso, some yogurts, kimchi, and sauerkraut.[3]

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You can learn more in my other article: Prebiotic vs Probiotic: What’s the Difference and Why Are They Important?

Can You Take Probiotics While Pregnant?

When carrying a child, a mother wants to create the safest environment possible. This is a time where the mother-to-be will begin integrating new and recommended health practices like exercise, supplements, and new diet habits. One question that is asked by pregnant women is whether or not probiotics are safe to take while pregnant. The benefits of probiotics are well documented, and many pregnant women want to know if probiotics will benefit them as well.

Pregnancy may be a good time to integrate a probiotic into your regimen simply due to the increased potential for an imbalance in gut bacteria that pregnancy naturally produces. Stress, medications, diarrhea, and vomiting as well as certain diet choices can cause bad bacteria to overrun the gut and lead to a dampened immune response, inflammation, fatigue, and more.

The simple answer is yes, probiotics are generally safe to take while pregnant. However, it is always recommended to discuss any introduction or discontinuation of supplements with your healthcare provider.

Many studies have shown that not only are probiotics safe to take while pregnant but also that they can add great benefits for mother and baby. A 2019 study by Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology found that the pregnant women’s gut microbiota improved through probiotic supplementation and that her immune system was enhanced.[4]

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During pregnancy, the pregnant mom’s immune system will go into a dampened state as the body works to protect and grow the fetus. This places her at greater risk for common illnesses she may have been able to fight off naturally before. Therefore, integrating a probiotic into her supplement regimen may help keep her and her baby safe from unwanted and avoidable illness.

One important factor to consider when taking a probiotic during pregnancy is the quality of the product you are purchasing. Not all probiotics are created equal. To maximize benefits while also avoiding unnecessary ingredients, it is crucial to choose a high quality and reputable probiotic.

When Is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?

As with many supplements and medications, there are certain times and factors that can change their efficacy, for good or bad. Research shows that the best time to take a probiotic is 30 minutes before a meal.[5] Consistency is key when it comes to taking a probiotic and experiencing as many of the potential health benefits as possible. This means that it is necessary to take it daily to ensure routine and regular replenishment of the gut’s bacteria.

The stomach is a highly acidic environment, which can make it difficult for many supplements to pass through in their most bioavailable form. The same is true for probiotics. Look for a high-quality probiotic that uses time-release tablets to deliver its bacteria safely to the gut.

The composition of your meal can also help or hinder your probiotic’s efficacy. A large meal will move more slowly through the stomach and trigger more stomach acid production. If your probiotic is taken along or prior to this type of meal, the probiotic will move more slowly and be exposed to a hostile environment for longer.

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The Bottom Line

When taking a probiotic, the most important thing to consider is product quality. Carefully read packaging and websites to ensure you are getting a product that is safe, pure, and effective. Look for a probiotic that will release its bacteria slowly and deliver them safely past your stomach acid.

Probiotics have been shown to support the immune system, prevent gastrointestinal issues, combat side effects from chronic conditions, and give extra support during pregnancy. These are just a few from a long list of scientifically backed benefits. Regardless of your motivation, just about every individual can benefit from adding a probiotic to their supplement and health regimen.

Lastly, here’s my recommendations on probiotics: 7 Best Probiotic Supplements (Recommendation and Reviews)

Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

Reference

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