Why are probiotics important? These healthy microbes are an essential part of our body. Without them we would not survive. Most of these healthy bugs are found in our gut. Also 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. There is communication between our gut microbes and our immune system and even with our brain via our vagal nerve. Our immune system and brain cannot be healthy and balanced if we have the bad gut microbes. Healthy gut microbes tell our immune system and brain that everything is “OK”. Our gut microbes affects a lot of disease processes such as – infections, cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, inflammation, obesity, arthritis, mental health etc. Isn’t it amazing that these bugs have such a huge influence on our health?*
Our microbes are one of our forgotten organs. It is unique in that this is our only organ that not contain our own DNA. Yet these microbes have profound affects both good and bad on our health. The good news is that we can directly affect this organ’s DNA. We do this by what we eat and with whom we hang out! Yes, it’s composition can be changed by our actions.
So sterile environments prevent us from getting good microbes*. Some examples where we lose the opportunity to get good microbes: Vaginal vs C-section babies, breast vs formula fed babies, drinking chlorinated vs filtered water, eating foods that contain pesticides vs organic foods, antibiotics, diets high in sugar, alcohol.
Other probiotic boosters that come to mind are sharing your home with a dog or cat. Our furry friends are beneficial in more than one way. Our dogs give us love and beneficial microbes!
We also share microbes with family, friends and community. There is now something called fecal transfer, where a person with a certain health problem gets inoculated with fecal material from a healthy donor by swallowing capsules of donor feces.
If your gut is not healthy, you are not healthy.
Correcting your gut microbes (esp if you are on and recently taken antibiotics) is essential.
This is so powerful, that the right microbes, can even reduce our anxiety and worry!
Hence I am recommending you eat some food rich in probiotics with each meal.
FOODS RICH IN PROBIOTICS
Remember: Probiotics when heated will destroy the beneficial bacteria. So you can’t eat these foods heated or microwaved. Also avoid chlorinated water. The chlorine disinfects and can disinfect some of your your gut bacteria too. Drink filtered water only.
Yogurt / Kefir – Non dairy preferred. It is possible that the fermentation process of dairy reduces the pro-inflammatory factors in cow’s milk. Although this has not been my personal experience.
Kombucha – fermented tea. Saccharomyces Boulardii is used in the fermentation process. This probiotic is in the yeast family and can survive the antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections. Hence it is useful in treating Clostridium Difficile infections.
Miso (paste) salad dressing
Natto- fermented soy beans
Fermented Bean curds
Hard cheeses e.g. Comte (Dairy)
Apple cider vinegar- dilute with water
Manuka Honey (helps immune system fight off upper respiratory infections) or any raw honey (mix with 1 cup water 1/4-1/2 tsp vinegar and honey)
Kim Chi, SauerKraut (might be too salty for some people)
Pickled foods e.g. Pickled beets, olives, cucumbers, radishes, etc
Asian Fish sauce
Probiotic capsules (Brand and storage matters. Some have been tested and found to contain nothing. Vary the brand to increase the variety of probiotic stains.)*
How Best to take your Probiotic Capsule:
I recommend to take on empty stomach with a glass of room temperature filtered water and adding some “Just Like Sugar” which contains Inulin, a prebiotic derived from chicory. Just Like Sugar has is a natural sweet taste to it and calorie free. Ingredients are Chicory, calcium and Vitamin C.
I have asked around my contacts about whether to take probiotic with or without food. No clear answer. I could not find any studies to say which is better either. Until there is more reliable information, I am going with the FDA recommendation for the use of oral live vaccines (which by the a way is like a probiotic because the goal is to colonize your gut with the microbe in the vaccine to give you protection from that particular disease).
For example, for oral typhoid vaccine, this is how it is taken:
- Take each capsule on an empty stomach (1 hour before eating or 2 hours after eating)
- Take each capsule with a full glass of cool or lukewarm water. Not hot.
- Keep capsules in refrigerator; The purest Probiotics should be refrigerated.
- No drinking Alcohol at least 2 hours after
Please leave me your comments.
* There still is a need for sterile environments such as during a medical procedures. If you are immunosuppressed, please ask your doctor if extra bacteria could harmful to you or not. Examples – AIDS, Chemotherapy, genetics