GUEST POST - The Pros of Probiotics

Hi! I'm Taylor. I am a Nutrition student at the University of Alberta, as well as an aspiring Registered Dietitian! Living life as a student has been the absolute best. Not only have I had the opportunity to grow into the extroverted person that I am today, but every year that I spend studying nutrition makes me more passionate about using the skills that I have gathered to help those around me. I am very interested in the way that food impacts not only our physical bodies, but also our mental, social, and overall wellbeing. 

I love cooking up new healthy recipes, or trying new sporting activities such as yoga, kickboxing, or spin classes. I believe that healthy living should be exciting and fun, not something that makes people feel deprived of the good things in life. When you realize that food has the power to improve mental health, enhance your energy, change your mood, and increase your overall happiness, the way you think about the contents of your diet changes and this is something that I aspire to instill in others!

The Pros of Probiotics

Probiotics are the latest rage in the nutrition world right now, popping up in magazines, books, and the news, but many people do not actually know what they are or how they impact health. When I started to learn about probiotics and their benefits in some of my classes, I decided that I wanted to share the information that I learned with the rest of you as probiotics can have many positive benefits for our health! I also wanted to share some of the yummy probiotic products that I have found. 

What are Probiotics?

Simply put, probiotics are live microorganisms intended to have health benefits[1]. These good bacteria line your gut, helping your body to absorb nutrients while also contributing to a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

Why do we Need Probiotics?

Did you know that 60-80% of our immune system is located in the gut?[2]. It is our first line of defense against many germs and bacteria. The ability of the gut to protect us from infection is dependent on the good bacteria that live in it. Consuming foods rich in probiotics can help to boost our immune systems, while also helping us to absorb nutrients to get the most out of the food we eat!

 

Choosing Probiotic Foods

Some of the most common probiotic foods are fermented products. These include foods such as yogurts, kefir, Kombucha tea, sauerkraut and kimchi. When choosing a probiotic food, an important thing to consider is the number of bacteria per serving. For example, many kefir products that can be found at your local grocery store contain 2 billion bacteria per 250 mL serving[3]. The more bacteria the better!

Another thing to look for in a product is the number of different strains of bacteria contained in it. Many different types of bacteria live in the gut, so it is important to choose products that contain many different bacterial strains. Many of the products that can be found on the market contain 5 or more strains.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

While probiotics are the live bacteria that line the digestive tract, prebiotics consist of specialized fibre that provides benefits to these bacteria. Prebiotics act as a supplement to the probiotics to promote growth and function[4].

Busting Probiotic Myths

  1. All probiotics are the same
    • There are different quality levels of probiotic products on the market. Not all probiotics are equal! Choose products with high bacterial counts and high bacterial strain counts to get the most bang for your buck. 
  2. Probiotics can replace medications
    • Although probiotics are great at promoting the health of the digestive and immune systems, they are not considered to be a form of medication and should not be used as such. Please talk to your doctor or pharmacist before stopping any medication. 
  3. Most yogurts are good sources of probiotics
    • Interestingly, not all yogurts contain probiotics due to the method of processing. When choosing a probiotic yogurt, it is important to read the label to make sure it is labeled as a probiotic. Make sure that the label says that it contains "live active cultures".

            There are many different ways to include probiotic foods in your diet that are convenient and delicious. It can be as simple as choosing a probiotic yogurt for breakfast, adding sauerkraut to your sandwich, or having a glass of kombucha with your dinner. Probiotic foods not only taste great, but they make you feel great as well! Here are a few of my favourite probiotic products:

  1. Townshend's Brew Dr. Kombucha
    • This kombucha comes in 10 different flavors and contains billions of bacteria per bottle[5]. It’s a yummy and refreshing way to promote the health of your gut!
  2. Liberte Kefir
    • For those of you who aren’t familiar with kefir, it is a fermented dairy product much like a drinkable yogurt. Liberte kefir contains 2 billion bacteria per 250 mL serving and 10 different strains of bacteria. This is important as different types of bacteria can play different roles in promoting gut health. 
  3. The Greek Gods Probiotic Yogurt
    • This yogurt contains billions of bacteria per serving and 5 bacterial strains [6]. Yogurt is a convenient way to get your daily probiotics.

 

References

[1] Isolauri E., Sutas Y., Kankaanpaa P., Arvilommi H., Salminen S. (2001). Probiotics: effects on immunity. Am J Clin Nutr. 73: 444-450.

[2] Axe J. (2017). Probiotics Benefits, Foods and Supplements. Dr. Axe Food is Medicine. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/probiotics-benefits-foods-supplements/

[3] Liberte. (2017). Organic- Strawberry 2%. Retrieved from: http://www.liberte.ca/en/products/organic-strawberry-2-

[4] Jackson FW. (2016). Prebiotics Vs. Probiotics. Prebiotin. Retrieved from: https://www.prebiotin.com/prebiotin-academy/what-are-prebiotics/prebiotics-vs-probiotics/

[5] Townshends Brew Dr. Kombucha. (2017). Our Brews. Retreived from: http://brewdrkombucha.com/raw-organic-kombucha/

[6] The Greek Gods. (2017). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from: http://www.greekgodsyogurt.com/faqs/