If you’re interested in improving your health and avoiding the doctor’s office, consider the benefits of consuming foods that are naturally rich in probiotics like such as sauerkraut, pickles and other fermented vegetables, raw cultured dairy foods such as yogurt, sour cream and kefir.
Your immune system, located in the intestinal tract, is the epicenter of health. It controls how the body deals with illnesses, bacteria, viruses, and disease. One of the most important components of immune health is beneficial bacteria, or probiotics. Without these friendly bacteria, our immune systems cannot function properly and our bodies become susceptible to disease and illness.
The ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your intestinal tract is ideally about 85/15%. Since we have trillions of bacteria in our digestive system, this balance is challenging to maintain – especially with the average Western or American diet which consists of many processed foods that are devoid of nutrients, enzymes, and good bacteria and the increasing number of harmful or pathogenic bacteria that are continually entering our food supply and environment.
If you are not receiving adequate healthy bacteria in your diet and environment along with nourishing foods, rest, and stress relief, your body is more vulnerable to illness and chronic disease.
These living bacterial microorganisms are essential to assist the body’s natural ability not only to maintain so many basic functions, but to heal itself. We have become so accustomed to doctors prescribing antibiotics for illness, we may not stop think what effect synthetic, engineered medications have on the human body. While these drugs may have immediate short-term effects we consider convenient because they allow us to return to our normal everyday activities, antibiotics effectively kill all bacteria in the body. The result is a weakened immune system that is rendered defenseless to other invaders which may come in the future. This includes viruses, fungi and other substances as well as unfriendly bacteria that may have mutated into some other strain the body is simply unequipped to handle.
Probiotics prevent and offer protection against a wide-range of health problems. Studies also show that these friendly organisms can actually be responsible for helping to avoid serious disease such as cancer, Diabetes, and heart disease.
The best way to obtain probiotics from healthy sources is to consume raw dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, and traditionally-fermented foods like home-made yogurt from organic raw milk, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir. Use caution with store-bought varieties - check labels and see A word about yogurt and other commercial probiotic products below as there are some brands that sell truly healthy, fermented products such as Zukay, Farmhouse Culture or Rejuvenative Foods.
There are also a wonderful variety of lacto-fermented vegetables that are not only rich in nutrients but also provide a wealth of flavor to the diet as well. The process of making these foods produces a by-product called whey (the protein source in dairy) which is used to develop beneficial bacteria in foods that are already nutritious. For some information on the lacto-fermentation process on the Weston A. Price Foundation site.
Some practitioners or health consultants may say that probiotics are only necessary to those with gastrointestinal problems, patients who take antibiotics, people who are susceptible to chronic yeast infections, or those who are under a lot of stress (sound familiar?).
The truth is that most people in developed countries fall into at least one of these categories and therefore, everyone can benefit from a good quality, daily dose of probiotics. Keep in mind that all probiotics are not the same, and using care when selecting them is important. The best way to go about selecting such an important supplement for your health is to visit a health care practitioner that uses muscle testing or other effective method, to determine which probiotic will effectively maintain immune system performance at its optimal function. In today’s market, probiotics can be found nearly everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations to health food stores. Choosing the correct type can be overwhelming and confusing.
Where to find effective probiotics
Here is a list of superior probiotic products I’ve used and recommend to clients that will improve your health. It is important to determine that the product you are buying works because many probiotic supplement products on the market do not deliver the promises they claim on the label. And worse, some products are actually derived from toxic ingredients or include genetically-modified substances.
These are therapeutic, professional grade products. They cost more than many brands you will find in grocery or health food stores, but their potency is guaranteed and worth the money spent:
- GUTPro – organically-produced probiotics, safe for GAPS, SCD, gluten-free, Body Ecology, and PANDAS, and those with autism.
- GUTZyme – by same company that makes GUTPro, GUTZyme contains Pepsin Plus Enzymes and HCL (hydrochloric acid) for improved digestive support.
- MegaSporeBiotic | Microbiome Labs - Spores, derived from the word “seed,”are the most basic building block of a new cell. Found naturally in our environment, spores area robust and effective way of delivering probiotics. Once in the intestines, they strengthen the immune system and protect from infection. Bacillus Licheniformis and Bacillus Indicus produce the full spectrum of B vitamins and Folic Acid and natural antibiotics (respectively) to boost immunity and digestion. Effective for Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
- HLC MindLinx by Pharmax – the first probiotic specifically developed for those with gluten and casein intolerance including autism, ADHD, Celiac, and food allergies. These other Pharmax products are also excellent: HLC High Potency Probiotic Capsules, HLC Neonate Powder for infants and HLC High Potency Probiotic Powder and HLC Child Chewable Probiotic for children.
- Enzyme Formulations – This product is available in powdered form, and is not only potent but works fast. Contains over 20 billion count of various bacteria as shown on the label. It contains and you must have a relationship with a healthcare practitioner to buy this product. Visit this link to find a practitioner.
- Custom probiotics – powerful probiotics with a variety of product offerings, quality single and multi-strain Acidophilus and Bifidus dietary supplements, for children and adults.
- Complete Probiotics (Dr. Mercola) - 70 billion gut-friendly bacteria in every 2-capsule serving. Promotes optimal environment for the growth of beneficial bacteria, critical support for immune system, removal of harmful toxins, aids in digestion of food, promotes the synthesis of B vitamins and improves calcium absorption and more.
- Advanced Naturals – containing 50 billion cultures per capsule, recommended by colon hydrotherapists.
A word about yogurt and other commercial "probiotic" products
Most grocery store yogurt falls short of delivering the health benefits we are told it does by health professionals. Even the “organic” labeled products have flaws that prevent our digestive system from reaping the benefits of the important probiotics supposedly contained within the package.
Beware of products on the mainstream market such as Activia by Dannon and YoPlus by Yoplait. Contrary to product labeling and marketing, these products are not whole foods by any imagination-stretch and do not provide nutrition. They contain ingredients such as corn syrup, sugar, fructose, modified corn starch, and pasteurized dairy that is skim or non-fat (altered and not whole or raw). All of these ingredients spell trouble for the digestive system because they do not guarantee live delivery of necessary bacteria into the intestinal tract and add more toxins to your body. Even though these companies add fruit like strawberries to their product so you will better enjoy the flavor, fruit is an unnecessary additive and may actually inhibit the delivery of friendly bacteria into your gut.
What's more, there has been seen an explosion of "probiotic" supplements and food products on the market, in both health food type stores and chain food stores, which purport to contain probiotic benefits. Most store products fall short of label claims for bacterial count and/or diversity. There are of course, some exceptions and some excellent artisan products and brands. Do your research to find out which contain optimally higher counts and diversity of friendly strain probiotics. It's always a good idea to make your own at home, if possible. Those results will typically yield higher numbers and more diverse strains of the friendly bacteria you seek for optimal health.
To get started making your own, here are some resources for getting started making sauerkraut, pickles and other cultured vegetables, yogurt, kefir, water kefir kombucha and more:
Here is a list of reasons why commercial yogurt may fall short of friendly bacterial counts:
- 99% of yogurts on the market contain some type of sugar (even so-called “benign” sugars such as maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, or fructose). Sugar is the number one, arch enemy to populating your digestive tract with friendly bacteria. Instead of adding to the good bacteria, sugar content causes your digestive system more duress by growing more bad bacteria.
- Many commercial yogurts are low-fat. Only whole or full-fats provide maximum probiotic benefit of the foods you eat. Removing fats from foods reduces the net nutritional value since many available nutrients in foods are found in the fat (fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2). Altering foods in this way also diminishs the probiotic activity since it is no longer a whole food.
- Store bought yogurt has been processed and most notably, pasteurized. The process of pasteurization causes destruction of friendly bacteria, enzymes, and microbes, thus rendering the yogurt much less potent in good bacteria to help your digestive tract.
- Commercial yogurts are generally cultured for a fairly short period of time – usually not more than 12 hours. In some causes, the yogurt has had some type of thickening agent to give it the same consistency as real yogurt. Home made yogurt usually has more probiotics, especially because you can culture it for as long as you want, and thus it can turn out thicker (results depend on technique, ingredients, temperature and other factors). It will also be more tart due to the lactic acid which means the bacteria counts are higher and more beneficial. Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome recommends creating your own yogurt at home and fermenting for 24 hours. This uses up most of the lactose – a sugar which naturally occurs in milk – and allows for more cultures to be grown. Some people are dairy intolerant or to lactose, especially those with compromised immune systems, which makes 24 hour yogurt beneficial for those who experience these challenges.
- When you make your own yogurt, you have complete control over the milk you use. The optimal type of milk to use is raw milk from a healthy source where cows are on pasture grazing, and no antibiotics, hormones, GMO feed, nor pesticide or herbicides are used.
Although homemade yogurt does take a bit of effort, the health benefits are worth the effort. Once you start incorporating homemade yogurt into your regular food making regimen you may wonder how you ever did without it.
Remember that while many commercial companies producing yogurt and other products are in business to make money, those listed that produce probiotic supplements are reputable companies working to improve people’s health. A reputable company will provide studies and research to back up their claims, while some other may not present the whole truth to their consumers about the effectiveness of their products - nor the manner in which they are produced - and use marketing terms to sell products. A simple comparison of the net nutritional value of those listed above should reveal the quality of ingredients.
Resolution for allergies
Along with a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits, including foods and quality supplements with probiotics can also greatly reduce the body’s reaction to allergies. Practitioners and individuals agree that this type of supplement, when taken properly, is highly effective to reduction and elimination of allergies.
The idea that allergies are triggered by so-called “allergens” is a common misconception. Although the allergen may indeed be the culprit of allergenic symptoms, the underlying cause of allergies is almost always 1) weakened immunity and 2) consumption of substances/products that cause the body to attack itself or produce a super-immune response.
A key factor to avoiding allergies in foods is variety and avoidance of foods that cause symptoms. Repeated exposure to the same elements can cause allergies to develop over time. To learn more about how allergies are affected by probiotic use, read this medical journal article from Cambridge University and the Nutrition Society.
What are prebiotics?
If you have faced chronic health challenges and/or have eaten a diet of processed foods for a period of time, it may also be important to find a good daily probiotic supplement. Recommended: EcoBloom by Body Ecology.
A significant amount of prebiotic foods are also necessary to help maintain this delicate balance of healthy immunity within the body. Prebiotics are a indigestible dietary fiber which trigger the growth of favorable bacteria and subsequently have positive effect on the intestinal flora found in your gut. Together, prebiotics and probiotics help your body in a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotics can be found in foods with sugar. But since sugar itself is an enemy to the body, we must select the correct types of sugar for this need. Here are some foods with good prebiotic content:
- raw dairy products from healthy cows on pasture
- inulin, found in 36,000 plants, such as:
fruits – apples and bananas
sweet vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks
raw apple cider vinegar – mix with water, juice, or over salads with healthy oils such as olive and or flaxseed oil
herbs – dandelion, burdock, and chicory root
Additional reading on probiotics and prebiotics: