This article was originally written for The Sunday Edit.
First, can you please explain what probiotics are — and why they’re (deservedly) all the rage right now?
Probiotics are strains of live bacteria and yeasts that can be beneficial for digestive health. They are typically found either in supplement form or in fermented foods such as yogurt or sauerkraut. Consuming probiotics helps keep our digestive system healthy, balancing out the good to bad bacteria in our microbiome (the population of bacteria that lives throughout our GI tract), and encouraging diversity of healthy species of bacteria (a diverse microbiome is ideal for optimum health).
Unfortunately, everything from our birth circumstances, to taking medications, our modern-day diets, and our stress levels can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the microbiome. Taking probiotics replenishes the number of probiotic bacteria we have and keeps the whole microbiome healthy.
What are some of the benefits of consuming probiotics?
Keeping your microbiome healthy and improving your digestion really is the foundation for health and wellness, as it has such wide-ranging impacts, including:
Greater immunity: over 70% of your immune system is housed in the gut, and by taking a probiotic supplement you can both inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria and increase levels of immune cells such as IgA and natural killer cells.
Lowered inflammation: inflammation is the root cause of all chronic disease, and most of the inflammatory response takes place in the gut. An unhealthy microbiome can cause increased intestinal permeability meaning that pathogens and food particles can get into the bloodstream. This then sets off an inflammatory response that can have negative effects throughout the body.
Improved Mood and Mental Health: over 70% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel calm, relaxed, and happy is made in the gut. If our microbiome is not healthy then we will not be able to make adequate levels of this ‘happy’ hormone. Additionally, our digestive system has its own nervous system (with as many neurons as the brain) and is constantly sending messages back and forth to the brain and the rest of our body.
Weight Management: the bacteria in our microbiome have an impact on so many of our metabolic functions, including the number of calories we obtain from our food, and even the types of foods we crave. Studies show that when the bacteria from lean mice are implanted into the microbiome of obese mice this can cause the obese mice to lose weight without changing their diets or amount of exercise!
Of course, we can get probiotics from the foods we eat, but if we can’t get these foods/don’t like them, supplements can be a great alternative right? Can you discuss which foods probiotics are in — and also why supplements make a great alternative?
Typically, we find probiotics in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha. But the probiotics we find in these foods have usually been included to aid the fermentation process, and not chosen for their benefits to health. However, we are now seeing more ‘functional’ foods that do contain strains of probiotics that have been chosen to boost health, such as Lavva Yoghurt.
Just consuming fermented foods however is not enough to keep your microbiome healthy, which is why it is a great idea to take a daily probiotic also. I always recommend both consuming probiotics as part of your diet and taking a probiotic supplement. Diversity is key for a healthy microbiome, and this approach ensures you are getting a wide range of probiotic strains.
What are the reasons why you’d recommend that someone add a probiotic to their supplement regimen?
There are so many benefits to taking a probiotic supplement that it is one of my top two supplement recommendations. Additionally, there are so many factors in our modern-day lives that negatively affect microbiome health that it is imperative to take a daily probiotic. My probiotic supplement of choice is New Chapter’s Probiotic All-Flora as it contains probiotic strains that both minimize bad bacteria and nourish good bacteria.
Looking for more advice on how to heal leaky gut, balance your microbiome, and improve your gut health? You’ll love my new FREE masterclass ‘Gut Health: the Foundation of Wellbeing’. RSVP here.