Written by: Drew Canole
You might be surprised to learn that how you feel - and even how you look every day - is directly tied to the health of your gut.
To maintain good health, your gut must properly absorb nutrients and help eliminate waste and toxins on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, most people are dealing with toxic-overload and their guts… well, they’re not working as they should be.
You see, your gut is not only in the CENTER of your body, but it’s also at the CENTER of your health and wellbeing!
Bottom line: If your gut isn’t healthy, you won’t be either!
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that help nurture and balance your gut microbiome.
The word “probiotic” breaks down as pro = for and bio = life. Together = for life! Pretty cool.
Probiotics are the health-ninjas that:
- Keep harmful bacteria and microorganisms in check
- Aid in digestion and nutrient absorption
- Make sure your body receives the vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids from the foods that you are consuming
- Are needed for the generation of certain B vitamins, vitamin K, folate and some short-chain fatty acids
- Contribute to proper immune system function
- Help your body maintain proper pH
Good bacteria (probiotics!) are absolutely vital to keeping the bad bacteria out, keeping potential infections at bay, keeping inflammation under control and preventing disease from taking over your body!
What Are Probiotic Strains?
Not all probiotic bacteria are identical. They differ on the basis of species, strain and results. Different strains have different benefits to the human body. Most probiotics will include the 2 major strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum. However, the best probiotic supplements will go above and beyond by including several more strains.
We will talk about the different strains near the end of this post so stay with me!
Probiotics must both live and colonize within the gut to induce beneficial effects. Probiotic cultures vary and the benefit of a probiotic is not measured simply by the number of living bacteria in the foods you eat or in the supplements you take. The beneficial effects of probiotics depend on the ability of the bacteria to survive and colonize within your gut.
This is measured by colony forming units (CFUs). CFU represents a bacteria or yeast that is capable of living and reproducing to form a group of the same bacteria or yeasts.
What Is The Relationship Between Your GUT And Probiotics?
According to Hippocrates, “All disease begins in the gut.” Healing your gut is one of the first and most important steps to regaining health and vitality. Probiotic-rich foods help replenish the good bacteria we need to support our digestive tract.
So why are probiotics so important to pay attention to? Check this out.
Roughly 70% of our immune cells are housed in the digestive system!
There are more bacteria in your digestive system than there are cells in your body and all together, the bacteria in your gut weighs around 4 lbs.
And believe me, those are pounds you DO NOT want to shed!
Roughly 95% of your serotonin (the “feel good” or “happy” hormone) is stored in your gut as well.
More and more scientists, doctors and researchers are discovering the incredible link between your GUT HEALTH and your MENTAL WELLBEING.
Turns out that, in some cases, “chronic” diseases such as depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia may be linked to severe imbalances and inflammation in the GUT.
Researchers at Oxford University have found that “prebiotic” supplements (literally the nourishment for the good bacteria in your gut) may have an anti-anxiety effect, as they alter the way people process emotions. The participants of this study not only experienced less anxiety when faced with negative stimuli, but also showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol (the stress hormone - “fight or flight”).
For more information on the link between gut and mental health, I would highly encourage you to read the book, A Mind Of Your Own by Dr. Kelly Brogan, M.D.
Symptoms Of Gut Imbalance
So how do you know if you have a good healthy bacteria-balanced gut or not?
Symptoms of an imbalance in your microbiome include:
- Food allergies
- Food sensitivity
- Erratic sleep patterns
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia
- Mental fogginess
- Learning and behavioral disorders
- Irregular mood
- Lactose Intolerance
- Skin issues, like: Eczema, Psoriasis, Rashes
- Autoimmune Diseases (lupus, MS, arthritis, etc.)
- Crazy food cravings
- Bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea
- Cramping after meals
There are an awful lot of symptoms that can be traced back to a gut that is in poor shape. Another great clue as to the health of your gut would be…
Poop is the byproduct of either a healthy or a struggling gut. How it comes out, when it comes out and what it look/smells like have great implications as to the wellbeing of your digestive system!
That’s right. As “poopy” as it sounds, your poop is a great indicator of whether or not you are getting enough probiotics on a daily basis.
Good poop: Like a sausage, smooth and soft, or soft blobs with clear-cut edges that pass easily.
Not-so-good poop: Separate hard lumps, a lumpy sausage, cracked and dry, mushy, watery or non-existent.
If you are experiencing the not-so-good poop more than the good poop than it is time to take action and give some serious love to your gut!
Why Are Probiotics Important?
I cannot emphasize enough how important your gut health is to your overall wellbeing. And one of the very best things you can do for your gut is consistently supply it with foods rich in probiotics.
Dr. Mercola states, in his article about probiotics:
“Your body contains about 100 trillion bacteria -- more than 10 times the number of cells you have in your entire body. It's now quite clear that the type and quantity of microorganisms in your gut interact with your body in ways that can either prevent or encourage the development of many diseases.”
Green Med has gathered a list of over 200 studies that point to the amazing abilities of probiotics and how they can help hundreds of diseases and ailments. Here is just a short list of what they can do for you.
If your gut is lacking in good bacteria and other microorganisms, it cannot digest nutrients efficiently, no matter how much healthy food you eat. If you want to absorb as many nutrients as possible, then you need plentiful good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are also vital to keeping an abundance of bad microorganisms out of your system, thus keeping your body healthy and happy.
Everything that enters your gut is filtered through the good bacteria and is either sent to the eliminatory system, or pumped to every cell in your body. Make sure your cells are only getting the good stuff by filling your life with good foods and lots of probiotics.
Symbiosis means “to live in harmony,” while dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of the microbial colonies in the body. In a healthy digestive system, the various bacteria strains keep each other in check in order to remain balanced and healthy. Imbalance occurs when these “checks” are unable to happen effectively and one strain dominates over another, compromising the system as a whole and making it harder for the good bacteria to do its job.
Antibiotics have helped countless people overcome painful illnesses and infections, nobody is arguing that. However, antibiotics are extremely hard on your digestive system, as they not only target the bad bacteria, but the good as well. Replenishing your system during and after antibiotic treatment is so important for your gut and your overall well-being. If you have taken antibiotics recently or are taking them now, start using a good probiotic! It won’t interfere with the medication - it will only enhance your body’s ability to defeat infection by boosting your healthy gut flora, thus boosting your immune system.
TIP: While using an antibiotic, you’ll want to double your dose for the duration of the RX and for the same amount of time after you’ve completed your treatment. So for example, if you take an RX for 14 days, double your dose for 28 days total and then go back to your regular dose.
Have you ever heard the gut referred to as your “second brain?” Some people call it this because it houses the 500 millions neurons that make up your enteric nervous system. The ENS creates 50% of all dopamine in the body and 95% of our serotonin! These hormones play major roles in making us feel happy and fulfilled. It makes sense that an unhealthy gut may disrupt the proper production of these fundamental hormones.
Proven by researchers at UCLA, the correction of healthy bacteria in the gut can optimize neurotransmitter function, leading to improved mental health and may even improve learning and sharpen focus and memory.
Give me those probiotics! Who’s with me? :)
Researchers in Australia at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have begun using probiotics to help children overcome fatal peanut allergies. At the end of an 18-month study where 30 children were administered Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a bacterial strain used as a probiotic, they found that 80% of the participants were able to tolerate peanuts. Amazing!
Many food allergies may be linked to poor gut health, whereas there is insufficient good bacteria levels present. Heal the gut, heal the body.
Heavy Metals, Bisphenol A, Pesticides And Cancerous Food Preservatives
It’s one of the unfortunate side effects of advanced civilization: the age of convenience and packaged foods. Even if we are careful, toxins are going to end up in our body one way or another. They are going to seriously hurt some people, while barely being felt by others. What is the difference? A healthy gut. A system full of good bacteria will be able to detoxify these nasty substances and keep them from disrupting your health and wellbeing.
A large portion of negative symptoms in the body are due to toxin overload and a gut that is too weak to get rid of them. Every detox regimen should focus on strengthening the gut first.
Think about this… When your gut is imbalanced, such as with dysbiosis or leaky gut, you literally have holes in your gut lining. Picture it this way:
You have a window screen that is designed to keep bugs out, right? Now imagine holes in your screen. The bugs would be able to fly right in, wouldn’t they? Your gut is the same way. Holes in your “screen,” or lining, allow for “bugs” (toxins, etc.) to seep into your bloodstream and create enormous problems for your overall health, internally and over time; externally as well.
When this happens, your immune system becomes confused and begins attacking itself, thus creating Autoimmunity (literally, the ‘attack of self’). Of course, this doesn’t happen in every case, but in every case of Autoimmunity, it’s well researched that leaky gut is present, often undetected.
What kinds of symptoms hint to toxin overload?
The purpose of this article is not to take sides on whether or not you should vaccinate. We do know, however, that vaccinations can be hard on your system - even damaging the healthy bacteria in your gut - so taking and eating probiotic-rich foods and supplements is important to restore your gut health to normal after a round of vaccinations.
More often than not, your skin is a reflection of what is going on inside your body. So instead of working from the outside in, you need to work from the inside out.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and has (approximately) a total area of around 20 square feet. Your skin is a protective organ and keeps everything inside you safe from microbes, chemicals and bacteria. Your skin is also one of the most important eliminatory organs and is sometimes called “the third kidney” because of it’s responsibility to help release toxins from the body.
When the gut bacteria is imbalanced it can lead to leaky gut, which means toxins are released into the bloodstream in high amounts. If you are prone to acne or other skin-related issues, this will generally lead to flare ups and more skin problems. Remember, your skin is a reflection of what is happening inside you.
Dr Whitney P. Bowe, M.D., a certified dermatologist and medical professional talks about the benefits taking probiotics has on our skin.
“While more studies are needed to identify the most beneficial aspects of probiotics and determine whether topical or oral probiotics yield the best results, I think we can expect to see some cutting-edge probiotic products for acne and rosacea in the near future… Until then, I would recommend that patients with acne or rosacea see their dermatologist to talk about adding foods with live active cultures, such as yogurt, to their diets or taking an oral probiotic supplement daily. “
There is more and more research coming out showing that taking probiotics daily may help those with various skin annoyances.
Healthy bacteria can train your immune system to distinguish between “foreign” microbes and those originating in your body, making probiotics the best front line against infection.
Animal studies have shown that consuming fermented foods (rich in probiotics!) actually kills several types of cancerous tumors.
Yeast overgrowth can show up in many different ways in the body including common yeast infections, bloated belly, foggy thinking, sugar and carb cravings, skin problems, gas low mood, irregular sleep, etc.
Chronic yeast overgrowth is often a sign of overconsumption of certain foods (refined sugars, sugary carbs, alcohol, caffeine) and a lack or imbalance in good gut bacteria. This is why a yeast infection is a common side effect after taking antibiotics.
Taking a good probiotic helps to bring the good guys back in the picture and rebalance the ratio of good to bad guys, knocking out the overgrowth of this nasty critter and helping you eliminate the root cause of annoying yeast infection symptoms.
Bad bacteria is lurking in your gut when this happens and it’s important to fight the bad guys. Probiotics help replenish the good guys and get your digestion moving as it should.
Taking probiotics regularly gives the body a better defense against any foreign invaders you may come into contact with.
How To Get More Probiotics In Your Diet
No matter if you struggle with any of the symptoms mentioned or not, including more probiotics in your diet is a good idea. This ensures that you are giving your gut the best chance to balance itself and keep your immune system strong and working for you instead of against you.
Here’s where to start!
Almost all cultures include fermented foods in their diet. Fermented foods provide probiotics (beneficial bacteria), vitamins and enzymes that help keep your digestive system healthy and free of illness and disease. Overuse of antibiotics, antibacterials and a lack of raw food in the diet literally strips your digestive system of these vital microorganisms and nutrients. Eating fermented food helps to replenish the good bacteria.
Yogurt - Yogurt is probably the most popular and well known fermented food in the American diet. We highly recommend non-dairy varieties for the best benefits. Coconut and almond yogurt are great options. If you are ready to take it a step further, you can even make your own. This is obviously the best option since you will control all the ingredients you put into your yogurt, as most store bought varieties are loaded with sugar and some even contain fillers.
Kefir - Kefir is said to be one of the most probiotic rich foods on the planet. It is often used to help conditions like leaky gut, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance and candida. It is kind of like the superman version of yogurt… boasting three times the amount of probiotics that yogurt has. This is because it is fermented with 10-20 different types of bacteria and yeast, while yogurt uses only a handful.
Kefir contains tryptophan (say that 5 times fast...), which is the same amino acid in turkey that makes you feel sleepy and relaxed. The word “kefir” comes from a Turkish word meaning, “good feeling”. Kefir also has phosphorus, which is the second most abundant mineral in our bodies and helps us use carbohydrates and proteins for cell energy.
Sauerkraut - Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics and is an excellent way to rebuild healthy gut bacteria levels. European countries use it to treat and prevent peptic ulcers. Because it targets the gut, it can help with IBS, leaky gut syndrome, acne, skin disorders, coughs and colds, allergies, vision, heart health, digestive upset, bloatedness, acid reflux, bone strength, etc.
Dr Mercola actually sent off his sauerkraut to a lab once to find out just how many probiotics it contained.
“We had it analyzed. We found in a 4-6 ounce serving of the fermented vegetables there were literally ten trillion bacteria.”
Chinese laborers ate sauerkraut while building the Great Wall of China over 2,000 years ago. French and Dutch seaman used it to prevent scurvy. The Polish people have a proverb that says “Where there is beet soup and sauerkraut, there is plenty.”
Kimchi - Kimchi comes from Korea and is like a supercharged form of sauerkraut. It usually contains cabbage, red peppers onions, scallions, garlic and salt.
Researchers in Korea have published a review of over 130 studies that have proven the amazing healing properties of kimchi. It is used to help constipation, enhance the immune system, aid digestion of protein, prevent tooth decay, prevent obesity, and to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
In animal studies Kimchi has exhibited tumor-suppression abilities. Studies by Professor Miri Kim at Chungnam National University, along with many others, found that kimchi is effective in preventing cancer and detoxifying heavy metals in the liver, kidney and small intestine.
Umeboshi - Umeboshi is basically a pickled plum. It has been a staple in the Japanese, Chinese and Korean diet for centuries. During the wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, samurai warriors used umeboshi to revive themselves from fatigue or even on the brink of death. The medicinal uses of umeboshi have been documented in Chinese medicine as far back as 3,000 years.
The citric acid in umeboshi converts lactic acid to water and helps it discharge from the body. When lactic acid builds up in the body it can cause exhaustion and fatigue. The fruit is also used to treat vomiting, general nausea, diarrhea, infection, liver toxicity, hangovers and dysentery.
Kombucha - In ancient China, they called Kombucha the “Immortelle Health Elixir” and used it to aid the body in overcoming degenerative diseases. It has recently become popular in the west and is being studied for its possible cancer-preventing properties. Kombucha is a sweet tea that has been fermented using good bacteria and yeast and is a powerful probiotic. It is used to help combat digestive issues, candida, provide enzymes and bacterial acids to naturally detox the body and has even shown to be helpful with joint pain. Kombucha contains glucosamine; an amino sugar that helps preserve cartilage and relieve arthritic symptoms.
Like most fermented foods Kombucha can be made from home.
Water Kefir - You can make water kefir with organic sugar water, coconut water, or fresh juice, Water Kefir grains or a Kefir Starter Culture. Although the enzymes and acids in water kefir are not quite as strong as those in kombucha, water kefir does have more bacteria strains. People living in hot climates tend to enjoy water kefir since it is great for hydration and finding relief from the heat. The probiotics in water kefir are excellent in boosting the immune system and helping the body stay healthy.
For extra tips on how to make water kefir, see here.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil - This oil, unlike regular fish oil supplements, is cold processed through fermentation instead of heat processed. This preserves the fat soluble vitamins and Omega-3’s, which may otherwise be damaged by high temperatures. FCLO contains vitamins A and D, both of which are important for the immune system and are precursors to hormone activation and gene expression. Regularly consuming FCLO may be beneficial for helping arthritis and joint pain, bone health, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, depression, breast cancer, earaches, wound healing and healthy birth weight.
Miso - Miso is a traditional Japanese paste made from soybeans, sea salt and koji. The paste is often used to make soup or to eat over rice and beans and dates back 2,500+ years. It has all the essential amino acids and is thus considered to be a complete protein, while also providing vital probiotics to the digestive tract. It is thought to protect against radiation and heavy metals because it contains dipicolinic acid; an alkaloid that helps to remove heavy metals from the body.
Natto - Another Japanese favorite! This is a low calorie, high protein fermented superfood that is considered one of the “health secrets” of the Japanese people for centuries. Natto is believed to help with longevity, beauty, mental capacity and a healthier heart. Japanese people on average live about five years longer than most Americans, so natto is a secret you might want to try!
Natto is a great source of K vitamins - very important for bone health and strength, as well as circulation and preventing blood clots.
Probiotics are abundant in fermented foods, but most often their probiotic concentration is not enough to be used therapeutically when the gut flora has been drastically depleted.
Therefore, use fermented probiotic-rich foods as an ongoing part of the diet to keep your levels up as a form of prevention. Then choose a high-quality probiotic, as a form of nutrition therapy.
Take a probiotic supplement first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or with a juice or smoothie, at least an hour before any other supplements or medication (may be taken with L-glutamine to further heal and seal the gut lining).
How To Choose A Probiotic Supplement
#1. Look At Bacteria Strains
Some probiotic supplements contain only a single strain of bacteria, while others contain 10 or more. In some instances it may be beneficial to have only one strain (if you are targeting something specific or combating negative effects of specific antibiotics) but for daily supplementation it is best to get a probiotic with 10+ individual strains.
Lactobacillus Acidophilus is the most popular strain of probiotics that has been shown to be helpful with candida overgrowth and your immune system. It also creates vitamin K as a byproduct and is important in digestion of dairy products. If you have a dairy intolerance it could be due to a deficiency in this bacteria.
Bifidobacteria Bifidum is another one you might’ve heard about in TV commercials. It helps with digestion, B vitamin synthesis and immune system function.
- Longum helps to maintain the integrity of your gut wall and is helpful in eliminating toxins. This bacteria also assists in breaking down grains, legumes and cruciferous vegetables.
Saccharomyces Boulardii is great for traveler’s diarrhea and other indigestion. Also a big player in combatting chronic yeast.
Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Streptococcus Thermophiles help the gut to digest and absorb lactose (milk sugars).
Bifidobacterium Infantis 35624, Lactobacillus Plantarum 299V and Bifidobacterium Bifidum MIMBb75 regulate bowel movements and relieve gas, bloating and pain.
#2. Look At Colony Forming Units (CFU)
20-50 billion is a good place to start. Consult with your healthcare professional if you want to find the best dosing for your individual needs.
#3. Avoid Unnecessary Ingredients
Read the label. Avoid supplements with fillers, binders, additives, artificial colors or mystery ingredients.
Also check that it is ALLERGEN FREE and preferably vegan. No gluten, soy or dairy.
Probiotic Rich Recipes
Old Fashioned Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut
- 5 pounds cabbage (about two heads, preferably organic)
- 3 ½ tbsp coarse sea salt (unrefined)
- Mason jar
- 1 medium head of napa or green cabbage, shredded
- 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
- 1 cup carrots, shredded
- 1 tbsp ginger root, grated
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp or more Korean red chili pepper powder or regular red chili pepper flakes
- ½ tbsp sea salt
- ¼ cup water kefir (use water kefir that has finished the fermentation process)
Earthie Mama’s Kombucha Tea Recipe
Author: Wake Up World
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 4-6 teabags (organic green, black or white)
- Kombucha starter culture ~ SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast)
- 1 cup starter liquid (from another Kombucha tea)
- Brewing glass jar
- Cloth cover
- Rubber band
Being here - reading this post, doing your research, searching for answers - is a major step towards gaining the best health of your life. I can guarantee that once you start taking better care of the internal you, the external you is going to shine even brighter.
Probiotics are something I take in supplement form and through the food I eat on a daily basis. They are a major reason I enjoy the great health that I do.
About The Author
Drew Canole is a rockstar in the world of fitness, nutrition and mindset, with a huge heart for others and doing his part to transform the world, one person at a time.
As the founder and CEO of Fitlife.TV, he is committed to sharing educational, inspirational and entertaining videos and articles about health, fitness, healing and longevity. He is also a best selling author and the founder of Organifi, an organic, incredibly delicious greens powder, chock-full of superfoods to make juicing easy no matter your busy schedule.