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Should I be taking a Probiotic?

We have seen the rise of probiotics over the years due to an increase in gut health and the link found between our gut and our brain, called the gut brain axis. Remember when you were always told to listen to your gut? They weren’t lying!

You may have seen probiotics in your supermarket, local health shop, on the internet/TV or your friends/family talking about them. Despite this, many of us have no idea what they are or if we should be taking them. Well let me help you out with that!

So what are probiotics and how do they work?

Probiotics are living microorganisms that are intended to have many health benefits to our body, they help to restore and promote healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract which may be damaged due to certain foods, medication such as antibiotics and alcohol. Many microorganisms that are in probiotics are similar to the ones found in our body, they can help to digest food, produce vitamins, and destroy bad microorganisms that already insist in our digestive system.

What are the benefits of taking probiotics?

We live in a world today where we are constantly damaging our gut health through food, the environment, stress, medication and sleep and may not even realise it. I personally recommend that we should be consuming probiotics on a day to day basis whether this is from a food source, a supplement, or a fermented drink. It doesn’t have to be expensive or an extra stress to add to your life, it can be simple, cheap and most of all make you feel better. There are endless benefits of taking probiotics such as promoting antimicrobial activity, decreasing oxidative stress, improving the intestinal barrier, reducing inflammation, regulating bowel flora and reducing bloating and distension.
Which Strains of probiotics should I be taking?

There are many strains of probiotics that can work for specific health areas and promote an overall healthy digestive system. The main two that you will see for gut health are Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM) and Bifidobacterium lactis (Bi-07). They aid in the maintenance of a normal healthy gastrointestinal system and digestive function, can survive the passage through the human gastrointestinal tract, and improve general wellbeing. Most products will contain between 7 billion CFU (organisms) up to 12.5 billion CFU.
With there being many other strains of probiotics as well, please consult with a health practitioner first to see which strain would suit you best. This will make sure that you are getting the specific strain to treat your symptoms.

Which foods contain probiotics?

As a nutritionist I always like to get nutrients through food first, however I understand that due to dietary requirements, illnesses, stress and other factors which can stop this from happening, that this is where supplements come in handy. Even if you take a probiotic supplement I would still recommend obtaining probiotics from food as well. So why not try the following;

  1. Live-cultured Yoghurt – these can be purchased from any supermarket but just remember to be sure to stay clear of the high sugared flavoured yoghurts!

  2. Miso – a Japanese probiotic rich food which is a light soup consistency.

  3. Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) – this is a fermented or pickled cabbage and tastes amazing on top of toast, as part of a salad or eaten on its own.

  4. Kefir – similar to yoghurt but is a combination of goats milk and fermented kefir grains.

  5. Kombucha – a refreshing fermented tea drink that comes in many flavours, start off slow and build up. This still contains sugar so don’t go overboard!

  6. Microalgae – this can come from chlorella and spirulina and can be added to smoothies or homemade protein bars.

  7. Kimchi – an Asian sauerkraut which has a spicy and sour taste to it.

My advice is that we should all be adding probiotics into our diet on a daily basis, whether this is through food or supplementation. Speak with a health practitioner regarding supplementation and which brands they recommend.

Lisa is a qualified nutritionist having completed her advanced diploma in nutritional medicine at The Australian College of Natural Therapies (ACNT). She practices as a nutritionist working in a clinic based in North Sydney, NSW and consults in most areas of health and wellbeing, including but not limited to stress and anxiety, digestive issues, intolerance / allergies, obesity, weight loss, blood sugar imbalances and diabetes. Lisa regularly presents to companies around Sydney about health and nutrition and writes blogs on various nutritional subjects.
Lisa believes that being a Nutritionist is all about helping others to achieve their goals and become the best version of themselves, and assists by sharing her knowledge and experience. In the world that we live in today, everybody needs a little help and push in the right direction. Lisa’s aim is to do exactly that and show you all that living a healthy lifestyle does not have to be hard or boring, that it can be an exciting and fun life to live.

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