In naturopathic practice it is understood that without proper gut function we cannot digest and absorb the nutrients from our food, and we cannot eliminate our bodies waste properly. We are not what we eat, we are what we absorb. You may be eating the cleanest diet in the world, but if your gut is not functioning optimally you will not be able to achieve your ideal health.

Enter probiotics. The more I am learning on my health journey, the more I am realising just how essential our gut flora is to our wellbeing. In my opinion we should all aim to consume probiotic rich foods (or supplements) everyday to ensure a healthy colony of gut flora.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have a beneficial effect on the host when consumed. These bacteria make up the human microbiome – Probiotics include raw fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and kim chi, as well as supplements of encapsulated freeze dried bacteria.

Signs that your gut bacteria may be out of whack – 

  • Gas/bloating
  • Food intolerance
  • Nausea
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Sugar cravings (bad bacteria thrive of sugar)
  • Unexplained fatigue

How do probiotics work?

  • probiotics compete with potentially dangerous bacteria and fungi for the limited space available in your gut – they stop the bad bacteria from adhereing to our gut wall
  • they have an anti-inflammatory activity
  • probiotics produce beneficial compounds in our gut
  • they have a favorable interaction with our immune cells
  • ingestion of good bacteria strengthens the gut barrier
  • they modulate gastrointestinal transit time, from the time food enters your mouth until it leaves your body (useful for those who suffer from constipation/diarrhea)

What are some of the uses of probiotics?

Probiotics have been shown to be useful in the treatment of

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome  (1)
  • Constipation (2)
  • Possible prevention of urinary tract infections (in-vitro studies)
  • Lactose intolerance (3)
  • During and after antibiotic use (to prevent antibiotic side effects) (4)
  • Atopic eczema (5)
  • Poor immune system (6)(7)
  • Anxiety and depression (8)
  • Gastrooesophageal reflux in infants (9)
  • Allergic rhinitis (5)
  • + many many more…

How to take probiotics

  • to help the passage of the probiotics through the gut it is best to consume with a larger meal consisting of either some grain or organic full-fat dairy
  • probiotics colonise the gut for a maximum 14 days, so we need  to consume regularly
  • probiotics are best taken 2 hours away from antibiotics, if planning to take a probiotic whilst on anti-biotics first discuss with your GP

I personally use Peace, Love and Vegetables, who make my favourite kim chi and an incredible coconut water kefir (dairy free!) – you can find their facebook page here for stockists. Life in a Jar by Green Jar Kitchen is another great probiotic saurkraut – find their stockists here. I also like the probiotic supplements by Nutrition Care, Metagenics and Bioceuticals.

Please note that probiotics are strain specific (and we all have individual health needs). There is no one-size fits all, so please visit your naturopath or health professional to find the most beneficial probiotic for you.

 

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Probiotic coconut yoghurt

 

what you need

2 young coconuts

2-3 capsules dairy free probiotic or 1tsp dairy free yoghurt starter

2 tsp maple syrup/honey (don’t omit, a bit of sugar is needed to feed the good bacteria)

juice of 1 lemon

 

what you do

Carefully open the two young coconuts. Pour the coconut water out and leave aside. Scrape out the flesh of both coconuts and place into a blender along with maple syrup and lemon juice. Blend until smooth, adding the reserved coconut water as needed to allow the blender to run smoothly. Once smooth empty the contents of the probiotic capsule and blend briefly to combine. Pour yoghurt into a sterilized glass jar and cover with a clean tea towel or muslin cloth. Leave overnight in a warm spot to ferment. In the morning it should be thicker and tangy – the longer you leave it the tangier it will get. Pop in the fridge for up to 4 days and consume!

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(1) Moayyedi, p., Ford, A. C., Talley, N. J., Cremonini, F., Foxx-Orenstein, A. E., Brandt, L. J., & Quigley, E. M. M. (2010). The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review. Gut 59(3), 325-332. 
(2) Miller, L. E., & Ouwehand, A. C. (2012). Probiotic supplementation decreases intestinal transit time: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 19(29), 4718-4725. 
(3) Vonk, R. J., Reckman, G. A. R., Harmsen, H. J. M., & Priebe, M. G. (2012). Probiotics and Lactose Intolerance. Groningen: Centre for Medical Biomics and Dept. of Medical Microbiology.
(4) Hempel, S., Newberry, S. J., Maher, A. R., Wang, Z., Miles, J. N. V., Shanman, R., . . . Shekelle, P. G. (2012). Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JournaL of the American Medical Association, 307(18), 1959-1969. 
(5) Kalliomaki, M., Antoine, J., Herz, U., Rijkers, G. T., Wells, J. M., & Mercenier, A. (2010). Guidance for Substantiating the Evidence for Beneficial Effects of Probiotics: Prevention and Management of Allergic Diseases by Probiotics. Journal of Nutrition, 140(3), 7135-7215. 
(6) Kwon, H.-K., Lee, C.-G., So, J.-S., Chae, C.-S., Hwang, J.-S., Sahoo, A., . . . Im, S.-H. (2010). Generation of regulatory dendritic cells and CD4+Foxp3+ T cells by probiotics administration suppresses immune disorders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(5), 2159-2164. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904055107
(7)Klaenhammer, T. R., Kleerebezem, M., Kopp, M. V., & Rescigno, M. (2012). The impact of probiotics and prebiotics on the immune system. Nature Reviews Immunology 12, 728-744. 
(8) Dinan, T. G., & Quigley, E. M. (2011). Probiotics in the Treatment of Depression: Science or Science Fiction? Australian New Zealand Journal of Psychiatric Disorders, 45(12), 1023-1025. 
(9) Indrio, F., Mauro, A. D., Riezzo, G., Civardi, E., Corvaglia, L., Ballardini, E., . . . Francavilla, R. (2014). Prophylactic Use of a Probiotic in the Prevention of Colic, Regurgitation, and Functional Constipation: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association Paediatrics, 167(12), 1150-1157.