Do You Need Probiotics? And How to Choose Them

The gut is a tennis court-sized microcosm of bacteria that wields much more influence over our organs than was once thought. As I talked about in another post on the “carb-sugar rollercoaster” and how to get off it, we can exercise some control over our health by feeding our gut a bigger variety of whole foods. 

And for a little “extra credit,” we can eat fermented foods and drink fermented beverages. Fermented foods contain a host of different bacteria that can help improve gut diversity, helping improve digestion and the many bodily functions that a healthy gut are thought to affect. (Just read this recent news story if you’re doubting how much the gut can drive your health.)

Why take probiotics? If you’re feeling tired, suffering from poor digestion, seeing visible markers of health issues like skin problems, or getting sick a lot, it’s possible that you might benefit from giving your gut a boost of healthy bacteria, either by adding fermented foods and beverages into your daily routine, or taking a daily probiotic (go for the refrigerated kinds as their bioavailability is higher), or both! I do both, partly because I have celiac disease.

Start With Real Food Probiotics

A simple way to improve gut health is to eat more fermented foods such as kimchi (a traditional Korean style of fermented cabbage) or sauerkraut. You can make your own (recipe from The Kitchn linked above) or purchase at a specialty deli or grocery store (usually in the same section as the condiments).

Take a Sip

For a quick fix, the increasingly popular fizzy fermented drink called kombucha can now be found in most grocery stores. Look for brands that are free of added sugar, like the pioneering category leader GT Dave’s, Rise (from Montreal) or Health-Ade.

And Consider Taking a Pill

Under the recommendation of a gastroenterologist, I’ve been taking a daily probiotic since I was diagnosed with celiac in 2008. I’ve favored Flora Udo’s Choice Super 8 High-Potency Probiotic, which has several strains of lactobacillus (the bacteria found in yoghurt) and bifidobacterium (which is said to be a key aid in the digestion of gluten).

But I’m curious about the many innovative probiotics out there these days. And the celiac sufferer’s predisposition to lactose intolerance (I happen to think all humans are lactose intolerant, for what it’s worth) has led me to research and experiment with a few other offerings, especially the vegetarian varieties that don’t include lactobacillus. 

My GI doctor recommended a particular type of bacteria called Sacro-B that’s vegetarian and thought to help those with celiac, but I’m also considering something more diverse, like one of the many varieties that diet-conscious doctors offer. Dr. Amy Myers recently shared a lot of useful information about probiotics over at Goop which piqued my interest in what she’s offering.

What’s been your experience with probiotics? Which ones do you recommend? Share in the comments!

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