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Calgary, AB / 587-437-3197 / jenna@simplynurtured.ca

2016 by Jenna Lessner 

  • Jenna Lessner, BSc, CHNC

Do you really need a probiotic?

Updated: Feb 12

Probably… Probiotics are live bacteria that maintain or restore the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Probiotics can support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and boost your immune system. Probiotics have been proven to help the body actually function properly. Probiotics may be consumed in fermented foods or in higher doses found in supplements.

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is so important since the number of bacteria present in your digestive tract is about the same as the number of cells in the rest of your body. A healthy gut microbiome contains approximately 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. When this ratio is out of balance it is known as dysbiosis (which is the case with SIBO).

Historically, we consumed plenty of probiotic bacteria in our diets. Diets consisted of fresh foods from good soil and foods that were fermented to prevent spoilage. With today’s agricultural practices resulting in depleted/dead soils, refrigeration, and unnatural food preservation methods, the majority of our foods aren’t providing any probiotics to support a healthy gut microbiome. Not to mention the overuse of antibiotics that are destroying our gut microbiome. Don’t get me wrong antibiotics have their place and I will not negate that they are required in certain circumstances. But if you have taken antibiotics, you need to replenish your gut bacteria afterward.

What are the benefits of probiotics?

  1. They improve your digestion. It all starts with digestion, okay I may be a little biased as a nutrition consultant. But it is really important if you can’t digest your food, you definitely can’t absorb the nutrients that you need from it. Research has found probiotics to improve the quantity, availability, and digestibility of some dietary nutrients.

  2. They boost your immune system. About seventy percent of your immune system is actually found in your gut! Your gut microbiome is responsible for the secretion of IgA and regulatory T-cells which support immune function. Bifidobacteria containing probiotics may be helpful in protecting against the common cold or flu.

  3. They support your second brain! The gastrointestinal tract has been commonly referred to as the second brain as the enteric nervous system is located in the gut. Ninety-five percent of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter impacts mood, is created in the gut. A 2016 study found an improvement in depression symptoms with probiotic supplementation. The healthy gut microbiome has been shown to have positive effects on brain function and connectivity.

  4. They fight inflammation. Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases and health conditions. The anti-inflammatory effects of probiotics may have the potential to protect against various health concerns.

  5. They help manage blood sugar. Several studies have determined that the supplementation of probiotics is beneficial in treating diabetes. Probiotics improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the autoimmune response found in diabetics. The combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and fibre that feeds your healthy gut bacteria, may help manage elevated blood sugar levels.

What to look for in a probiotic supplement?

  1. Buy from the refrigerated section. Probiotics are living organisms and may be destroyed when exposed to light and heat.

  2. Minimum 10 billion colony-forming units. Probiotics have to resist the high acidity in your stomach to reach their home in the large intestine.

  3. Diversity. Look for a probiotic supplement that has various strains of bacteria.

Don’t forget to include probiotic-rich foods in your diet!

  1. Sauerkraut

  2. Kimchi

  3. Kombucha

  4. Coconut Kefir

  5. Fermented vegetables (pickles, beets, beans)

  6. Fermented condiments (catsup, relish, salsa, pickled ginger)

  7. Cultured dairy-free yogurt

Bubnov. R. et al. Probiotics and immunity: provisional role for personalized diets and disease prevention. EPMA J. 2015. 6:14.

Carpenter, S. The gut feeling. Am. Psych. Assoc. 2012. 43(8): 50.

Furness, J.B., Kuze, W.A., & Clerc, N. Nutrient tasting and signalling mechanisms in the gut. II. The intestine as a sensory organ: neural, endocrine, and immune responses. Am J Physiol. 1999. 277(5): G922-G928.

Furness, J.B. et al. The Enteric Nervous System and Gastrointestinal Innervation: Integrated Local and Central Control. 2014. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-0897-4_3

Gomes, A.C. et al. Gut microbiota, probiotics and diabetes. Nutrition J. 2014. 13:60.

Huang, R., Wang, K. & Hu, J. Effect of probiotics on depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrients. 2016. 8(8): 483.

Langkamp-Henken, B. et al. The proportion of stressed individuals who, on any given day, do not have a cold/flu may be increased by the intake of bifidobacteria: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. FASEB J. 2014. 28:639.13.

Nikbakht, E. et al. Effect of probiotics and synbiotics on blood glucose: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. E. J. Nutr. 2018. 57(1): 95-106.

Parvez, S. et al. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. J. Applied Microbiology. 2006; 100(6): 1171-1185.

Savadogo, A. et al. Bacteriocins and lactic acid bacteria - a minireview. African J. Biotechnology. 2006. 5(9)

Scanlon, S.T. Tolerogenic T cells need probiotics. Science. 2017. 357(6353): 768.

Sender, R., Fuchs, S., Milo, R. Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body. PLOS Biology. 2016.

Varankovich, N. et al. Probiotic-based strategies for therapeutic and prophylactic use against multiple gastrointestinal diseases. Front. Microbiol. 2015. 6: 685.

Viljanen, M. et al. Probiotic effects on faecal inflammatory markers and on faecal IgA in food allergic atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome infants. Pediatric Allergy Immunology. 2005. 16(1): 65-71.