What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Probiotics are living bacteria that are great for your health and digestive system. Probiotics can help your immune system while promoting a healthy digestive tract.
Probiotic comes from two Greek root words “pro” meaning “to promote” and “biotic” which means “life.”
Prebiotic is a nondigestible carbohydrate that acts as food for probiotics and bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic comes before and helps the probiotic. When the two combine we have what we call synbiotics.
What do probiotics do?
Probiotics support digestive health by producing specific enzymes needed in the digestion of food and aiding the break down of foods substances.
Probiotics also improve the absorption of vitamins & minerals into the bloodstream. And even produce B complex vitamins & vitamin K.
They support immunity by stimulating the body’s natural defences. And by lining the intestines with a protective layer of friendly bacteria that bars pathogenic substances in the gut from harming the body.
As two-thirds of the body’s immune system is managed in the gut, it may be important to keep one’s probiotic levels high.
5 Health Benefits of Probiotics
Beneficial bacteria in your intestines crowd out harmful bacteria and have a direct effect on your immune response. Unfortunately, changes in gut bacteria occur as we age—particularly a decline in Bifidobacteria, which inhibit pathogenic microbes.
This increases susceptibility to colds, flu, and infections. Probiotics can help restore it.
In one study, 475 healthy men and women who did not get flu shots received either a vitamin/mineral combined with a probiotic supplement or a placebo daily for five and a half months during the winter and spring.
All participants reported any cold, flu or respiratory symptoms.
The group taking the vitamin/mineral/probiotic combination experienced 25 percent fewer flu symptoms, 19 percent fewer cold symptoms, and 50 percent fewer days with a fever than the placebo group.
The health benefits of probiotics are also evident when you are prescribed an antibiotic. Antibiotics kill the beneficial bacteria along with the harmful.
When these protective bacteria are wiped out, pathogenic bacteria and other organisms move in. This can cause diarrhea, as well as yeast overgrowth in the vagina and intestines.
That’s why I recommend avoiding antibiotics whenever possible. But if you must take an antibiotic, probiotics can help offset these negative side effects.
The journal Gut Pathogens published an article highlighting the links between intestinal bacteria, mood, and acne.
The authors note that there is an established connection between skin conditions and mood disorders (acne is associated with depression and anxiety), and that acne is also linked with gastrointestinal problems (adolescents with acne are at higher risk for several GI symptoms).
In other words, your brain, skin, and immune system are all physiologically intertwined, mediated by gut bacteria. Other studies have found links between intestinal bacteria and psoriasis.
Research suggests that probiotics may help fight the battle of the bulge. The bacteria that reside in your intestinal tract are involved in nutrient uptake and energy regulation.
Studies reveal that in obese humans and animals, these bacteria extract and absorb more calories from food and store them in fat cells.
Distinct differences have also been noted in the microbial communities of obese and thin people.
Probiotics are no magic bullet for weight loss, but supporting your gut bacteria appears to reduce inflammation and other markers of obesity.
4. Prevent Urinary Tract Infection’s (UTI’s)
Though often lumped into women’s health issues, many children suffer chronic urinary tract infections.
Probiotics like Bio-K+ canhelp prevent these recurring infections in both children and adults alike. My kids love taking their probiotics and don’t fight taking this ‘medicine’.
5. Helps fight allergies
Allergies are tied to immune system function, and probiotics can help educate the immune system, modulating its overreaction toenvironmental triggers that are perceived as normal under most circumstances.
Mitch points out, “tree pollen is not poison, so why is the body responding to it like it’s poison?” Probiotics help the body better respond to environmental triggers.
An explosion of yogurt brands has taken over the dairy section lately, but you have to be careful about which brands to buy; many of them—both Greek and regular—are loaded with added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors.
Read your labels.
For people sensitive to dairy, coconut yogurt is an excellent dairy-free way to work plenty of enzymes and probiotics into your diet.
The name Kefir is derived from the Turkish word keyif which means “feeling good” after consumption.
This fermented dairy product is very similar to yogurt. It is a unique combination of kefir “grains” (a combination of yeast and bacteria) and goat’s milk that’s high in lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. It’s also rich in antioxidants.
For those who are sensitive to dairy or lactose intolerant, coconut kefir, a non-dairy version, is also delicious and equally beneficial.
This is a form of fermented black or green tea that has been used for centuries.
Fizzy and often served chilled, it’s also believed to help increase energy, and may even help you lose weight.
Many people, especially vegetarians, eat tempeh as a substitute for meat. Tempeh is fermented soybeans and a complete protein, with all of the amino acids.
Also a great source of vitamin B12, tempeh can be cooked or crumbled over salads.
*Note: Not to be confused with unfermented soy. The fermentation process reduces the levels of phytic acid in tempeh, making it a much better option.
Overall, I am not a huge fan of any soy derived product. But for vegetarians, this is an option.
A traditional Korean dish, this is a mixture of fermented vegetables and seasonings.
Common ingredients include cabbage, brine, radish and spices such as ginger and chili pepper.
In addition to providing beneficial bacteria, kimchi is also a great source of calcium, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, B1, and B2.
For some it may be a little too spicy, but it’s one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet if you can handle the heat.
A german word, Sauerkraut translates to “sour cabbage.” Not only does this fermented cabbage fuel healthy gut bacteria but it contains choline, a chemical needed for the proper transmission of nerve impulses in the brain and throughout the central nervous system.
No wonder many pregnant women crave pickles, among the most basic and beloved natural probiotic.
For many, pickles can be your gateway food to other, more exotic fermented foods.
Pickled fruits and vegetables
Pickling fruits and veggies, such as carrot sticks, transforms the usual into the extraordinary. Whether you do this yourself or buy pickled produce.
Keep in mind that the probiotic benefits are only present in unpasteurized foods pickled in brine, not vinegar.
Believe it or not, you can create lacto-fermented mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, hot sauce, relish, salsa, guacamole, salad dressing, and fruit chutney.
Sour cream, while technically a fermented dairy product, tends to lose its probiotic power during processing.
Some manufacturers, however, add live cultures at the end of the process; look for these brands.
Which Probiotics are Best?
Probiotic food sources range in a lot of different ways; from the ingredients to the fermentation and preparation.
While it’s impossible to say that there is one ‘best probiotic supplement’ or source, we can say that any combination of the above-mentioned sources of probiotics should be sufficient.
Best Probiotics for Men
When it comes to probiotics for men, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different types of probiotics that act in different ways (depending on a lot of factors).
Whether it’s for boosting immune health or promoting better digestion, you’ll need to first examine and assess your own needs and then find the probiotic source that best matches your needs.
Probiotics for men are especially useful for promoting good urinary tract health, as well as cardiovascular health.
The best probiotics for men can be found at your local grocery store (if you’re looking for probiotic foods). If you’re looking for probiotic supplements, Amazon has a great collection online.
Best Probiotics for Women
The same advice goes for those seeking the best probiotics for women. There isn’t really one answer since we’re all in need of having diverse probiotic rich foods in our diets.
However, it’s important to remember that probiotics are especially beneficial for women – specifically those concerned with urinary and vaginal health.
For those suffering from a certain type of probiotic deficiency, they should look into the types of foods that would balance it out and provide the aid they’re looking for.
Best Probiotics for Children
Probiotics benefit children by preventing antibiotic associated diarrhea, as well as promoting good bowel health.
Studies show that children with more ‘good’ probiotics have fewer issues pertaining to their intestinal gut health.
You’re never too young to be able to benefit from probiotics!
Best Baby Probiotics
Studies show that upwards of 80% of women have a vaginal infection when they give birth. As a result of that, they pass dangerous pathogens to their newborns instead of the ‘good’ bacteria that are necessary for creating a solid foundation of wellness.
Babies who lack an abundance of the beneficial bacteria needed will most likely suffer from different kinds of gastrointestinal pains, such as gas reflux and colic.
There is also evidence of probiotics being critical for the prevention of allergies in newborns.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should be introducing your baby to probiotics, you should consult your doctor.
However, if you’re looking for a probiotic food source for your baby, it’s often recommended to start off by introducing them to fermented foods and drinks slowly, by gradually feeding them small amounts.
How To Choose a Probiotic supplement
With so many probiotic supplements on the market today, it can be difficult navigating the sea of products to choose from. Luckily, we are here to help with our 4 key tips of what to look for when picking a probiotic supplement that is right for you.
Probiotics are measured in CFUs (Colony Forming Units). This number should be prominently displayed on the front of box or bottle you are looking at.
You want to find a probiotic that has a range between 3-50 billion CFUs that specifically fits your unique digestion.
The lower end of the range, 3 billion CFUs, is what we would call a daily maintenance product.
This potency would be well suited for a person with an otherwise healthy digestive system that needs to replenish the probiotics lost daily due to modern living.
Potencies higher than 3 billion are recommended for reasons that affect everyone which include:
- Age – As we age our microbiome tends to lose probiotics at a faster rate, especially Bifidobacteria, a genus commonly found in the large intestine. A low amount of Bifidobacteria may lead to digestive issues. A higher potency probiotic with a high concentration in Bifidobacteria like B. lactis, B. Bifidum and B. longum are recommended.
- Travel and Stress – With over 70% of our immune cells residing in the gut, it is a great benefit to send in reinforcements during times that are more likely to compromise our immunity. Increasing your daily intake of probiotics at this time may be very beneficial to avoiding future concerns.
- Diet – At times it may be tough to eat as well as you hope. Processed foods, artificial flavorings, and other common items in the western diet play a large role in depleting our natural flora.
- Compromised Digestive or Immune System – If your digestion or immune system is compromised, it is best to increase your probiotic intake to balance your flora back to normal.
It is important to note that going over 50 billion CFUs rarely adds benefit, only a higher supplement cost.
2) Diversity Of Strains
Diversity of strains is vital to picking a probiotic. UP4™ Probiotics are designed to have strains that benefit the bodies they are made for.
For example, UP4 WOMEN’S contains strains and ingredients that have a woman’s body in mind. For the average adult, you want to look for a nice mix of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.
This will ensure you are supporting both your large and small intestine. They are sometimes abbreviated on the label starting with L. and B.
It is important to be mindful of the “kitchen sink” approach, however.
Sometimes probiotic supplements will contain a multitude of different strains in hopes to look appeasing to a consumer who thinks they will be benefiting from all of this diversity.
Sadly, there are only a handful of strains on the market that have been proven viable when packaged and when introduced to your body’s acid & bile.
When you see probiotics with upwards of 20 strains, keep in mind that only a small portion of those strains will actually reach your gut and be beneficial to your health.
There are also some strains, such as spore forming ones, that don’t naturally exist in abundance within a healthy gut.
These strains are actually sourced from dirt! Although spores are very durable, we only use strains found naturally within a healthy digestive system.
3) Shelf Stable With Potency Guaranteed
Is the potency guaranteed at the time of expiration?
In other words, are you guaranteed to get 50 billion CFUs when you consume the product?
Or did that manufacturer put 50 billion CFUs in the product when it was made but by the time you purchase the product 4 months later, there are only 40 billion CFUs? It is important to get what you pay for.
A way to do this is by paying close attention to labeling. The probiotic supplement you choose should have a clear statement on their packaging that says “Potency guaranteed until time of expiration.”
In addition to having its potency guaranteed, a quality probiotic supplement should also be shelf stable, meaning you do not need to refrigerate it to keep its potency.
Look for “Refrigeration Not Required” or “Shelf Stable” on the label.
4) Clean Label
You want a product that is free of chemicals and other ingredients that could potentially upset your gastrointestinal tract.
The probiotic you choose should have a listing of all potential irritants it is free of in order to give you a quality supplement.(1)