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Are probiotics worth all the hype?

By Alissa Vieth on May 15 2018 | Nutrition & Recipes

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms that live in the gut, line your digestive tract, and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Did you know that there are actually 10 times more probiotics in your gut than cells in your body? 


Are probiotics good for you?

Early research shows promise in the use of probiotics to aid in the prevention of diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, colorectal cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety and more. Growing research suggests probiotics may also help with:

  • Weight loss
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Yeast infections
  • Eczema, acne and
  • Other inflammatory and immune related diseases


What are some popular food sources of probiotics?

Fermented foods – provide a community of beneficial bacteria to you diet.  Raw and unpasteurized versions keep the bacteria intact

  • Yogurt – all yogurt is made with bacteria, but it must state the strain and have a “probiotic” claim
  • Kefir – fermented milk drink, available effervescent (contains yeast), non-effervescent, and in coconut varieties; kefir is a more concentrated source of probiotics compared to most probiotic yogurts
  • Kombucha – fermented fizzy tea
  • Jun (green tea and honey based) & water based kefir – fermented fizzy drinks, similar to kombucha but use different bacterial fermentation bases
  • Kimchi – spicy pungent pickled cabbage 
  • Miso – fermented soy paste
  • Tempeh - cooked and slightly fermented soybeans formed into a patty
  • Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage. Find in the refrigerated section of grocery stores, check ingredients for cabbage and salt (not vinegar) to ensure it is probiotic fermentation.  
  • Pickles – cucumber or any vegetables. Find in the refrigerated section of grocery stores, check ingredients for vegetable and salt (not vinegar) to ensure it is probiotic fermentation. 


What are some tips for enjoying probiotic foods?

  • For a treat, sip kombucha, jun kefir, and water kefir instead of sugary soda
  • Add sauerkraut or kimchi to sandwiches
  • Swap yogurt for kefir in smoothies
  • Add miso to savory sauces, dressing or gravies
  • Add cubed tempeh to stir fry, or add crumbled tempeh to soups, stews, and salads 


Supplemental probiotics

You may benefit from a supplement if you:

  • Have taken antibiotics
  • Suffer from gastrointestinal related diseases like Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Suffer from frequent colds
  • Suffer from diarrhea or constipation

Potency: look for a potency of at least 10 billion CFU (colony forming units, aka live and active cells) per day. Look for a clearly marked expiry date so you are not buying a product that is no longer effective.


What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds that help probiotics (beneficial bacteria) grow and thrive in your gut - prebiotics are like food for the bacteria in your gut that help keep your gut healthy. 


What are some food sources of prebiotics?

  • Allium vegetables such as garlic, onion, leeks, chives
  • Jicama, Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root (known for its coffee like flavour) all contain inulin, a form of prebiotic fiber
  • Dandelion greens are leafy green vegetables that are made up of 25% prebiotic fiber
  • Whole-grain and sprouted-grain breads
  • Wheat germ, whole wheat berries, barley
  • Oats
  • Flaxseeds
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Potato skins
  • Seaweed

Questions? Contact the author, Registered Dietitian Alissa Vieth, Alissa.Vieth@medisys.ca

\Concerned about your health? Book or inquire about a Medisys preventive health assessment.