Monday, September 22, 2008

Probiotics: Bacteria you can cheer for

garden of life probioticWith my beach bag in tow, I left town this past weekend to escape the grind of Gotham. I was heading south to meet up with some friends for a fun weekend. Little did I know I would find myself craving something I never thought was possible - bacteria!

I can sense the quizzical looks forming.

No, but really, I was craving my probiotic supplement - the beneficial bacteria that help ward off infection, promote digestion, stave off yeast, and a whole slew of other health benefits. We are all born with a healthy amount of this beneficial bacteria in our gut, which serves as a natural defense system from the 'bad' bacteria we know and fear.

These little guys have saved me out in countless situations - they've kept me regular, gotten me over traveler's diarrhea, and enabled me to better digest dairy products.

Now they were again trying to restore balance in my body. Turns out the from the 'party foods' I was consuming are exactly the ones harmful bacteria feed on (i.e. sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol). My digestion was off and I was starting to feel as if I was catching a cold.

yogurt probiotics
There are several foods that contain naturally occurring beneficial bacteria, however in far smaller doses than a probiotic. These foods include yogurt, miso, aged cheese, kefir, and fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles). Kombucha, a fermented beverage, rich in probiotics is all the rage at my local co-op. It was no coincidence that one of the first foods I ate when I returned home was yogurt with live acidophilus cultures. I instantly felt better.

I recommend probiotic supplements to most of my clients (Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra is my favorite). With the prevalence of antibiotics in our culture, many of us are lacking these crucial microorganisms. However, we consume more than we even realize - antibiotics show up in commercially raised meat, even our drinking water!

I take one probiotic supplement every evening before I go to bed. And, oh yes, I am regular again!


Martin Johns said...

That product gets good reviews at NutritionalTree. But it is a bit expensive.

Ameet Maturu said...

Hi Martin,

There are lots of brands of supplements out there. This is the one I use and recommend. I haven't tried many others, but it was recommended by someone I really respect (Paul Pitchford) and you can honestly sense the quality once you open the package. (Kind of smells like the Odwalla Superfood.)

One possibility to save money - try just taking one a day (as opposed to the 2-3 doses as recommended on the package). Hope that helps.

Shalini said...

Is it true that all yogurt products need to have probiotic bacteria in them by law? I remember reading a report somewhere that the FDA was thinking in that direction.

I wish more people would realise that if the gut stayed good and healthy, so much else would just fall into place.Something to be said for 'gut feel' wouldn't you say?

Sharon said...

Hi Ameet! I love this post because I thought that I was the only one who craved probiotics! If I do not eat yogurt for 24 hrs, my digestion is off, and I start craving probiotics. I too keep a bottle on hand for such emergencies :).

Ameet Maturu said...

Hi Shalini,

Great question! Currently, most yogurts are thermally-processed and do not have live cultures. I have not heard of any legislation to change that.

I found the following information on

"To determine whether the yogurt you buy contains living bacteria check the labels for the words "active yogurt cultures," "living yogurt cultures," or "contains active cultures." Don't be fooled by the words "made with active cultures." All yogurts are made with live cultures, but no live cultures survive heat-treatment.

For more info:

Ameet Maturu said...

Thanks Sharon! I am definitely going to bring my probiotics with me next time I travel.

Integrative Nutrition