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The Ultimate Guide to Probiotics

The Ultimate Guide to Probiotics

Posted by Casey Thaler on Sep 19th 2019

Probiotics are becoming ever more popular these days. From yogurt to supplements, marketers have started using the benefits of probiotics as a catch-all term, to help sell products. But what are probiotics, exactly? 

Simply, they are live microorganisms, which can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements. More and more studies show that the balance (or imbalance) of the bacteria in your digestive system, is directly linked to your overall health. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and have also been linked to a wide range of health benefits. These include benefits for weight loss, digestive health, immune function and more. Unlike antibiotics – which wipe out all bacteria in your gut – probiotics help to rebuild the good bacteria.

Probiotics also help balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics are known as ‘pro’, because they contain what is known as "good" bacteria. These are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when consumed. These benefits are thought to result from the ability of probiotics to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria. An imbalance means there are too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. It can happen due to illness, medication such as antibiotics, poor diet and more. Consequences can include digestive issues, allergies, mental health problems, obesity and more. Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods or taken as supplements. What's more, they appear to be safe for most people – so there is literally no downside to taking them.

What Are Probiotics?

To start with – why should you consider probiotics? Your wallet doesn’t need to be emptied for something that won’t make much of a difference in your health. But probiotics are that rare supplement from which nearly everyone can benefit. Studies have shown that they help with a myriad of health concerns, such as healthy digestion, clear skin, healthy metabolism, improved mood - and even increased weight loss.

Quite frankly, there is very little reason not to try a round of probiotic supplementation, and a long list of reasons why you may want to. Going back to the earlier mention of antibiotics, think of your gut as having two types of bacteria – simply, good and bad bacteria. Sadly, a poor diet, too much stress, not enough sleep - and a lifetime of antibiotics, have likely disposed of the good bacteria in most of our guts. This leaves you with only the bad stuff, which may make you crave poor quality foods, leave you depressed , or even with a face full of acne. These are some of the overwhelming reasons why you need probiotics in your life.

Why Are Probiotics Beneficial?

One of the most fascinating areas of the research behind probiotics, falls into the supplement’s effect on our brain. Many studies have found that probiotics can overcome immune-mediated deficits in the gut-brain-microbiota axis. What does this mean in layman’s terms? It means that even simple, day-to-day psychological stress can impair this important axis. This axis is essentially defined as the signaling and interaction between our gut, brain, and bacteria. If this axis is impaired, our brain’s functioning can start to be impaired. Which means that a healthy microbiome is critical to good neurological health. Some research has even shown that having a good balance of bacteria in our gut is directly linked to serotonin signaling. Since serotonin is critical for mental health, it means that depression and an unhealthy balance of bacteria in our gut, are tightly linked. And it also means that taking a probiotic, and eating probiotic-rich foods, can help to fix this problem.

If simple everyday stress can interfere with our brain and gut health, imagine how badly this axis is damaged when a poor diet, lack of sleep - and many rounds of antibiotics, are introduced into the picture. Interestingly, other scientific studies have found that probiotics may help mitigate anxiety symptoms. In addition, other research shows that the intake of probiotics may even help to reduce negative thoughts. This means that depression has an interesting direct link, to good gut health.

Another interesting effect that probiotics have, is on skin health. In fact, three large studies linked dairy consumption and acne – but not fermented dairy and acne. Since acne is formed via bacteria buildup, balancing the bacteria in your gut is a very logical step to take, if you’re looking to avoid breakouts. Some studies have even used specific probiotic extracts, and found they were successful at reducing acne.

Another study looked at the psychological benefits of probiotic supplementation. In this study, any of the 130 subjects who had more depressive symptoms at the start, saw significant improvement in mood after taking a probiotic. Interestingly, ancient cultures have been consuming fermented foods for thousands of years. Though they did not have science on their side, they saw anecdotal results, and thus continued the practice.

Scientists are also clear in their writing — microbes (like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria) influence brain health, via both direct and indirect pathways. I’m not quite sure why the yogurt companies haven’t latched onto this bit of science to help them sell their product yet, but they may soon include this in their marketing.

What Happens If You Don’t Eat Probiotics?

If you’re feeling or noticing any of the following symptoms, you may have a gut imbalance, and should schedule an appointment with your doctor. These symptoms include: food sensitivities or allergies, digestive problems (like gas and bloating), weight gain, skin issues (like acne, eczema, or rosacea). There are even further symptoms that may be related, like fatigue, mood swings, autoimmune disorders, depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, or even joint pain. When your gut bacteria is out of balance, your body also isn’t able to digest food as well. This can lead to serious digestive conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and leaky gut syndrome.

What Foods Contain Probiotics?

Encouraging the good strains of bacteria and averting the bad strains of bacteria - is as easy as consuming certain types of food. The best foods are the ones that naturally contain good bacteria, so that they're introduced to the gut immediately upon digestion. These types of foods are called probiotic foods, and there are many tasty options. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, sourdough bread, kombucha, miso, cottage cheese, and pickles all help to maintain a good balance of healthy gut bacteria. In addition, more than 70% of our immune cells live in the gut, and are very dependent on healthy gut flora.

Good News - Our Bars Have Probiotics!

That’s it. makes an entire line of Probiotic Fruit Bars! They also contain prebiotics, leading to improved gut health, with regular consumption. Additionally, our Probiotic Bars are non-GMO, vegan, paleo, and Whole30 compliant. Since all of our products are made from fruits, there are also additional nutrients and micronutrients. While you may love the portability of our Probiotic Bars - they are exactly like eating real, unprocessed foods. While some companies claim they only make products with real ingredients - we actually do! 

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