Probiotic rich food versus supplements - Are probiotics worth it?

I'm sure you've heard lots about probiotics.  Are you wondering if you really need them?  Are probiotics worth the money?  Or are food sources of probiotics as good as all the supplements everyone is taking at the moment?

Before I answer these questions, I've got a few questions for you...

Do you often have painful bloating and flatulence after eating certain foods? Do you find that stress, worry and anxiety always affect your digestive system? Do you struggle with frequent loose stools and/or constipation? 

If yes, then you should get to know your 'friendly little gut microbes'. Living in your gut are about 100 trillion little bugs that, if you look after them well, will look after you.

According to the NY Times journalist, Nicholas Bakalar:

"There are at least 800 billion more cells in your body than there are galaxies in the known universe".

Yet, you have approximately 10 times as many microorganisms in your gut as you do cells in your body. Wow!  Stop for a minute and try to calculate how just many microorganisms inhabit your gut!


What is the gut microbiome and what does it do?


Your gut microbiome (often referred to as your gut flora) is made up of all sorts of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. You can learn more about your microbiome and its functions in my blog: "A quick peek at your second brain - the gut microbiome", but basically your microbiome:

  • influences your genes, your brain, your metabolism, your intestinal functioning and your blood sugars
  • helps regulate the absorption of food, the sensations of hunger and satiety, and your ability to regulate your weight (so if you want to lose or gain weight you really need to think about the health of your gut microbiome)
  • helps to protect the cell junctions lining your intestines. If these junctions become compromised the disorder 'leaky gut' or 'increased gut permeability' develops and this is associated with food intolerances and chronic inflammation
  • plays a vital role in our immunity and in helping our bodies to cope with chronic inflammation.


Dysbiosis - Common signs and symptoms


An unhappy microbiome, or one in which there is an overgrowth of 'bad' bacteria, is called dysbiosis and common signs and symptoms of dysbiosis are:

  • abdominal pain, cramping and bloating
  • gas/flatulence
  • constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • food intolerances/sensitivities
  • 'foggy' brain, fatigue and mood swings.

Are these common problems you deal with everyday?


What are probiotics?


Probiotics are live microorganisms used to promote health. They generally contain a variety of microorganisms and different probiotics will have different health benefits depending on the microorganisms they contain. Probiotics can be taken as a dietary supplement or in food. If you are looking for probiotics to improve your gut health I suggest you look at what you eat on a day-to-day basis and try to include more fermented foods in your diet.


What are good sources of probiotics?


I disagree with all those adverts saying you need to take an over-the-counter probiotic supplement everyday and I agree instead with Harvard Medical School who says that when it comes to sources of probiotics, 

"Fermented foods are the best source, as probiotic supplements, which are typically sold over the counter, are reserved to treat specific ailments as suggested by your doctor, and not recommended for everyday use. Plus, supplements do not have the same FDA oversight as medications do."

There are lots of fermented foods you can choose from and try to eat them every single day. Just a quick word of advice though, if you are new to fermented foods eat only a small amount everyday to begin with - give your body time to adjust to them otherwise if you eat too much too quickly you may end up feeling very uncomfortable.

Here is a list of different fermented foods for you to try:

  • have a bowl of live yoghurt for breakfast, make a delicious dip with live yoghurt & garlic or use yoghurt instead of mayonnaise
  • drink kefir or kombucha
  • have tempeh instead of meat one night
  • enjoy a delicious miso soup
  • eat sauerkraut or pickles with your meals
  • try sourdough bread with nice fermented cheese.

I am getting hungry just writing this!

Anyway, remember that the health of your entire body and mind are closely connected to the health of your gut microbiome. So look after your microbiome. Feed it good foods and avoid eating too much sugar.

If you're struggling with gut issues or chronic health conditions related to poor gut health (such as autoimmune disorders, skin conditions, chronic fatigue) then you might be eating a food that you're intolerant to.  The best way to find out what you're intolerant to is to do an elimination diet.  This can be quite daunting so I've put it all into an easy guide for you to follow: 



Homeopathic Bowel Nosodes for Gut Health


Before I go, I thought I would chat a bit about homoeopathic bowel nosodes which are often mistaken as "natural probiotics" and taken the same way one would take a probiotic supplement.

Luckily we have many wonderful homeopathic remedies to help with digestive problems such as an imbalanced gut microbiome or dysbiosis. One set of remedies is actually made from intestinal flora - the bowel nosodes.  Unfortunately, these same remedies are often mistakenly used as "probiotic supplements".

Although they're wonderful 'health-changing' remedies, it is important to be aware that they are not "homeopathic probiotics". They're homoeopathic remedies made from intestinal flora but used to treat a wide range of health problems and they should always be prescribed according to homoeopathic principles and not taken as mere probiotic supplements.   

I want to emphasise here that they're very deep-acting remedies that you should only take under the care and guidance of a professional homeopath.  Bowel nosodes do not only help with digestive issues, but actually work much deeper and are commonly used in autoimmune disease, chronic skin conditions or when a patient is not responding to their constitutional homoeopathic remedy.

When you think about the far-reaching impact our gut microbiome has on our digestion, our brains, our immunity and even our genetics, then it is not surprising that the bowel nosodes can have such deep, far-reaching effects on our health.

Hopefully I've clarified the difference between bowel nosodes and probiotics and the importance of only using homeopathic bowel nosodes when prescribed them by a professional homoeopath.  


Blog image source:  Bruno/Germany from pixabay


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IMPORTANT - PLEASE READ: DISCLAIMER: You should not rely on this information as a substitute or replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health and before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet you should always consult your general medical practitioner or other health professional. The use of any information provided by Ruth Hull is at your sole risk and no assurance can be given that the information provided will always include the most recent findings or developments. 

Hi.  I'm Ruth

I've been working in natural health for over 23 years now and I'm here to support and inspire you to learn more about your body and your health.

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