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What you should know about probiotics for women, men and kids

Are you gearing up for spring break? Heading somewhere snowy or sunny or enjoying some time at home? Especially if traveling, you will want to pack the probiotics. Or make that your first pit stop after arriving at your destination.

Why you should make probiotics a priority

Probiotics are the good bacteria that help crowd out the bad bacteria, fungi and yeast in your digestive tract. And 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, according to “Probiotics Benefits, Foods and Supplements” by Dr Axe. This is why you need to take care of your guts!

So what affects the amount of probiotics produced by your body? You may be surprised.

Antibiotics, for one. While taking antibiotics will kill off the bad bacteria in your body, it will also kill off the good bacteria.

I learned this lesson the hard way, by taking antibiotics several times a year during college when I would get “sinus infections”, which were probably caused by my horrific diet and refusal to listen to my body. Eesh.

In the past 18 years though, I’ve taken antibiotics just 2-3 times. I learned that I could opt out of them during childbirth. I learned to use homeopathic remedies instead of antibiotics when the kids got ear aches or infections, which disappeared almost completely once I stopped feeding them baby cereals.

So please, take the lesson from me. You have other options besides antibiotics, such as essential oils, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies and so many more.

For times when you absolutely need antibiotics, you should definitely add probiotics to your diet.

Antibiotics aside, lots of other factors influence the probiotics in your body, such as:

  • consuming food additives, food colorings and sugars (sugars increase yeast).
  • drinking water with chlorine or fluoride.
  • using antibacterial soaps and products.
  • inhaling air pollution.

If your naturally occurring probiotics get depleted, your intestinal flora can get imbalanced, leading to inflammation – the root of many evils. These evils may surface in your guts, as bloating, diarrhea, lactose intolerance, irritated bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or leaky gut syndrome, which is what inspired my book.

Or the evils might surface as depression, chronic skin issues, thyroid issues, vaginal yeast infections and autoimmune disorders.

How you can add probiotics to help boost your immune system

You should consider taking probiotics if you have any chronic symptoms or if you have irregular bowel movements (regular = going at least once per day). You should also take them while traveling, when you’re taking antibiotics, if you’re feeling run-down or constantly exposing yourself to the probiotic “depletors” listed above.

More doctors are advising patients to take them daily, even long-term. Given my gut health, that’s what I am doing. I have also given my kids probiotics daily since they were babies.

probiotics sauerkrautFor a baby, you can use ¼ teaspoon of probiotic powder daily on the nipple if nursing or mixed into the bottle. Later, you can add that same amount to your kid’s cold or room-temperature foods, since heat will destroy the probiotic organisms.

When shopping for a quality probiotic supplement, Dr. Axe recommends looking for the following (his article goes into more detail if you love detail!):

  1. a high CFU count, from 15 billion to 100 billion.
  2. strains like bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
  3. “Live and active cultures” instead of “made with active cultures”.

You can also add these probiotic foods to your diet:

  • unsweetened organic goat, sheep or coconut yogurt
  • kimchi
  • some sauerkraut
  • some aged cheeses
  • kefir
  • kombucha
  • organic miso
  • Sicilian green olives
  • taro root

Just be sure they are fermented without vinegar or added sugars and non-pasteurized versions, which will be in the refrigerated sections at stores.

How much probiotics is too much?

Some experts advise that if you have an autoimmune disorder, to consult your doctor before taking probiotics. Dr. Andrew Weil says to avoid probiotics if you’re allergic to lactobacillus, acidophilus, bifidobacterium, or Streptococcus thermophiles.

If the probiotics seem to make you gassy or give you loose stools, you may need to reduce the amount you’re taking or switch brands.

Probiotics help so many health issues! In this overly stressed and busy, chemically-laden world we live in, we should all consider taking them.

And if you’re heading to spring break soon? Where you’re likely to get less sleep, drink unfamiliar water and eat less healthily? Then yes, pack your bags with probiotics you’ve tested and know work for you. Give your immune system a boost!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Dealing with leaky gut syndrome

Is leaky gut syndrome a real thing or just a catch phrase for all those intestinal issues doctors can’t seem to explain?

leaky gut syndromeAccording to the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, gastrointestinal dysfunctions are the most overlooked and common disorders today, affecting about 70 million Americans and accounting for billions of dollars in annual sales of over-the-counter digestive aids. That total doesn’t even include prescription medicines.

That’s a lot of people with GI problems and it’s hard to say how many antacids and prescription meds – enough to fill a large lake or five? That’s just digestive aids, never mind the ibuprofen and other drugs we take to alleviate the ambiguous symptoms that could be related to leaky gut syndrome. And all these drugs may be contributing to the problem!

What is leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut syndrome has been accepted as a real condition, but is still a mystery to healthcare professionals. Put in simple terms, leaky gut syndrome is when your intestines develop tiny holes in them.

The holes allow food particles to enter your blood stream, which is no place for food to be! Your body sees the food particles in your blood stream as “enemies”, putting your immune system into constant overdrive and possibly wearing your body down.

Symptoms may include gas, bloating, cramps, food sensitivities and others that can be mistaken for other conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid issues, autoimmune disorders, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and even autism could be symptomatic of a leaky gut.

Traditional medical tests often fail to reveal a definite cause of these symptoms, which can leave people without a diagnosis and, therefore, untreated, according to this webMD.com article.

However, Dr. Axe presents a more sophisticated explanation of leaky gut, as well as alternative tests for it in this article.

Though traditional and holistic doctors may not all agree yet, we can heed these factors thought to contribute to leaky gut and make lifestyle changes accordingly.

  • eating poorly
  • taking medications (especially antibiotics) that can cause an imbalance in your digestive flora
  • stress

Note that when doctors used to blame my allergies and chronic sinus issues on “stress”, I thought it was a cop-out and got angry. But now it makes more sense knowing that in traditional Chinese medicine, worry and anxiety (and overanalyzing) are emotions connected to your stomach and spleen. So yes, we all experience stress, but we don’t all handle it the same.

How can you help leaky gut syndrome?

Though it’s not well researched and documented throughout the medical industry as a whole just yet, many naturopaths have successfully treated enough patients with leaky gut syndrome that they have adopted programs for diagnosing and treating it.

Many of the treatment programs include:

  1. Adjusting your diet (for several months or longer). Avoid foods such as dairy, gluten and nightshades, known to commonly cause inflammation. Consider the GAPs diet, a paleo diet or another diet designed to reduce inflammation.
  2. Taking natural supplements to help heal your digestive system while avoiding the foods that irritate it. This could involve products with L-glutamine, probiotics or other natural products.
  3. Doing both with advice from your doctor. If your doctor is unfamiliar with leaky gut, visit one who is.

Everything starts in your intestines. If they are irritated and inflamed, you are likely to experience inflammation elsewhere in your body (sinuses for me). That’s why digestive health is so important. And that’s why you should have a healthcare professional help you troubleshoot rather than do it alone.

For more information on the subtle symptoms foods can cause, other foods that can cause inflammation and how to eat healthier, read Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.