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By Suja Juice

Probiotics 101: Everything you need to know!

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 5.02.07 PMProbiotics. Some of us know them as supplements, something that’s found in yogurt or kombucha, or, as healthy bacteria living in our gut. All of these are technically correct. But before we get into the nitty gritty of what probiotics are and how they affect our bodies, lets take a step back and talk about gut flora. (1) Living inside each of our digestive tracts are about 100 trillion different types of bacteria. In fact, about 7 lbs of our physical bodies are made up of bacteria that lives inside of our intestines. (2) This might sound gross to some people but this bacteria is actually vital to our overall health. Gut flora helps us properly digest our food, absorb vital nutrients and enzymes from the foods we consume, protects us against harmful compounds and keeps us healthy by protecting our immune system. If it wasn’t for healthy gut flora, we would all be sick constantly. Recently, there have also been studies suggesting that gut flora can affect our mental and emotional well-being. In short, the healthier our gut, the healthier our bodies and minds. (3) So how do we know if we have healthy gut bacteria/flora? Well, there are many things that can affect the health of our gut. These things include stress, antibiotics, (which eliminate good bacteria along with bad bacteria from your gut), a diet low in soluble fiber (not enough fruits and veggies), lack of sleep, lack of exercise & a diet high in sugar & foods that cause inflammation. (3) For infants, developing healthy gut bacteria is key and it’s also very easy for mothers to negatively affect the development of their child’s gut bacteria without even knowing. Until we are born, the fetal gut is completely sterile, meaning it contains no good or bad bacteria. Traditional vaginal birth allows the passage of microbes from the mother to the sterile infant’s gut. If the mother has a C-section, the infant’s gut will not absorb this healthy bacteria from the mother. (4) This leaves the baby more susceptible to bad bacteria because it doesn’t absorb that healthy flora from its mother’s birth canal. Bottle-feeding or use of antibiotics at a young age can further prevent a child from developing healthy bacteria. While our gut bacteria changes throughout our lives, it is during the first year of life that we develop the critical base of bacteria that protects us for the rest of our lives. (5) So, getting back to the topic at hand, what exactly are “probiotics” and what do they have to do with healthy gut bacteria? Probiotics are a culture of good bacteria. We can find this culture in supplements, dairy products and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. These dairy products and fermented foods must be non-pasteurized as pasteurization kills the bacteria. This is something most people don’t realize as a lot of companies advertise pasteurized products as containing probiotics. Unfortunately, this is most likely inaccurate as most probiotics cannot survive the heat required of pasteurization. Probiotics are just a form of bacteria and bacteria can be found everywhere from our food to the dirt our food grows in, to desks, public bathrooms, etc. Some of this bacteria is healthy, some isn’t. (6) How do we know if we have healthy gut bacteria or if we should be introducing more probiotics into our gut? The unfortunate truth is that the vast majority of us do not have enough healthy gut bacteria. This often manifests as disgestive distress, Irritable Bowl Syndrome, gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, Chron’s disease, recurring sickness, drowsiness, among many others. For those of us that don’t have these symptoms, it is still very possible we are lacking in adequate gut flora. (7) Historically, probiotics were a regular part of our daily diet. Before refrigeration was invented, much of our food was preserved using fermentation and fermented foods packed with probiotics made an appearance at nearly every meal. Additionally, while we have made great strides in protecting ourselves from harmful bacteria found in dirt, etc., in the past we actually ate quite a bit more dirt, which contained healthy bacteria as well as harmful bacteria. Moreover, antibiotics, C-sections and bottle-feeding (just to name a few) were not yet invented, allowing us to develop healthier gut bacteria than we have been able to in this century. (6) The safest and easiest way to get more probiotics is to consume non-pasteurized fermented or dairy foods. The second option is to take a high-quality probiotic supplement. (8) When looking for a high-quality probiotic supplement, there are few things you should look for. First is the price and second is the potency. Like everything else on the open market, you pay for what you get. The cheaper the supplement, the lower quality it will be. It is worth it to spend a bit more money on something that will work than waste money on something that won’t. (8) For potency, try and stick with something that contains at least 8 billion per dose and one that contains strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These are normally shortened to things like “L. acidophilus, L. paracasei, B. lactis & B. breve”. The L stands for Lactobacillus and the B stands for Bifidobacterium. If you get confused, most natural food & supplement stores will have someone in the supplement department that can help you. (9) Suja Juice
  1. Getz, Lindsay. "A Healthful Dose of Bacteria - Yogurt Is the Best Probiotic Source, but Clients Do Have Other Options." A Healthful Dose of Bacteria - Yogurt Is the Best Probiotic Source, but Clients Do Have Other Options. Today's Dietician, 1 Oct. 2011. Web. <>.
  2. Krans, Brian. "6 Surprising Facts About the Microbes Living in Your Gut." Healthlines RSS News. Heathen News Inc, 7 Sept. 2013. Web. <>.
  3. Myers, Wendy. "Probiotics - The Foundation of Health -" Live to 110. Live to 110, LLC, 9 Feb. 2015. Web. <
  4. Pollan, Michael. "Some of My Best Friends Are Germs." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 May 2013. Web. <>.
  5. "4 Dangers to Infants You Need to Be Aware Of." Mercola Publishing, 13 Sept. 2013. Web. <>.
  6. "4 Dangers to Infants You Need to Be Aware Of." Mercola Publishing, 13 Sept. 2013. Web. <>.
  7. "The Get Well Center of Arizona, A Natural Approach To Health Care." Gastrointestinal Issue, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Arizona. Get Well Center of Arizona, 1 Apr. 2014. Web.
  8. "Probiotics | Complete Probiotic Supplements." Mercola Publishing, 1 Mar. 2015. Web. <>.
  9. "Bifidobacterium Bifidum: A Common, Beneficial Lactic Acid Bacteria for Health." Chrysalis Nutrition and Health, LLC., 2015. Web. <>.