What are probiotics – why are they good for us?

Probiotics are a microorganism introduced into the body for its beneficial qualities.They are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for health, especially our digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. They are naturally found in your body, but can also be found in some healthy vegan foods.

How Do They Work?

  • When we lose “good” bacteria in our body, probiotics will help replace them.
  • They lower the amount of “bad” bacteria in our system that causes infections or other problems.
  • They help balance our “good” and “bad” bacteria to keep our body working like it should.

What Do They Do?

Probiotics help move food through our gut. Researchers are still trying to figure out which are best for certain health problems. Some common conditions they treat are:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
  • Antibiotic-related diarrhea

There is also some research to show they ease the symptoms of non-stomach-related problems. For example, some people say they have helped with:

  • Skin conditions, like eczema
  • Urinary and vaginal health
  • Preventing allergies and colds
  • Oral health

Benefits of probiotics for re-establishing and maintaining gut integrity and optimal health. What is the purpose of probiotics, who should consume them and for how long, and are they vegan?

Who and for how long?

Unless you’ve never been on a dose of antibiotics in your life, never eaten an animal product injected with steroids, hormones or antibiotics, never travel and are able to shield your body from environmental toxins via air, water and food – then you can stand to benefit from daily probiotic consumption.

Benefits of probiotics:

Our bodies require a healthy dose of good bacteria in order to maintain wellness. Meanwhile probiotics perform many daily functions:

  • break down and digest food
  • produce vitamins
  • suppress other microbes that threaten to take over, such as yeast
  • replenish good bacteria destroyed by antibiotics and environmental insults
  • manage diarrhea and urinary tract infections
  • potentially alleviate medical conditions such as: ◦Irritable bowel syndrome

◦Diarrhea, especially when associated with antibiotic use

◦Ulcers

◦Colitis

◦Chronic yeast infections

◦Autoimmune Illnesses

  • display minimal side effects, mainly gas initially as gut integrity is re-established

Enjoy natural vegan probiotics – fermented plant foods (cultured vegetables, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, coconut kefir, kimchi, kombucha, etc…). But always keep in mind that these foods may or may not have been cultured with lactobacillus which from an ethical standpoint you want to avoid.

Fermented foods are cheaper than supplements, tastier, and usually more effective. Adding these delights to our daily intake is quite feasible and in many ways preferred, but it will require additional education, planning and incorporation of new foods. Making our own fermented foods is cost effective, tasty, and usually more effective, and at least we know exactly what goes into them. Start with the easy ones to make like sauerkraut – obtainable to have a bottle of that in our fridge always.

The casein protein:

Unlike lactobacillus, casein is a mammalian milk protein that is non-vegan. In many cases, casein invokes a severe food allergen – avoid.

What to look out for in a “vegan” probiotic:

  • Read “vegan” labels – make sure you can view all the ingredients prior to purchasing online
  • Magnesium Stearate – look for “vegetable magnesium stearate” instead
  • Casein = milk protein
  • Capsules made with gelatin = horse, cow, sheep hoof remnants
  • Honey, Bee Pollon, Royal Jelly, Propolis, Beeswax = bee related
  • Lac Resin/Shellac = bug juice, think M&M’s coating
  • Cholecalciferol = animal version of vitamin D
  • Vitamin A – from fish or animal livers

Vegan Options:

Overall my recommendation for anyone, especially the true vegan (avoiding lactobacillus), is to consume probiotics from cultured and fermented foods. This is a delectable option because it provides nourishment while enjoying the probiotic benefits within real, whole vegan foods rich in water, fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals!

The great news is that there are plenty of convenient options for getting started such as a daily dose of fermented veggies (cultured veggies, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles) soy products (1-2 servings of soy or coconut based yogurt, tempeh, miso) or beverages (like Kombucha and Kevita).

In fact, learning the art of fermenting vegetables in your own kitchen may be that next challenge you’ve been seeking as a veteran vegan looking to take your health to the next level!

What is kombucha:

Because it’s naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, Kombucha is a probiotic beverage. This has a myriad of benefits such as improved digestion, fighting candida (harmful yeast) overgrowth, mental clarity, and mood stability.

What is kimchi:

Spicy pickled cabbage

What is tempeh:

Tempeh is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegan burger patty.

What is miso:

This is a paste made from fermented soybeans and barley or rice malt, used in Japanese cooking.

What is Kevita:

Is a beverage handcrafted from four strains of live probiotic. Flavors include Coconut, Mango Coconut and Pomegranate. KeVita is certified organic, non-dairy, non-GMO, gluten free and vegan.

What is Coconut kefir:

is a beverage that’s becoming more and more popular due to its incredible health benefits, for everything such as boosting immunity to fighting off harmful yeasts and bacteria. While kombucha brought back the hip factor to the world of fermented foods, coconut kefir is taking the reigns pretty quickly.

So there ya have it – take full advantage of another mega wonder of nature. Stay healthy, keep fit, be happy, always vegan.

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