Are you feeling confused about whether you should take probiotics vs fermented foods for a healthier gut?
I recently had this discussion with someone with a long history of Ulcerative Colitis which is an inflammatory disease of the bowel. Its distressing symptoms of pain, diarrhoea, fever and tiredness make life very difficult.
How do you decide whether to use fermented foods vs probiotics for a healthier gut?
One of best strategies is to use both fermented foods and probiotics to increase good bacteria in the gut in order to crowd out the ‘bad’ bacteria associated with Colitis and inflammation. Researchers have discovered probiotic bacteria can influence the activity of immune cells and the cells that line the intestines. Specifically, these friendly bacteria appear to block disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the lining of the intestines. There’s also evidence that the good bugs block chemical factors involved in inflammation.
However this brings up the question about whether to take probiotics long term or look for a supply of good bacteria found in fermented foods.
Benefits of a Probiotic Supplements
High doses of specific bacteria can help show improvement faster, especially for acute issues – if you feel something going on in your intestines fairly suddenly like diarrhea or you are suddenly a little bloated or constipated, then a probiotic supplement can be the way to go.
Any research on the benefit of good bacteria to help a given condition like colitis or allergies has used probiotic supplements in the study. You know the quantity of good bacteria you are getting when you take a probiotic supplement. It’s always perceived as simpler to take a pill.
Negative: it can be costly to stay on long term.
Look for probiotics with a number of strains in large numbers. I recommend Polybac 8 as it has 8 different strains numbering in the trillions and has been highly endorsed by my clients.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
While the bacterial strains in fermented foods just pass through the gut and do not colonise, they do contain unique strains that research is starting to show help us in many different ways.
Fermented foods are a great preventative. By eating a variety on a regular basis, you are providing the body with a cross section of strains a probiotic cannot match
Fermented foods also contain vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are all more bioavailable to the body, providing it with more value from food.
More importantly, fermented foods often contain prebiotic fibre or substances. Prebiotics feed the residential bacteria and help them colonize. So while they do not contain residential strains, research has shown that prebiotics can increase the colonization of your own residential strains.
Many delicious recipes and meals can be made by incorporating fermented foods, and can aid digestion, intestinal health and help prevent health issues.
Negative: it takes more time and effort to make fermented foods but once started the process is easy.
Summary: fermented foods vs probiotics for a healthy gut
For anyone with health issues use both probiotics and fermented foods to increase the good bacteria. First take probiotics for the acute situation and then maintain high numbers of good bacteria over the long term with fermented foods. In the case of my client this was the way to go.
If you are trying to repair your digestive tract, then you might have to try different probiotic supplements until you find the one that is right for you. Do the same with fermented foods to find the ones you like the best and that fit into your eating lifestyle. Look on this as a fun way of experimenting with new tastes and recipes with the underlying benefit of improving your health.
But remember that whether you take both in the form of fermented foods or a probiotic supplement, getting good bacteria into your body is the important part.
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