Gut Instincts and Probiotics



Trust your gut! How many times have you been told to listen to your gut instincts? Moreover, how many times did you? Maybe next time, you can have a healthy dose of probiotics instead of a heaping tablespoon of Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…!!!???  

Current research suggests that your gut may have more impact on your thoughts than you ever realized. One study by scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the Genome Institute of Singapore led by Sven Pettersson recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that normal gut flora, the bacteria that inhabit our intestines, have a significant impact on brain development and subsequent adult behavior.  Read more at

Another more recent study at UCLA shows how changing gut bacteria through diet affects our brain. Read more at:

Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” similar to organisms that occur naturally in the digestive tract. Certain strains or types of probiotics have been linked to many health benefits including brain function. They can also help with irritable bowel syndrome, traveler’s diarrhea, combat the diarrhea that may result from taking antibiotics, and may even protect against common respiratory infections. Studies also suggest that probiotics can help ease lactose intolerance and may help tame unwanted and sometimes embarrassing gas.

GASMost important, they boost your immune system.

The supermarket saturation of probiotic products is in high gear. As usual, labeling can be very deceptive. Always read the label to know what, and how much, the product contains in order to correlate price with benefit. Also look for the expiration date and refrigeration needs.

Does the FDA Regulate the Term “Probiotics”?

In 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations – not the FDA — defined “probiotics” as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved no specific health claims for probiotics. Further, the amounts of probiotics that studies have found to be beneficial vary from strain to strain and condition to condition. In 2007, the FDA enacted regulations requiring dietary supplements to be produced in a quality manner, to be free of contaminants or impurities, and to be accurately labeled. Many probiotic researchers are hoping these regulations will improve the quality of probiotic supplements in the United States.

Studies have shown that different strains of probiotics provide different benefits. For Instance, if you want dietary support for the immune system, probiotic microbiology consultant Mary Ellen Sanders, MS, PhD, suggests looking for:

  • Bifidobacterium lactis HN019. This strain helps modulate some aspects of the immune system in older people (it’s sold as an ingredient for dairy and supplement products).
  • Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC55730 (available in BioGaia Gut Health products).
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) (in Danimals drinkable yogurt and Culturelle capsules).
  • Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001 (in DanActive products).
  • Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12 (available in Yo-Plus yogurt, LiveActive cheese). Use this uncooked for best results. 

If you want dietary support for diarrhea associated with antibiotic use, Sanders suggests looking for:

  • S. cerevisiae (S. boulardii) (found in Florastor powder and Lalflor capsules.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) (in Danimals drinkable yogurt and Culturelle capsules).
  • Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001 (in DanActive products).
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285 plus Lactobicillus casei Lbc80r (available as BioK + CL1285 fermented milk, BioK + CL1285 soy milk, and capsules).

What Should You Look for on the Label of a Food Containing Probiotics?

The first thing you want to look for is the full probiotic name which includes the genus, species, and then the strain. Many products containing probiotics list only the genus and species on the package, such as “bifidobacterium lactis” as listed in Kraft’s LiveActive Cheddar Cheese Sticks instead of Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12.

You might want to check out the website of the company that sells the product. It may tell you more about:

  • The strain used in the product.
  • How much of the probiotic each serving of the product contains.
  • The research that suggested a health benefit from the probiotic in question, and the amount of probiotic that was used in the research.

Healthy foods that are a great source of probiotics:

Yogurt: Keeps your gut healthy

The most familiar source of probiotics contains “good” bacteria like lactobacillus or bifidobacteria that keep a healthy balance in your gut.



Sauerkraut: Boosts Digestion

Sauerkraut contains the probiotics leuconostoc, pediococcus, and lactobacillus. Choose unpasteurized sauerkraut because pasteurization (used to treat most supermarket sauerkraut) kills the helpful bacteria. Sauerkraut — and the similar but spicy Korean dish kimchi — is also loaded with vitamins that may help ward off infection.

 Miso Soup: Promotes active digestion and boosts your immune system.

A popular breakfast food in Japan, this fermented soybean paste really can get your digestive system moving. Probiotic-filled miso reportedly contains more than 160 bacteria strains. It’s often used to make a salty soup that is low in calories and high in B vitamins and protective antioxidants.

 Soft Cheeses: Fight Bacteria

While potentially good for your digestion, not all probiotics can survive the journey through your gastrointestinal tract. But research finds the lactobacillus strains in some fermented soft cheeses, like Gouda, are hardy enough to survive. In addition, cheese may act as a carrier for probiotics, which may boost the immune system.

Kombucha SCOBY Culture

Kombucha SCOBY Culture

Kombucha: Immunity-boosting tea

Kombucha is a tea that is made by fermenting sweetened black tea with a flat, pancake-like culture of yeasts and bacteria called the SCOBY, or mother, culture.

 Kefir: Probiotic-Filled Drink

According to legend, kefir dates back to the shepherds of Eurasia’s Caucasus Mountains. They discovered that the milk they carried had a tendency to ferment into a bubbly beverage. Thick, creamy, and tangy like yogurt, kefir has its own strains of probiotic bacteria, plus a few helpful yeast varieties.

Sourdough Bread: The San Francisco treat: Aids Digestion

The next time you make a sandwich, pay attention to what’s holding your cold cuts and cheese. San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread contains lactobacilli, a probiotic that may benefit digestion.


When looking to pickles for probiotics, choose naturally fermented varieties where vinegar was not used in the pickling process. A sea salt and water solution encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria and may give sour pickles some digestive benefits.


Made from a base of fermented soybeans. The Indonesian patty produces a type of natural antibiotic that fights certain bacteria. In addition, tempeh is very high in protein. The flavor has often been described as smoky, nutty, and similar to a mushroom. Tempeh can be marinated and used in meals in place of meat.

 NATTONatto: Fermented soy bean

Natto increases the health and strength of your skin, heart and bones. It contains vitamin K, K2, and PQQ (derived mainly form diet). How to eat natto: take it out of its package, pour it into a bowl whip it with a fork about 50 times until it gets foamy. In Japan, natto is commonly served over rice but you can add plenty of cultured vegetables, wheat free tamari, scallions and a little wasabi to taste.

Probiotic Supplements

In addition to being found in foods, probiotics are available as supplements. Warning: If you’re ill or have immune system problems, you should be cautious about taking probiotics. Always consult your physician before taking supplements.

Lagniappe (Something extra)

 Prebiotics: Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

While probiotic-foods contain live bacteria, prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria already living in your digestive system. You can find prebiotics in foods such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, maple syrup, and legumes. Consider eating prebiotic foods on their own or with probiotic foods to perhaps give the probiotics a boost.

A final note: Taking probiotics as a supplement might interact with some medications.  Consult with your health care practitioner regarding questions about any supplements you are taking.  This document should not take the place of medical advice.

Bon Appétit mon chéri!


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in Honolulu


Sheryl Malin

I am a registered nurse, licensed acupuncturist, and firm believer that holistic medicine generates holistic health. I also believe that diet is the major factor that influences our health. Home grown in New Orleans, granddaughter of a butcher and grocer, I have always been immersed in good food. However, throughout the years I have seen the quality of food plummet while poor health issues in the United States continue to rise.
I realize that most people are too busy to keep up to date about the ever changing issues that affect the quality of our food, our diet, and our health. As an educator, I was compelled to write this blog. My hope is to better inform you about the food you consume and how to make better choices in order to live a healthier life. It’s all about you and the choices you make.
Bon Appétit

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