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ASK GRETTIE – All About Probiotics

This is my most recent Ask Grettie Column for Chic Vegan…

I have been hearing so much about probiotics lately.  I understand their value, but am wanting some more information.  How do I choose a good probiotic?  So many of them have soy in them and I generally try to avoid soy.  Your thoughts?

~ Sirica

Hi Sirica!

Probiotics are very beneficial.  I personally take them multiple times a day and give them to my family as well.  Our gut is a large part of our immune system and according to Brenda Watson, “[T]he gut is the root and core of our total general well being.  It’s the place where food is broken down into the building blocks of our cells.  It’s the first line of defense against invading pathogens and infectious diseases.” Our bodies are filled with bacteria…some good, some bad.  With probiotics we can tip the scales in our favor by introducing large amount of GOOD bacteria that will overrun the bad.

There are many different ways to ingest probiotics:

1.  Fermented foods

The existence of fermented foods predates recorded history.  So many cultures utilize fermented foods in their diets such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and yogurt (I favor the coconut milk variety).  Eating fermented foods is a great way to obtain beneficial bacteria.

2.  Probiotic drinks

Good Belly and KeVitaare two companies that have burst onto the probiotic scene.  My one criticism of Good Belly is that they add sugar to their drinks.  KeVita on the other hand does not since it’s drinks are sweetened with organic stevia.

3.  Probiotic capsules or powders

I recently attended the Natural Products Expo West and was able to talk to many probiotic manufacturers.  I learned so much from them.  Many of the brands that have soy in their products actually were able to win me over by explaining that their probiotics are “grown” on fermented soy and do not use.  I am a person who tries to limit the soy in my diet, but I do see the benefits of including fermented soy in one’s diet and I do so about once a week.

Here is what New Chapter has to say about the soy issue:

Although true soy allergies are very rare, many people have difficulty digesting unfermented soy. Whole, unprocessed soy contains nutrient blocking factors, such as phytate, which interfere with its potential benefits. Fermented soy, on the other hand, agrees with almost everyone, even people with soy sensitivities. Probiosis of soy also changes isoflavones from inert forms into their activated aglycone genestein, dadzein, and glycitein forms.

Yes. New Chapter’s Probiotics deliver non-GMO organic soy in its fermented whole-food form, similar to miso, tempeh and natto. Unlike unfermented soy or isolated soy components, these traditional soy foods have been consumed for thousands of years and are associated with the health and longevity of traditional Asian cultures.  Many research studies suggest that regular consumption of fermented soy is associated with numerous health benefits, including the maintenance of normal cell growth in breast tissue.*

Yes. A recent peer-reviewed scientific review of fourteen clinical trials examining the effects of soy on the thyroid concluded that in the absence of an iodine deficiency, there is little evidence that soy foods or soy isoflavones adversely affect thyroid function and that “hypothyroid individuals need not avoid soy foods.” In fact, some studies suggest that soy may actually promote normal thyroid cell growth. To help ensure healthy thyroid function, our Probiotic Nutrients™ contain a whole-food form of iodine.

I have had a lot of exposure to probiotic capsules and powders and recommend the following (each of which I have tried):

Renew Life Ultimate Flora, New Chapter Probiotic All-Flora, Ortho Molecular Ortho Biotic, ThreeLac (great for candida issues), and probiotics by Klaire Labs.

Your body may go through an adjustment period when beginning probiotics which can range anywhere from a little gas to more frequent bowel movements.  If you have a lot of symptoms, scale back and take less until your body adjusts.  I recommend starting slowly and building-up from there.  For example, if a bottle states that the dose is 2 capsules, use 1 capsule for a few weeks and then add in the second capsule.

**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her at askgrettie@chicvegan.com .**

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