• Julie Rowin MD

Should I Take A Probiotic?


Probiotics and prebiotics have become buzz words, but it is important to understand what they actually do and how to get them in your diet.


The digestive tract is home to more than 500 species of bacteria, comprising about 100 trillion bugs altogether. Collectively, they are tremendously important for overall health. We give these bugs a home; in exchange, they do a variety of things for us.

First of all, what are probiotics?

They are the beneficial gut bacteria.


What is so beneficial about them?

  • they help digest food

  • they synthesize certain vitamins

  • they play an important role in immune health by decreasing inflammation in the body

  • they protect gut health

  • they act as a barrier to help our bodies filter and appropriately absorb nutrients from what we have eaten.


When asked, “Should I take a probiotic? This is what I say:

There’s more to gut health than taking a probiotic pill. It’s not only important to eat beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics), but you also have to feed them.

Feeding your good gut bacteria allows them to multiply in your gut. Particular types of fiber (prebiotic fiber) are what promotes good bacteria to flourish.

A probiotic pill is an option, but eating a variety of probiotic and prebiotic foods may give you more viable beneficial bacterial strains. And because probiotics and prebiotic fiber work synergistically to optimize health, it is essential to include a variety of both in your diet daily.



Here are some tips from Danka Lekovic NASM-CPT describing how to get more prebiotics and probiotics into your diet:


For prebiotics:

  • Choose slightly under ripe bananas with a green tip.

  • Grate raw garlic into your dressing, dips and salsas to add flavor and prebiotics.

  • Incorporate onions (raw or cooked) into your meals such as stir fries, salads, soups and wraps.

  • Eat complex carbohydrates such as legumes and whole grains.

  • Use raw asparagus, dandelion greens or thinly sliced Jerusalem artichokes in salads.

For probiotics:

  • Use apple cider vinegar instead of other vinegar in salad dressings or add a tablespoon to a large glass of water and drink it. Choose one that is organic, unrefined and unfiltered.

  • Try unsweetened kefir or yogurt with “live and active” cultures in your smoothie instead of almond or dairy milk.

  • Use sauerkraut or kimchi as an easy side-dish.

  • Drink Kombucha instead of another soft drink or alcoholic beverage.

  • Swirl some Miso, fermented soy bean (also available as chickpea) paste, into soup once taken off the heat.

  • Try oil-cured olives. Different than their brined counterparts, they are preserved in oil and are available at olive bars. They are not in a liquid of any sort and have a prune-like appearance.


Remember that probiotic foods are best eaten raw and not heated to high temperatures. They should never come to a boil to ensure your bugs are alive when you consume them.





Your mission is to buy foods with live, active bacterial cultures.





Here are a few pointers on what to look for when buying fermented or cultured foods:

  • Refrigerated: Fermented foods are full of live organisms that must be kept cool to survive, so buy only fermented items in the refrigerated section of the store.

  • Naturally Fermented versus pickled: Fermented foods will have the phrase “naturally fermented” and/or “live active cultures” or “probiotics” printed somewhere on the label, so make sure it says so. Pickled foods are pickled in vinegar or brine and have no probiotic benefits so don’t confuse the two terms.

  • Unpasteurized: Be sure the label does not say “pasteurized” because the pasteurization process kills the beneficial bacteria.

  • Raw: Look for fermented foods that are made from the best raw ingredients possible, namely those made from organic, non-GMO or locally farmed produce.


See a List of prebiotic and probiotic foods


Check out this simple probiotic recipe for CREAMY KEFIR VINAIGRETTE

Cautionary note: Be sure to slowly incorporate pre-biotic and pro-biotic foods into the diet if they are new to you or if you have autoimmune or gut issues as they may exacerbate symptoms if incorporated too quickly.