The Evolution Of Probiotics?
Back in the 20th century, the “father of probiotics”, Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian-born biologist, suggested that ingesting beneficial microorganisms, could have a positive effect on people’s health. As scientists tested this theory, the term, probiotics, surfaced, which means “promoting life”, and has become the term used to most commonly describe these microorganisms.
Since that time hundreds of scientific studies have been conducted, and today, the use of probiotics and their numerous health benefits, are widely accepted by consumers, as well as a large contingent of the medical profession. In addition, pharmacies, health food stores, supermarkets, and online retailers such as Amazon, have huge areas dedicated to the sale of probiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics, in simple terms, are live microorganisms in supplements, which promote several health benefits. Stress, poor diet, excessive use of antibiotics, and other medications, can reduce the level of good bacteria, or gut-flora, thus compromising the digestive system and weakening the immune system.
Most people hear the word “bacteria” and immediately think of something which is invasive and harmful to the body. That is not entirely true, as we all have forms of good and bad bacteria in our systems. In fact, studies have shown that there can be as many as 3 trillion different types of bacteria in the human body.
And yes! Your read that right. Trillion with a capital “T”.
Good bacteria are referred to as beneficial or friendly bacteria and live in the gastrointestinal tract, have a positive effect on digestive processes, and are vital to the overall functioning of the body. Some of the health benefits of probiotics include:
- Prevention or alleviation of diarrhea
- Restoration of beneficial and bad bacteria in the gut
- Improvement of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, autism, and OCD
- Reduction of bad cholesterol (LDL) levels thus positively affecting the heart
- Reduction or alleviation of allergies
- Reduce the symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis, IBS, and Necrotizing Enterocolitis
- A boost to the immune system
- Promotion of weight loss and belly fat reduction by increasing fat absorption
Causes Of An Unhealthy Gut
Following is a comprehensive list of lifestyle activities that have a negative impact on beneficial gut bacteria and compromise good microbes. Although some cannot be changed, most can by simply changing eating and drinking habits, being more conscious of prescribed medications, focussing on regular exercise, and having a night of better sleep.
- Excessive Processed Sugar
Bad gut bacteria have an affinity to feed on sugar, thus increasing the levels of bad bacteria, creating a bacterial imbalance
- Alcohol Consumption
Some studies have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol can have a positive effect on overall health. However, alcohol turns to sugar, and if consumed in large amounts, as stated above, will feed the unhealthy bacteria and create an imbalance
- Antibiotic Medication
Antibiotics are one of the, if not the worst culprit for killing gut bacteria, both good and bad. It occurs with small and large doses alike, and it is not uncommon to see a physician suggest a probiotic in conjunction with an antibiotic prescription.
- Insomnia or Inadequate Sleep
An unhealthy gut can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions, which in turn can affect sleep. It is not clear as to whether poor sleep causes gut issues, or whether gut issues cause poor sleep. What is known, is that there is a link between the two.
- Lack of Fiber
Inadequate fiber intake can create motility problems and ultimately lead to constipation. Constipation allows the bad bacteria to remain in the body and continue to breed. Therefore, adequate fiber is essential to move some of the unhealthy through the digestive system, and out of the body. Unlike sugar, the healthy gut flora breed on fiber, resulting in increased levels.
- Air Pollution
The term air pollution covers a very broad area, however, in simple terms, toxins found in the air have proven to have a negative effect on healthy bacteria in the gut. Outside the home, these can include exhaust fumes, industrial plant emissions, and others. Within the home household cleaners and dust accumulated in the vents and ducts can create toxins.
- Chlorinated Water
Most municipalities use chlorine to kill bacteria commonly found in their public drinking water supply. As a result, tap water generally has traces of chlorine which of course, has a detrimental effect on the good and bad bacteria found in the gut.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Specifically, NAISIDS, which stands for Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, have a detrimental effect on the gut flora and can deteriorate the lining of the gut.
Challenge For The Vegan
As you can see, the primary causes for an unhealthy gut are not unique to the non-vegan lifestyle, meaning that vegans are as susceptible to issues related to gut bacteria as their non-vegan counterparts.
Unfortunately, many vegans stay away from probiotics due to a misconception that all probiotics contain animal products, and more specifically, dairy. It is true that much of the good bacteria is derived from yogurt and other dairy products and contains lactobacillus. However, lactobacillus is a strain of bacteria, which is found everywhere, even in the gut of those who do not ingest dairy.
Lactobacillus is, however, grown on a dairy culture, however, the dairy by-product is entirely removed when the lactobacillus is processed. This poses the question, is it dairy, or is it not? From a pure ingredient standpoint, it is not, however, a true vegan may consider it a dairy product from an ethical standpoint.
There are many excellent plant-based probiotic supplements on the market of which we will list the 7 best later in the article. Alternatively, vegans have the option of getting probiotics through food sources. Following is a list of great food sources which are high in probiotics. You will see that most are created using a fermentation process, which is conducive to the growth of good bacteria.
Popular in Germany and is fermented cabbage containing large quantities of live cultures which have proven to alleviate allergies
Fermented vegetables, primarily cucumbers, are tremendous at restoring good bacteria in the gut
- Kombucha Tea
A great form of gut flora made by adding yeast, good bacteria, and sugar to tea and allowing it to ferment for a week or more
Popular in Korea, and created by taking a primary vegetable such as cabbage, carrots, or radishes, and combining them with spices to form a sour and spicy probiotic filled food source
A popular fermented vegetable that is very popular in Greece and other Mediterranean areas
An Indonesian fermented soy product that is extremely high in protein and probiotics.
- Miso Soup
A low-calorie broth soup with origins in Japan. Much like Tempeh, it is very high in protein and contains an abundance of probiotics
- Sourdough Bread
Sourdough bread is very high in lactobacillus, and the combination of yeast and the bacteria interacting with each other, allows for starches to be predigested.
Fantastic for the vegan, as microalgae are derived from ocean plants and have a tremendous effect on gastrointestinal health. The most common include, Spirulina, Blue-green Algae, and Chlorella.
- Water Kefir
With origins in Turkey, Kefir means “feel good”, and is made by combining microbes with simple sugars, usually in a coconut water to create a full complement of probiotics.
For a full explanation of the various types of probiotics including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Bacillus, and Streptococcus, we suggest reading our article “Best Probiotic For Men” which goes into great depth as to what they are and what they are best used for.
The Best 7 Vegan Probiotics
- 1MD Complete Probiotics Platinum
The MD Complete Probiotics Platinum, is at the #1 spot for best vegan probiotic, and is promoted by 1MD, the manufacturer as being the “ultimate multivitamin for your microbiome”.
It boasts 50 billion live cultures, is 100% vegetable-based and is totally resistant to harsh stomach acids which can kill live bacteria. Included in the composition is a prebiotic fiber that stimulates the growth of the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli strains.
1MD prides itself in delivering the highest quality, highest potency probiotic on the market, by choosing top quality strains only. While some competitive products include 1, 2, or 3 strains, the MD Complete Probiotics formula includes a total of 11 strains.
The 1MD Complete Probiotics Platinum has a 4 Star rating based on 43 customer reviews and is our top choice probiotic for vegans.
- Guarantees 50 billion live cultures and includes 11 potent strains
- The formula is designed for vegans and is Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Soy Free, and Preservative Free
- Contains a prebiotic fiber that stimulates the bacteria in the gut to ensure maximum effectiveness
- Capsules are quite large
- The price point may be a little high but is offset by the quality
- Renew Life – Ultimate Flora Probiotic Extra Care
The Renew Life – Ultimate Flora Probiotic Extra Care, is a very high potency probiotic that guarantees that the formula contains 50 billion active live cultures. In addition, it includes 10 strains, created for targeted delivery, and has a positive effect on balancing digestive health and boosting the immune system.
Renew Life Ultra Flora is ideal for the individual who leads a vegan lifestyle as it is free of dairy, gluten, nuts, wheat, and eggs. In addition, it is extremely pure and does not have any unknown fillers or additives, making it perfect for anyone concerned about allergies.
Renew Life – Ultimate Flora Probiotic Extra Care has a 4.5 Star rating based on 1,558 customer reviews and is an ideal choice for vegans.
- High potency containing over 50 billion live cultures
- Entirely vegan friendly containing no dairy or other animal products
- Includes 10 top quality strains that aid in digestion, boost the immune system, and provide an energized feeling
- Created with targeted delivery in mind
- Due to the high potency, the pill should only be taken once per day, and not for a long period of time
- Capsules are a bit large and may be difficult to swallow for some
- UP4 Ultra High Potency Probiotic Supplement
The UP4 Ultra High Potency Probiotic Supplement, is made with some of the purest, cleanest, and healthiest ingredients in the probiotics marketplace. Manufactured by UP4, the company’s mission is to “enhance overall well in every lifestyle” and as a result, they produce a number of different probiotics to meet individual requirements.
Their Ultra High Potency Probiotic is designed to take care of the immune and digestive system during times when stress levels are high, or medications like antibiotics are excessive. This probiotic guarantees 50 billion live cultures and is perfect for the vegan as it contains no dairy, soy products, gluten, preservatives, and is very shelf-stable.
It has a 4 Star rating based on 38 customer reviews and is a great choice for any vegan.
- Contains natural bile and acid-resistant strains allow it to withstand damaging stomach acids
- Very high potency at 50 billion cultures, and geared toward high-stress individuals or antibiotic users
- 100% vegan friendly, containing no animal or dairy products
- Contains 9 strains to restore and replenish the gastrointestinal tract
- Some complain that the formula creates gas and bloating
- In some but few cases, the UP4 product caused a bit of nausea
- Royal Organica Essential Probiotic
The Royal Organica Essential Probiotic, when taken, begins by releasing a prebiotic which is very vegan friendly, and then releases 12 high-quality strains to target the stomach and large intestine.
As an added bonus, the Royal Organica also includes amino acid L-Glutamine, which has been proven to heal the intestinal lining, leaky gut syndrome, and restore the digestive tract. In addition, the vegan-friendly capsules are thicker than others used in competitive products, allowing the cultures to remain alive longer with no need to refrigerate.
The Royal Organica Essential Probiotic has a 4.5 Star rating based on 140 customer reviews and is an excellent choice for anyone leading a vegan lifestyle.
- Formulated with the inclusion of a prebiotic which results in optimizing the effectiveness of the probiotic
- Includes not only 12 specific probiotic strains, each targeting different issues, thus maximum effect
- No additives whatsoever, and 100% Vegan, Dairy-Free, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, and Corn-free
- Includes the essential amino acid L-Glutamine, which delivers reparation and maintenance effects on all areas of the gut
- Proprietary Vegan Pullulan Capsules keep the good bacteria alive longer, substantially increasing the absorption rate
- One dosage of Royal Organica is two pills meaning that you will go through a bottle very quickly
- Some reports of reactions including extreme diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain
- Ora Organic Probiotic with Prebiotic Capsules
The Ora Organic Probiotic with Prebiotic Capsules, are 100% plant-based probiotics, right down to the capsules which house the cultures. They are formulated with no dairy, soy, gluten, and are 100% non-genetically modified. In addition, they are free from additives and fillers and are one of the cleanest and purest vegan probiotics on the market today.
The Ora Organic Probiotic guarantees 16 billion CFU, 6 strains including Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Reuteri, Bifidobacterium Bifidum, Bifidobacterium Breve, Bifidobacterium Lactis, and Bifidobacterium Longum, stomach acid resistance properties.
Finally, they include a prebiotic which is derived from the Jerusalem artichoke, which acts as a stimulus to prolong the life of the live bacteria.
The Ora Organic Probiotic with Prebiotic Capsules has a 4.5 Star rating based on 220 customer reviews and is truly a fantastic vegan probiotic.
- 100% plant-based probiotic making it totally vegan friendly
- Boasts 16 billion colony forming units, and 6 high-quality strains
- Includes 4400mg of organic prebiotics per serving made from plant fibers that stimulate the growth of probiotics in the gut
- The Ora Probiotic uses a freeze-drying method to keep the probiotic active without refrigeration
- Some individuals report bloating, constipation, gas pain and hives
- Maybe a little too harsh if not prepared
- Culturelle Digestive Health Probiotic
The Culturelle Digestive Health Probiotic, is a lightweight probiotic created for individuals who are looking for a minor boost to the digestive tract. Culturelle is a single strain probiotic with the primary ingredient being Lactobacillus rhamnoses, commonly known as LGG.
Culturelle is specifically designed to treat occasional digestion issues including diarrhea, gas, and bloating. In addition, it is 100% vegan friendly as it contains no dairy products, gluten, soy, wheat, or additives.
The Culturelle packets do not require refrigeration but should be stored in a cool dry place to protect the integrity of the product.
Culturelle Digestive Health Probiotic has a 4.5 Star rating base on 460 customer reviews and is a great mild, everyday probiotic that vegan is entirely friendly.
- #1 most clinically studied probiotic in the world, over a 30 year period
- Contains 10 billion cells per serving and is effective for gas, bloating, and stomach upset
- 100% vegan friendly as it does not contain any dairy products
- Does not have to be refrigerated
- Some complaints about the possible allergic reaction with symptoms like itching and hives
- It may be somewhat mild for more severe gut issues
- NOW Foods Probiotic-10 25 Billion
The NOW Foods Probiotic-10 25 Billion, is a gluten-free, vegan probiotic that promotes proper gastrointestinal function during temporary disruptions to the normal balance of gut flora.
Each dosage contains 25 billion CFU, which are stomach acid-resistant. In addition, they contain a prebiotic to charge the organisms keeping them alive and well. The capsules are dairy, wheat, soy, and gluten-free and do not have to be refrigerated.
The NOW Foods Probiotic-10 25 Billion, has a 4.5 Star rating based on 174 customer reviews and is a tremendous vegan option for mild gut issues.
- Contains 25 billion organisms and 10 different strains of probiotics
- Vegan friendly and contains no dairy or gluten
- Ideal for temporary stomach and digestive issues
- Do not require refrigeration
- Maybe too mild for more severe gut and intestinal issues
- Some complaints that they are ineffective