Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are cultured strains of bacterium found in cultured or fermented foods. Probiotics promote digestive health, help with allergies and asthma, and support the immune system. Probiotics are most commonly found in yogurt and kefir which for those of us following a plant based diet makes finding a vegan source challenging. Thankfully, there are numerous fermented vegetables that are safe for vegans to eat and still reap the health benefits that probiotics provide.
Everyone should be adding a probiotic to their daily regimen. Whether taken in capsule form or through food sources, our gut and immune system need the support that only probiotics can provide.
Benefits of Probiotics
- produce vitamins
- helps to break down and digest food
- manages the growth of microbes such as yeast
- helps with intestinal issues such as urinary tract infections and diarrhea
- potentially helps with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic UTIs, diarrhea cause by antibiotic use, autoimmune diseases, colitis, and ulcers
Vegan Probiotic Options
Probiotics pose a problem for vegans because the most common strain of bacteria in probiotics is grown on cheese. Although the cheese source is removed prior to packaging and consuming, this causes an ethical issue for vegans. The bacteria, lactobacillus is found in most probiotics labeled as “vegan” or “vegan friendly”. If you wish to avoid this bacteria you will need to closely read the label of the probiotic you are considering purchasing. Health wise there is nothing wrong or inferior about lactobacillus, it simply poses an ethical issue for vegans that do not want to promote or encourage the dairy industry.
If you choose not to take a probiotic with lactobacillus you have two options. The first of which is to source a probiotic that does not have this bacteria. There are numerous effective probiotics that use other beneficial strains of bacterium. The second option is to add cultured or fermented foods to your daily diet. If you choose this option, which I highly recommend, again be cautious of the label to make sure you aren’t eating a fermented food with the dairy sourced bacteria.
In eating fermented foods you are not only consuming the bacteria as nature intended but you are also saving money in your food budget. Fermented foods are by far less expensive that probiotics in capsule form.
If you are looking for a truly vegan probiotic you need to be aware of the following items to consider when reading the label:
- Magnesium stearate; make sure you look for vegetable magnesium stearate
- Gelatin capsules; typically made from horse, cow, and sheep hoof leftovers
- Casein; a milk protein to avoid for numerous health reasons
- Honey, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, beeswax; all sourced forms bees which some vegans choose to avoid
- Cholecalciferol; an animal version of vitamin D
- Vitamin A; sourced from animal or fish livers
Vegan fermented probiotic sources
- cultured vegetables such a pickles or carrots
- coconut kefir
- kombucha (a fermented drink)
If you still prefer a capsule probiotic I recommend Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra Ultimate Probiotic Formula
I have purposely omitted the fermented soy sources from the above list. For a variety of health reasons I do not eat soy and do not promote or encourage the consumption of soy here on my blog.
Repair your gut and immune system health, add some probiotics to your daily diet. Your body will thank you!