You have probably heard that there are good bacteria and bad bacteria. Probiotics are the good bacteria. They are the bacteria that keep our guts healthy. For menopausal women this has many benefits, some which may surprise you.

Our gastro intestinal tracts contain billions of bacteria. This microbiome is unique for every individual. There are more than 10 000 different species of bacteria in our digestive tract. This will change over time. People with more diversity in the microbiome have several health advantages.

What are Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria which are beneficial for us. The word probiotics comes from the Greek pro meaning promote and biotics meaning life. So probiotics are believed to promote life. Probiotics are found in some foods and can also be taken in a supplement form.

What are Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a non digestible fibre found in many fruits and vegetables. Prebiotics are the helpers for the probiotics. Probiotics use the prebiotic as food and the effect of the two combined is greater than either one alone.

What foods contain Probiotics

The following is a list of some foods that may contain probiotics. Many of these foods were part of traditional cultures, but are no longer made in the traditional way. Since probiotics are live bacteria they don’t survive at high temperatures so the amount and the type of probiotics contained vary depending on the manufacturing process

  • Yogurt – this is probably the most familiar food containing probiotics. Look for some indication on the label that it does contain live bacterial culture or probiotics. Better yet make your own, keeping the temperature relatively low.
  • Kimchi – Kimchi is the spicy Korean fermented cabbage. I fell in love with this while travelling to Korea for business. If you buy store bought kimchi, keep in mind that pasteurization destroys the probiotics. Look for “contains live cultures”, unpasteurized or “naturally fermented” on the label.
  • Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is European fermented cabbage which you may be more familiar with if you come from a European background. If you are buying store bought make sure to look for the same things as with kimchi.
  • Sour dough bread – If made the traditional way, sour dough bread should have some probiotics in it. However, commercial sourdough bread is not likely to have live bacteria in it.

What foods contain prebiotics

Prebiotics are found in onions (raw or cooked), raw garlic, bananas, wheat, oats, barley and leeks.

Benefits of Probiotics

Not surprisingly, probiotics are especially helpful for those with digestive issues. Probiotics have been found to help with irritable bowel symdrome (IBS) and food sensitivities. Probiotics reduce inflammation and have also been shown to help with more serious digestive diseases like inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Probiotics help to restore gut bacteria and reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.

I spoke about the link between inflammation and many common conditions in this article. Probiotics help to reduce inflammation so are helpful in dealing with a number of other conditions. Much of the research on probiotics is in its infancy, but there is some evidence linking probiotics to improvements in other conditions such as:

  • obesity – people who are obese have a less diverse microbiome. Some studies have shown that probiotics have some effect on weight loss even when calories are not restricted
  • type 2 diabetes – consuming probiotics has been shown to reduce A1C levels in a small study
  • high blood pressure – there is some evidence that blood pressure is lowered in people who consume probiotics
  • high cholesterol – cholesterol levels may also be improved in people who consume probiotics and prebiotics, but this appears to be inconclusive
  • depression and anxiety – I a few studies have been done that show that people consuming probiotics reported lower levels of anxiety.

As you can see for menopausal women, a number of conditions that commonly occur during menopause may be improved with the use of probiotics.

Benefits of prebiotics

By adding prebiotics as well you may also see the following benefits:

  • lower risk of cancer
  • lower risk of heart disease
  • stronger bones
  • better hormone balance

Risks of Probiotics

Because probiotics consist of live bacteria, they should not be consumed by individuals with a compromised immune system. You may also notice some initial increase in gas and bloating if you add probiotics since it may take a bit for your body to get used to them. If you also add prebiotics which contain more fibre this can initially compound the problem.

What about supplements

Since it is sometimes hard to determine if commercial foods actually do contain probiotics, sometimes a supplement can be the best option. You may wish to include a prebiotic supplement as well if your diet is low in fibre. Keep in mind that supplements will be a more concentrated form of probiotics and prebiotics and may cause more initial gut distress.

Adding probiotics to your diet is one way of making your diet healthier. If weight loss is your goal, then download this free guide to weight loss during menopause.