PROBIOTICS - WHAT ARE THEY?
Probiotics are microbes, a beneficial microflora found in your digestive system. From nutrient absorption, brain function, mood and immune health, many chronic conditions can be traced to an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut. Probiotics can also be naturally found in "live" foods - such as Yogurt, Kefir, Kombucha and Sauerkraut.
YOUR BODY IS LIKE A FISH TANK
Any fish keeper will know that imbalances in an aquarium will lead to certain unwanted effects related to the chemistry of the tank. Beneficial bacteria live there too, consuming toxic fish waste into a less toxic form. Any imbalance can cause the wrong type of bacteria to multiply, or create algae blooms which then can hurt the fish. This applies to your gut. Non-beneficial bacteria can thrive if you are not eating the right foods. A recent study links the epidemic of food allergies to possible gut imbalances.
The probiotic label has been applied to many foods. However, do not be deceived that purchasing a product with the label is healthy. Why? Many are heavily sweetened. This is particularly the case with Kombucha, Yogurt and Kefir. If you are looking for foods with active cultures, make sure you understand the label and look for added sugars. The total recommended added sugars for a woman is 25 grams, and 36 grams for a man PER DAY. High sugar intake also promotes unhealthy bacteria.
Another option is probiotic supplements. There are different types, and a good supplement will always have an expiration date and list all the bacteria types.
IS PU-ERH TEA PROBIOTIC?
Technically - no. While Pu-erh undergoes fermentation during it's aging or ripening phase, and there are beneficial bacteria present after processing, and in any case the heat of the boiling water would destroy any active microbes. Pu-erh tea has unique properties because of fermentation, which includes aiding digestion and lowering cholesterol, but it is not something that will seed your gut with probiotics.
IS KOMBUCHA GOOD FOR DIGESTION AND GUT HEALTH?
Kombucha is a true probiotic beverage. You can purchase this in bottled form or you can home brew. Kombucha is considered a "live" product just like kefir.
But, you might be asking - is there a probiotic tea in a dry form (loose leaf or bagged)? Up until recently the answer would have been no. However there is a product called BC30, which is a new product manufacturers can add to food to make them probiotic. This can be added to anything - baking mixes, pizza dough, and yes - tea. Bigelow is one such company with a line of probiotic tea containing BC30. BC30 adds strains of bacteria, and claims that their unique process allows the bacteria to survive baking and boiling. However, we remain skeptical. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal mentions there are few studies on the spore forming varieties found in many foods with BC30.
But one thing is for certain - food makers are embracing it because it is driving sales. One beverage company is using flavored water with a special cap that allows drinkers to push in powdered probiotics. On a per serving basis, this will cost a lot more than taking a quality supplement and drinking filtered tap water.
SKIP THE BAGGED PROBIOTIC TEA AND PROCESSED FOOD
Honestly, there are so many better and cheaper ways to get probiotics than pay extra for a limited variety of tea that contains BC30. And it makes no sense to get a probiotic muffin mix when it has lots of sugar and refined flour.
SUGAR, THE ANTI-NUTRIENT AND BAD BACTERIA FERTILIZER
Sugar is fuel for bad bacteria. Think of your gut like a lawn. If you fertilize the lawn properly, the grass will grow green and thick. If you do not, weeds will compete with the grass and start taking over. Prebiotics and low sugar foods are considered ideal fertilizer for probiotic bacteria. Reducing added sugars and even natural sugars if you are trying to get your gut into balance will deny bad bacteria of food.
PROBIOTICS MAY NOT EVEN BE THE ANSWER
Most people will not go through the analysis of having their gut biome tested, and then come back and test again with the results. So how do you know eating a diet rich in probiotic foods even works? One individual took these tests and found that eating a diet rich in priobiotic foods actually lowered the diversity of bacteria. This may be because many commercial products have a narrow band of bacteria types.
What did improve his results was eating a high fiber diet of fermentable foods. You can read the article here.
IMPROVE DIGESTION WITH TEA
Often people who have a gut imbalance will have poor digestion. Pu-erh tea is one such tea which has a reputation to help digestion. There are also Cleanse type teas, which incorporate herbs like Senna that help with elimination. It is important though, that if you take any tea that promotes weight loss - to understand that Senna is not supposed to be used indefinitely. Herbal teas for cleansing and detox, if purchased form a reputable vendor (NEVER EVER buy from Instagram or Facebook marketing companies) and dosed properly can help kick start the digestive system along with a diet rich in fiber, whole grains and unprocessed foods.
STAY NATURAL AND DEVELOP A PLAN
Most health problems are life style problems. Giving your diet a checkup and making adjustments on a regular basis is recommended. There is no one size fits all solution. They key takeaway is - are you seeing results? As the Wall Street Journal article mentioned, increasing your probiotic intake may not result in a better gut. But this does lend credence that pro-biotic additives, i.e. BC-30 is a gimmick and should be avoided.