A great way to get probiotics naturally is from cultured foods. Foods such as kefir and fermented vegetables are usually a better way of getting probiotics than a supplement as you get a lot more variety of strains of bacteria from these cultured foods. Probiotic supplements usually only contain one or two strains and a few billion colony forming units (CFUs). In contrast, fermented foods contain many different strains and can provide trillions of CFU’s per serving.
Just make sure they have live cultures, as most commercially available fermented vegetables and dairy products contain very little, or no live cultures due to processing. Foods with live cultures can be found in the refrigerated section and should say fermented on the label. If it is not refrigerated it does not have live cultures.
Common types of fermented foods with live cultures:
Asian fermented foods such as kimchi and miso often contain gluten. Make sure to read labels carefully for gluten-free status of all foods you are consuming.
Introduce fermented foods slowly and gradually to avoid bloating, a tablespoon a day is a good place to start. Always make sure to check with your healthcare provider if it is ok for you to have probiotics (foods or supplements) as they are contraindicated in some conditions such as SIBO.
Another issue to note about probiotic supplements is possible gluten contamination. Researchers at Columbia University found that 55% of the probiotics studied contained measurable amounts of gluten, two of the products were even labeled gluten-free. (1) For those who want to use a probiotic supplement, I usually recommend that they are both labeled and certified gluten-free as certified gluten-free products usually have to adhere to stricter testing and ingredient protocols than non-certified products.
- Nazareth S, Lebwohl B, Sealey Voyksner J, Green P. Widespread contamination of probiotics with gluten, detected by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Gastroenterology. 2015;148(4): S-28.
Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.