Food, food, FOOD! I’ll be the first to admit that the Autoimmune Protocol can cause a slight state of neurosis. Us ‘AIPers’ spend so much time thinking about, planning and preparing food because there’s no cheat way around it. Annoyingly some of the best foods require the most preparation; fermented types being one of them. With a busy lifestyle and so much cooking to do anyway, preparing probiotics is not something I want to devote more of my time to. I was determined to find an easier way of introducing some friendly gut bacteria while also taking care around my coconut allergy and after lots of reading I finally did! It’s coconut free, AIP compliant, and FOS free (I’ll explain).
Research into probiotic supplementation and fecal transplantation to treat a range of disorders from Autism to Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) has been gathering momentum over the past few years. The results and the evidence are astounding. They restore gut microflora, modulate the immune system and help to heal a leaky gut. [Read my post for an understanding of a leaky gut in relation to autoimmune diseases]. Probiotic consumption is at the core of a number of diets and related books including Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride GAPS diet, Dr David Perlmutter’s book ‘Brain Maker’, Elaine Gottschall’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet and of course Dr Sarah Ballantyne’s Autoimmune Protocol. All refer to numerous natural sources of probiotic but I’ve found that they’re not always so easy to purchase on a regular basis or compliant across all diets. While an excellent source is homemade probiotic yoghurt (SCD) or milk kefir (GAPS), these diary products are not allowed on the Autoimmune Protocol. As an alternative, many AIP followers opt for coconut kefir or coconut yoghurt but unfortunately they’re a big NO NO for me given my allergy and I’m aware this is a very common.
Before I began the AIP I had been following the GAPS diet which allowed me to eat kefir and homemade SCD yoghurt (both are delicious and I miss them very much!) but on the AIP this yummy breakfast favourite has been obliterated from the list of options. Another excellent source of probiotic is raw unpasteurised sauerkraut, fermented pickles and other fermented vegetables. I went through a phase of eating sauerkraut or pickles every morning with ham or sausage and avocado but this soon became really expensive! To ensure you’re buying the real deal, sauerkraut must be raw, unpasteurised and refrigerated. It costs about £4 for a small jar and has to be used within about 3 days. NOT the huge £1 jar of German/Polish stuff you can find anywhere.
Kombucha is a delicious drink but it isn’t exactly cheap if you’re aiming for daily consumption. Bottles cost about £2.50 – £3.00 and provide only enough for one serving (maybe two if you save half) and there’s a lot of discussion in the paleo community about how much sugar it really contains. Sugar is added to the drink at the beginning of production, providing food to the probiotic in order to produce more friendly bacteria. But there are questions as to how much sugar actually remains and with daily consumption we could begin to question whether it’s really better than a soda/fizzy drink. But don’t let that put you off! Eileen of Phoenix Helix has written a fascinating post on the myths and truths of Kombucha here: http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/03/25/kombucha-myths-vs-truths/
Both sauerkraut and kombucha might not sound so expensive on their own but when you think about how much more money you have to spend on organic meat and vegetables – it soon adds up! Fermenting your own water kefir (which also requires sugar) or vegetables is another great option but who has time for that?!
So what other probiotics are there in an easy to consume form? Tablet supplementation, yes, but it’s not quite as straightforward as that! First you must sift through all of the many probiotic pills out there to find one that is AIP compliant. One that doesn’t contain chemical or food additives – watch out for potato starch, wheat, rice, corn, starch, dairy, soya, yeast and sugar. OK, so if you go to a decent health foods store and not the local pharmacy you’ll find a few that are allowable, but, they contain something else….
Fructooligosaccharides aka FOS.
FOS is often added to probiotics because they’re thought to be a pre-biotic – essentially a food to probiotic bacteria to increase their numbers. Sounds great, right? While this may be true, there is also reason to believe that they feed the bad bacteria too. Mmmm, not sure I want to take that risk. In addition, FOS is a sugar polymer that our bodies cannot digest – we just don’t have the enzymes to break it down. Undigested, FOS makes it’s way to our large intestine where the bacteria that does have these enzymes can break it down and use it as food, multiple themselves in number and really not help your gut dysbiosis problem – the whole reason you’re taking probiotics in the first place! Elaine Gottschal talks about FOs in more detail here: http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/knowledge_base/detail/fos-fructooligosaccharides/
Solgar, Multi-billion Dophilus
YAY! I found a supplement that is diet compliant and FOS free! Before I continue I’d just like to point out that I am not an advocate for Solgar, I’m just telling you which supplement I use as I receive so many questions on this subject. It took me a while and a lot of comparing to find these. Even the ‘nutritionist’ at Whole Foods had no idea what FOS was.
Solgar Multi-billion Dophilus is free of FOS, sugar, gluten, wheat, dairy, soya, yeast, preservatives, sweeteners, artificial flavours and colours. In the UK they RRP at about £24.00 for 60 capsules. That’s not cheap BUT I buy mine via Amazon traders for around £15.00. Each capsule contains 5 billion live bacteria – I was taking two per day (one in the morning and one in the evening) to provide 10 billion and I’ve recently reduced this to one capsule as maintenance. Important note: do not take a high dosage of probiotics when you first start out as you may experience what is known as the Herxheimer reaction – a bad bacteria “die off”. As the bad bacteria becomes starved and outnumbered by the good bacteria they die and release their endotoxins into the body faster than the body can cope with them – this can cause many side effects such as nausea, headache, fatigue, dizziness, sweating, fever, night sweats, chills, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, increased joint or muscle pain, elevated heart rate, rashes and skin breakouts. Don’t freak out if this happens, just reduce the probiotic dosage for a short while and build your way up to what your body can tolerate.
So there you have it – my view on probiotics and the AIP. I am by no means suggesting that you replace your intake of fermented foods with tablet supplementation. I still drink kombucha and eat sauerkraut where I can but this just ensures that I get daily consumption without a struggle. I hope you find this post helpful and do let me know if you have any questions although I must point out that I am not a healthcare professional!
p.s. When looking for probiotics, seek out those that are multi-strained. The more variety of cultures, the better!
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