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Do Greens Have Probiotics?

So you’ve come across a greens powder that has probiotics in it and you’re thinking of chucking your regular probiotic supplements in the bin. An all-in-one supplement seems handier, right? Not so fast! Read on to find out why some supplement manufacturers choose not to include probiotics in their formula and why you might want to continue taking your probiotics separately to your greens.

Key Takeaways

  • For probiotics to be effective they must be present in a product in sufficient amounts, they must be an appropriate strain and they must be able to survive through manufacturing and storage as well as through the digestive tract.
  • Many food and supplement companies use the term ‘probiotic’ as a marketing tool without including effective probiotics in their product.
  • A greens powder may still be beneficial to gut health even if it doesn’t include probiotics.

With the explosion of research into gut health in recent years, it’s no surprise that interest in probiotics is also at an all-time high.

In the U.S. the market for probiotic supplements is forecast to increase from $547 million in 2017 to $1.2 billion in 2024! (Source)

So, what’s all this fuss about probiotics? Find out whether greens have probiotics and how to maximize your intake through your diet.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that naturally live in our gut but can also be found in certain foods such as probiotic yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, as well as probiotic supplements.

These friendly bacteria help to keep our gut working properly by digesting our food, absorbing nutrients, and regulating inflammation.

But there are also other bacteria present in the gut that can be harmful to our health.

If it gets to a stage where there are more of the harmful bacteria in our gut than beneficial bacteria, also known as dysbiosis, we can experience digestive problems such as bloating and constipation as well as more serious issues like inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

We naturally have probiotics living in our digestive system but consuming probiotics is a great way to further increase the number of these beneficial bacteria in our gut. This can lead to a decrease in the number of harmful bacteria, leading to improvements in digestion and overall health too. (Source)

woman holding white probiotic container and pills in hands

Why Do People Take Probiotics?

Research into our gut microbiome (a term that refers to all the trillions of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract) has increased dramatically in recent years. This is due to advances in technology and significant reductions in the cost of analysis, as well as being fuelled by the incredible information being uncovered from the research. (Source)

While researchers are still learning how exactly our gut impacts our health, they do know an unhealthy gut not only affects our digestion but can also negatively affect other body systems, including our brain, skin, immune system, and our overall health. (Source)

This is because the bacteria that live in our gut are in constant communication with other parts of our body through what are called axes. For example the gut-brain axis, the gut-skin axis, and the heart-gut axis.

These interactions are complex and work in both directions. Just as the health of our brain or immune system can influence our gut health, our gut microbiome can have a direct effect on the health of these body systems too. (Source)

With so much hype around the importance of gut health, probiotics have also risen in popularity. Because probiotics may increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut, they are thought to improve gut health and in turn impart various health benefits.

There has been a lot of research done on probiotics, but there is still much to be learned about their benefits to our health.

Research so far shows that probiotics may help to:

  • Restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut (Source)
  • Improve digestion (Source)
  • Regulate bowel movements (Source)
  • Improve energy levels and immune function (Source)
  • Improve mood (Source)
  • Contribute to vaginal health (Source)

There is also research to show that probiotics may play a role in alleviating: (Source)

  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

Are Probiotics Safe For Everyone?

While yogurt and other probiotic products have existed for thousands of years, the market for probiotic supplements and commercially produced probiotic foods is rapidly growing.

Due to an extensive history of apparently safe use, probiotics are generally considered safe. (Source)

However, research has shown probiotics may not be safe for some groups.

Consult with a healthcare professional before taking probiotic supplements if: (Source)

  • You have a severe illness or weakened immune system
  • You have an allergy to soy, dairy, eggs, or gluten or any severe allergy
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • You are on other medications such as antibiotics, antifungals, immunosuppressant medication, or steroids
  • You are taking other supplements, including vitamins and herbs

Why Don’t All Greens Powders Have Probiotics?

With so many potential benefits associated with probiotics, you might wonder why only some greens supplements include them in their formula.

Well, probiotic bacteria naturally live in the small and large intestines. This is where they work their magic. So for a probiotic supplement to be effective, it must reach our intestines alive and intact.

Some brands like Kiala Greens and Supergreen Tonik don’t include Probiotics, whilst many like Jocko Greens, Beyond Greens, and Primal Greens do.

This is not an easy feat. For a few reasons:

Manufacturing And Storage

Firstly, the bacteria have to survive the manufacturing process. They then have to be stored in appropriate conditions until ingested.

Many probiotic strains are extremely fragile and can become ineffective if exposed to certain conditions that don’t suit them.

For example, some strains of probiotic bacteria only survive in cold temperatures and so must be kept refrigerated for efficacy. If they are at some point stored at the incorrect temperature along their journey, they may be rendered ineffective.

Woman hands making a heart shape on her stomach

Surviving The Digestive System

If the bacteria have survived up to the point where you’ve swallowed them, they must make their way through the highly acidic environment of our stomach.

This acidic environment, created by the stomach to kill unwanted viruses or bacteria, can also affect friendly bacteria.

Stomach acid poses a big threat to probiotics. It can reduce the efficacy of the probiotic bacteria or kill them completely.

This is why some strains of probiotics are to be taken with food, some on an empty stomach, and some can be taken at any time.

Dosage

CFU stands for Colony Forming Unit. This is the unit of measurement used to determine the number of live and active bacteria or yeasts in a probiotic supplement. CFU counts range widely from supplement to supplement.

An average supplement can have anywhere between 1 billion to 10 billion CFUs per serving.

When deciphering the label of your probiotic supplement, you may see the CFU number listed “at the time of manufacture”. This number is irrelevant.

Depending on storage conditions, the number of living cells in a probiotic can decline significantly between its time of manufacture and the time you’re ingesting it.

Instead, look for the CFU number at the end of the product’s shelf life to find the number of CFUs that should still be intact when taking the supplement.

CFU count is important. If we want our probiotic to be effective, its bacteria must be alive.

Bacterial Strains

There is no point in taking a product with 100 billion CFUs of bacteria if that bacterial strain is not the strain that will address your health needs.

Our wonderful guts contain 400 to 600 probiotic bacterial strains and each of these strains carries out a different function. Choosing a probiotic with more than one strain of bacteria present, known as multistrain or multispecies probiotics, that includes the bacteria most suited to your specific health need is paramount.

If you are unsure about the bacterial strains that will work best for you, consult your pharmacist or a health practitioner.

Should You Take Greens And Probiotics Together?

So, as you can probably tell, even finding an effective individual probiotic supplement is a challenge.

Regarding probiotics being included in greens powders, they rarely have a CFU count on the label so you have no idea whether there are enough bacteria to cause an effect.

The likelihood of the probiotics surviving through the manufacturing and storage process in a multi-ingredient powder form is low, and there is usually only one or two strains of bacteria included at most. These may not be strains that would be helpful for your health concern.

The type of probiotic bacteria in a product should be included on the label. Most manufacturers will use a strain that has good survivability, such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, a common probiotic that may provide certain health benefits.

However, there are many different strains of L. acidophilus, and they can each have different effects on the body. (Source)

It is rare for green powder manufacturers to give this amount of detail.

Food manufacturers have overused the word “probiotic”, applying it to bacteria that haven’t been scientifically proven to have any specific health benefits, which led the European Food Safety Authority to ban the word “probiotic” on all foods in the EU. (Source)

This is why, if you are interested in supplementing with probiotics, it would likely be more effective to take a high-quality, dedicated probiotic supplement suited to your health concern.

Why Do Greens Supplements Contain Probiotics If They May Not Work?

Due to the hype and interest around probiotics and gut health, many companies likely include probiotics in their formulas as a marketing tactic.

There is some possibility that they could be effective, although it is unlikely.

This is why Human Tonik’s Supergreen Tonik does not include probiotics. Supergreen Tonik ensures only effective ingredients are included in the formula.

With people living such busy lives, opting for an all-in-one “complete” supplement can be tempting. And supplement companies are aware of this.

However, in some cases, it may be more beneficial to take individual supplements, such as with probiotics or certain nutrients, to combat a deficiency.

In truth, there is really no such thing as a “complete” supplement because supplements are intended to be supplemental. They are to be taken alongside a nutritious diet and can never replace the benefits that we get from consuming a variety of nutritious whole foods.

We should be concentrating less on finding a “complete” supplement and more on consuming a complete diet.

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Can My Greens Powder Still Benefit My Gut Health?

Just because your greens supplement doesn’t have probiotics does not mean that it can’t support your gut health.

A diet high in fruit and vegetables, including green vegetables, has been seen to reduce inflammation. (Source)

Many of the phytonutrients and antioxidants in green veg and other plants protect against cell damage and lower inflammation throughout the body.

And inflammation of the gut lining, which is commonly caused by dysbiosis in the gut, is the underlying cause of most of the issues associated with poor gut health. (Source)

Some greens powders, such as Human Tonik’s Supergreen Tonik, contain prebiotics in their formula.

Prebiotics are a specific type of plant fiber that can be found in green veg as well as other foods such as whole grains, legumes, bananas, onions, garlic, and soybeans. Supergreen Tonik includes prebiotics in the form of inulin.

The beneficial bacteria in our gut feed on this fiber, so the more prebiotic fiber we eat, the more these good bugs flourish!

Instead of adding in more healthy bacteria through probiotics, you are instead feeding the good bacteria that is already in your gut with prebiotics, helping it to grow.

You may have come across the term “symbiotic”.

A synbiotic is a mixture of probiotics and prebiotics. The idea behind synbiotics is that the prebiotics helps the probiotics survive in your intestines. (Source)

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Final Thoughts

With so much interest in gut health and probiotics these days, it’s no surprise that many green powder brands are including probiotics in their formulas.

Although these probiotics may provide some effect, this is unlikely.

In order for probiotic bacteria to impart benefits in our gut, there must be a sufficient amount of bacteria present, the strains must be the ones that are beneficial to our specific health concern and the bacteria must survive through manufacturing and storage as well as through our digestive system. Phew!

This is why, if you are interested in including probiotic supplements in your diet, it would likely be more effective to choose a dedicated probiotic supplement with appropriate strains. And even at that, it is important to choose a high-quality product with proven efficacy.

Not to worry though, if you are taking a good quality greens supplement with prebiotics, it may still be supporting your gut health as its ingredients may contribute to reducing inflammation and feeding the good bacteria in your gut.

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