Vegan probiotics: Are They Really A Thing? YES

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Either you are super invested in your health and want to get straight to the point on recommended vegan probiotic supplements or maybe you have no idea there’s even a difference! Either way, you are sure to find exactly what you’re looking for in this post.

In my opinion, everyone should be concerned about whether they are getting enough probiotics, but as a vegan, it can be harder because many of the well-known fermented foods contain dairy.

So let’s get started in discussing what probiotics are, and how you can be sure you are ingesting true vegan probiotics, not missing out on any of the great health benefits!

What exactly are probiotics?

The health of the gut is directly correlated to your overall health. It’s connected to your immune system. One thing you can do to keep your gut healthy is to make sure you have plenty of healthy bacteria living down there, or probiotics. We can get them from an assortment of fermented foods or a supplement.

The Gut Microbiome

Your gut is comprised of a microbiome, which according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a microbiome is “the collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside us…they contribute to human health…” The microorganisms reside in a particular environment. In this case, it’s your gut.

The gut microbiome is the place where food is digested, metabolized, and absorbed. It includes the stomach, small and large intestine, colon, pancreas, gallbladder and liver. Billions of live bacteria, over 35,000 different strains, make your gut their home.

Healthy Gut Microbiome

  • Healthy Immune System, when the good bacteria outweighs the bad
  • Helps regulate metabolism
  • Decreases overall inflammation of the body
  • Can regulate the mood through serotonin production
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease and illness, and some cancers

Why Might You Need a Probiotic?

  1. You’ve recently been on antibiotics. Both the good and bad bacteria are eliminated when taking antibiotics so it’s important to restore the good guys.
  2. Your diet. The early humans ate foods which were preserved through fermentation and having been cultured with healthy bacteria. Today, the majority of our food is processed or refined. We just aren’t getting those probiotics or the healthy bacteria we need to maintain a healthy gut.

Are there really vegan probiotics?

As a vegan, it’s important to maintain a diverse diet and range of foods to get all of the nutrients and health benefits. The most common food sources are made with dairy and if you’re not paying attention to the labels, you’ll see many of the probiotic supplements out there are not vegan friendly.

To be 100% transparent here, I am personally not a vegan. I do, however, believe it’s important for me, as a practicing Health Coach and Personal Trainer, to do my due diligence and research to understand how to work with and relate to people who eat a plant-based diet, even when I don’t! So, I hope we can still be friends! 😊

Vegan Probiotics really do exist!!

Is Lactobacillus a Vegan Probiotic or Not?

There are hundreds of strains of probiotic strains. Perhaps the one that should be of most concern to you, as a vegan, is the Lactobacillus strain, which is the most common strain found in fermented foods containing dairy.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. A lot of people associate “lacto” with lactose, the sugar found in milk. During the fermentation process, the bacteria feeds on the sugar and converts it to lactic acid.
  2. While the Lactobacillus is grown on a dairy medium, the dairy is removed during processing.

From a dairy foo and allergy perspective, as long as the probiotic has the dairy factor removed it’s safe to eat. From an ethical perspective, it entirely depends on you. Some vegans would say yes because of the removal of dairy and some would say no because of So, I have provided some different recommendations of vegan and dairy friendly supplements and fermented foods you can make at home!

Reading a vegan probiotic label

Once you have made your decision on whether you want a supplement with or without the Lactobacillus strain, there are some other factors to take into consideration as well.

  • What is the capsule made of? Gelatin capsules are generally made from boiled horse, cow, or sheep hoof remnants. Look for something that says vegetable capsule.
  • Look specifically for vegetable magnesium stearate instead of just magnesium stearate
  • The Vitamin A most likely comes from fish or animal liver
  • Cholecalciferol is the animal version of Vitamin D

One more note on Lactobacillus. Whether you eat dairy or not, it does exist in colonies in the digestive tract. It makes up a pretty big portion of the bacteria in our gut. Just a last minute thought there for you!

What are some great plant based probiotics?

Depending on where you stand on the Lactobacillus debate, there are some food and supplement options worth checking out.

Vegan Probiotic Food

Sauerkraut

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is just fermented cabbage that is rich in probiotics, potassium, and Vitamins C and K. It’s fermented with a lactic acid bacteria, which does include the strain lactobacillus.

I did find this recipe that uses salt that might be worth looking at! She promotes whole food and is 100% gluten and dairy free. Click here.

You will typically not find the same benefits in canned sauerkraut. Look for the word “pasteurized,” on the can. That means it has been subject to high temperatures and the bacteria has been killed in the process. Preservatives have also been added to increase the shelf life, instead of the bacteria itself. You won’t be receiving the same health benefits.

Kimchi

Kimchi is basically a spicy version of sauerkraut, made some hot chilli pepper and garlic. It also includes the plant leaves and stems and is fermented at a lower temperature than sauerkraut.

Tofu

Tofu is high protein, high in calcium and iron, and low in fat. It absorbs flavors and marinades very well and has a meaty texture to it, making it a perfect substitute for animal products. It can be added to salads, sautéed, stir fried with other vegetables or eaten alone as a snack.

Other than being a great vegan probiotic source, it is known for reducing cholesterol levels and slowing bone loss in post menopausal women. Though it IS lower in fiber, so keep that in mind and make sure to get your 25 to 30 grams in through fibrous vegetables.

Tofu can easily be made at home, though it can be quite time consuming! You want to boil ground up soybeans in water until tender or use uncondensed soymilk. Then strain out the solids and add a coagulant, or curdling agent to separate into firmer lumps. These are called curds. You can then form these into a cake piece. Some people like to freeze the lumps to make it even firmer before shaping them.

Tempeh

Like tofu, tempeh has a firm cake like texture. The difference is, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and water. It contains more fiber and is generally firmer.

Tempeh is a great meat replacement for a burger or you can add to salads and stirfry!

Cooking isn’t an issue and won’t kill the bacteria since they live in the inside. Just don’t overcook the outside!

Water Kefir

water kefir- vegan probiotic

Here’s a nice alternative to dairy kefir! You can create your own probiotic water and infuse it with fruit if you want! The grains help ferment the water because the bacteria feeds off of the sugar and metabolizes it. So don’t worry, it’s a low calorie, low carb beverage!

Vegan Probiotic Supplements

SBO Probiotics

PROs: SBO Probiotics are made with soil based organisms (SBO) that occur naturally in plants. The strain is Bacillus Coagulans and you’ll find 50 billion CFU (colony forming units) in one serving. These are very resilient and can withstand survival in stomach acid, making it perfect for stomach problems.

You also get some superfoods in the mix, like organic spinach and spirulina, full of protein, Vitamin B, and antioxidants that help fight off those free radicals in the body.

CONs: While the label does say vegan, watch out for magnesium stearate on the label. The label does not specifically say vegetable.

sbo probiotic- vegan probiotics

Zenwise

PROs: If you already get probiotics in your diet, you may need a heavy supplement. This would be perfect. It contains 1 billion CFUs and 10 different strains, so you are still getting a diversity. This is actually a prebiotic and probiotic blend. The prebiotics allow the probiotics to be fed. What interesting about his one is it eases those harder to digest foods, helps convert food to energy, reduced gas and bloating, and supports a low gut flora due to aging.

CONs: It does contain Lactobacillus. It also contains Magnesium Stearate, and while it doesn’t say vegetable, it can come from a vegetable source.

zenwise- vegan probiotics
If you are interested in making some of you own fermented foods like the ones above, check out my FREE guide with 3 EASY Recipes! Replace the milk with a plant based milk or water as you see fit!
gut health- vegan probiotics

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    6 Comments

    1. Thank you for the useful information you provided us with through this article. I became vegan last year and am still learning. Your suggestions are welcome, I will be happy to include them in my diet. I also visited the site you recommended and learned something new about it. It’s wonderful when we broaden our horizons!

    2. I have been taking probiotics for years but have never considered vegan.  I would suppose, vegan or not, they would act the same way in your gut.  I definitely believe in probiotics and would not live without them.  I also take dietary enzymes which  seems to help.  We have a history of colon cancer in our family and I believe anything I do to help with digestion, has got to do some good.  What are your thoughts on that?

    3. I know for the fact that there are many vegan probiotics, kombucha, kimchi and miso are one of the many (this doesn’t count the stinky tofu that I eat or stinky soy bean) Thank you for sharing all these capsule probiotics. These will come in hhandy when I travel for sure. I am going to check them out. Thanks for your review! 

    4. Hello there, Jordan! This is an interesting article. I had no idea that most well known fermented foods contain dairy. That can be tough for vegan eaters. I have heard of how healthy it is to take antibiotics. Unfortunately whenever I take it, I have this pretty intense stomach pain and becomes pretty difficult to have a bowel movement. Do you have ideas why that could be the case? I eat a regular diet.

    5. Hi great article and yes, gut health is essential Vegan or Not. I have made my own Kombucha in the past just wondering would this not be a Vegan probiotic.  I am not Vegan either but think Kombucha could also be a good alternative.

      I guess it can be a real issue for Vegans to find Vegan-friendly foods and supplements.

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