Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are believed to provide health benefits when consumed. These microorganisms are crucial not just for better health and a stronger immune system, but also for healing digestive disorders, neurological disorders and mental illnesses.
When we think of bacteria, we usually think of some foreign bodies that cause diseases. But our body has a good number of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often referred to as "good" bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy.
Probiotics that are naturally present in our intestines are: a yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii and bacteria in the Bifobacterium and Lactobacillus families of microorganisms.
Probiotic foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, and others.
There are hundreds of probiotic species available. Scientists still aren’t sure which of these available probiotics is best for an average person.
What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics.
Prebiotics are a special type of dietary fiber that behaves as a fertilizer for the good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics, on the other hand, are live bacteria found in yogurt, pills and other products.
How do probiotics benefit our health?
Our gut has both good and bad bacteria. According to digestive experts, the balance of gut flora should be around 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria.
If this proportion gets out of balance, we suffer a condition called dysbiosis. It means there is an imbalance of particular type of bacteria, yeast or fungus, which is affecting the body adversely. These ratios can be brought back to normal by eating certain types of probiotics and supplements.
Scientists have discovered dozens of different probiotic bacteria that have potential health benefits. The most common are probiotics from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families.
It appears that different probiotics work for different health conditions. Therefore, it is essential to choose the right type of probiotic.
Keep in mind that this is a new and rapidly expanding area of scientific research.
Here are some scientifically proven health benefits of probiotics:
- Improves digestive function
- Boosts immune system
- Heals inflammatory bowel conditions like IBS
- Prevents and treats urinary tract infections
- Fights food-borne illnesses
- Manages and prevents eczema in children
New studies are underway to prove that probiotics are able to:
- Treat kidney stones
- Reduce flu and colds
- Treat colic
- Reduce overuse of antibiotics
- Treat liver disease
- Prevent cavities and gum diseases
- Fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- Treat colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Battle cancer
- Lower cholesterol
- Manage autism
- Lose weight
- Combat ulcer-causing bacteria
- Improve acne
Things that can kill off probiotics in your system
Adults, as well children, need a boost in probiotics due to the consumption of antibiotics, medicines, chlorinated water, high-carbohydrate diets, and foods such as non-organic dairy and meat that contain antibiotic residues. These chemicals kill the probiotics in our system, which over time injures the digestive tract.
Here are some culprits that can prevent your body from getting all the wonderful probiotics benefits it needs:
- Prescription antibiotics
- GMO foods
- Tap water
- Chemicals and medications
- Emotional stress
How can we get more probiotics in our system?
Consume more sour foods
The best way to improve your probiotic imbalance is by eating more sour foods. Foods such as apple cider vinegar, and fermented vegetables contain some probiotics, but they also possess certain types of acids like acetic acid and gluconic acid. These healthy acids can create a particular set of pH in our body that promotes probiotic growth in the system.
So, try to consume healthy sour foods regularly. You can simply achieve this by adding 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a drink twice daily. For example, include one tablespoon of this vinegar to your meal before breakfast and lunch or before breakfast and dinner. At the same time try to eat more fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi. Make it a habit of eating fermented vegetables several times a week.
Eat more foods that are rich in probiotics
Start eating more probiotic-rich foods. Foods rich in probiotics are: goat milk yogurt, kefir, coconut kefir etc. Try to eat at least one serving of probiotic-rich food every day. Have a morning smoothie made from kefir, during the day eat some organic probiotic yogurt. Furthermore, add some good fermented foods to your diet, at least one serving per day.
Feed the probiotics dwelling in your system
Certain probiotics are naturally present in our intestine. Probiotics are living organisms, therefore, they need fuel to survive; they need to feed off something. Fermentable fiber may act as a good soil for the probiotics. Adding good quality fiber to your regular diet can cause the probiotics to multiply. The best type of fiber is the soluble type, known as fermentable fiber. Chia seeds are a good source of fermentable fiber. Try adding chia or flax seed into your morning smoothie. Organic fruits and vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes are also good options. A diet consisting of these fermentable fibers will certainly fuel probiotics.
Take good quality probiotic supplement
Taking a good quality probiotic supplement can naturally fuel the probiotics dwelling in your system and increase their numbers
Are there any side effects?
Probiotics may cause allergic reactions. They may also trigger minor stomach upset, diarrhea, or bloating and flatulence for the first few days after taking. However, since probiotics already present naturally in the body, probiotic foods and supplements are normally considered to be safe.
Which foods are rich in probiotics?
These are the most beneficial probiotic foods:
Yogurt. This is probably the most popular probiotic food. Organic yogurt that comes from raw, grass-fed animals will provide the best results.
Kefir. Kefir. Very much like yogurt, this fermented product is a distinctive combination of milk and fermented kefir grains. The term Kefir was started in Russia and Turkey, and it means “feeling good.” It has been consumed for well over 3,000 years.
Coconut Kefir. This is a dairy-free version of kefir, made by fermenting the juice of young coconuts with kefir grains.
Sauerkraut. Made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables, sauerkraut has its roots in Germany. It is not assorted in probiotics but has high amount of organic acids (that’s where it gets its sour taste) that support bacteria growth.
Kimchi. This Korean fermented veggies are a cousin to sauerkraut. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi made with different vegetables as the main ingredients.
Natto. This popular Japanese dish consists of fermented soybeans. Natto contains the highly potent probiotic bacillus subtilis, which has been proven to reinforce the immune system, support cardiovascular health and boost digestion of vitamin K2.
Miso. This mainstay of traditional Japanese medicine dates back to 2,500 years. Miso is made from fermented soybeans, barley or rice. To prepare a quick probiotic-rich soup, just add a tablespoon of miso to hot water.
Kvass.Since ancient times, Eastern Europeans have been guzzling this common fermented beverage. Lactobacilli probiotics used in Kvass have blood and liver cleansing properties.
Raw Cheese. To get all the probiotic benefits, always buy raw (not pasteurized) cheese. Cheeses made from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, or A2 aged cheeses are high in probiotics.
Kombucha. Known to the Chinese as the “Immortal Health Elixir,” kombucha has been around for 2,000 years. This beverage has colossal health benefits for the heart, brain especially the gut.
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