Feeling out of whack and complaining of digestive issues, Tracy introduced me a few months back to Probiotics. Ever since, articles and social media posts on the many benefits of probiotics have been everywhere!
So what are probiotics? How are they beneficial? How can we incorporate them in our diets?
Probiotics: Definition and Benefits
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our bodies and can also be found naturally in certain foods and beverages. These living micro-organisms support normal health and help to enhance and repopulate intestinal bacteria, balancing gut flora and boosting immunity. Probiotics are beneficial to overall health and gastrointestinal health especially. “Pro” and “biota” literally translates to “for life.”
The foods we eat, the medications we take and the environment we live in are all factors that can affect the balance between beneficial bacteria and bad bacteria in our digestive systems. Some of these factors include eating a diet low in fiber and high in refined carbohydrates, excessive use of antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, an unhealthy environment, etc.
Probiotics are not a new trend. They have been used for centuries by many cultures, in the treatment of various health conditions. They are used in treatment for:
- Lactose intolerance
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Yeast overgrowth and infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Probiotics have also been successful in lowering cholesterol and inflammation and reducing the risk and severity of allergic disease including eczema.
In order to restore the balance between good and bad bacteria, it is recommended to eat probiotic-rich foods. Side effects are uncommon, and most adults and even children can safely add foods that contain probiotics to their diet. Probiotics are also available in supplement form.
Probiotic-rich Foods: Fermented Foods
Below are just some probiotic foods you can include in your diet:
- Yoghurt – Try opting for natural/Greek organic varieties with probiotics and no added sugar
- Kefir – A fermented milk drink; can be found at the Biorganic Store
- Sauerkraut – We recently found a ready-made version at the Organic Foods and Cafe; you can also make your own (Polish Sauerkraut by The Healthy Chef)
- Kimchi– A Korean dish of spicy pickled cabbage (How to make easy Kimchi at home, The Kitchn)
- Kombucha tea – A fizzy fermented tea. We haven’t found any around but you can make your own at home. Here’s a recipe from Move Nourish Believe
For other probiotic-rich foods, check out the 13 Surprising Beneficial Probiotic Foods by Livestrong.com.
The above mentioned foods are also what we call “fermented foods”. Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Note: Fermented and probiotic foods are not to be confused with Prebiotics. Prebiotics are naturally occurring food ingredients that promote the growth of helpful bacteria in your gut, which are probiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics working together form the key to good digestive health. Prebiotics can be found in garlic, onions, leeks, honey, asparagus, artichokes, whole grains, and bananas. Incorporate both prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet for the biggest benefit.
Comment below if you have any questions.
- Help your Immune System with This Balancing Act, Dr. Mercola
- Probiotic Digestive Health & Poor Bacterial Balance, Dr David Williams
- SOA Health Boost Day 8: Fermented Foods, Sweat and Oranges
- Health Benefits of Fermented Foods, Wellness Mama
- Livestrong: http://www.livestrong.com/article/418612-what-do-probiotics-do-for-your-body/
- Top 10 Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet, Mind Body Green