Bacteria lives in each and every one of our digestive tracts. There is no getting around it—in fact, you wouldn’t want to! These types of bacterial strains are beneficial to your health and provide a wide range of support to our bodies natural processes. Probiotics are bacteria that you can add to the already existing flora in your gut. A breakdown of the word probiotic lets you know just why you need them: ‘pro’ meaning for or before and ‘bios’ meaning life. Probiotics are essentially life promoting; without them your health can suffer.
Why You Need Them
The good bacteria living in your gut helps to control and displaces the bad strains, therefore influencing your digestive health and metabolism. Additionally, because the majority of your immune system is controlled by the flora in your gut, probiotics also help to promote overall health and well-being. Illness, food allergies, poor diet and overuse of antibiotics can deplete the natural levels of bacteria in your gut. This can increase your risk of developing digestive problems, as well as other serious health conditions. An unhealthy gut triggers inflammation, and if this spreads through the body, your health could be in jeopardy.
The addition of probiotics to your diet will provide the following benefits:
- synthesizes B vitamins and vitamin K
- enhances digestion and nutrient absorption
- prevents the growth of bad bacteria and pathogens
- produces cytokines (cell signalling molecules)
- produces coagulation and growth factors
- helps to regulate blood flow
- produces short chain fatty acids and polyamines
How to Get Them
As stated, your natural stores of bacteria can become depleted and the best way to replace them is through probiotics. A number of foods available supply generous helpings of different beneficial bacterial strains and you can also take supplemental pills every day. Unlike most supplements, there is no real difference between the natural source and the supplemental capsules. You will see the same health benefits from food consumption and taking a daily pill.
- Yogurt – natural and organic yogurt contains live and active cultures that will benefit your gut. Be careful to avoid yogurts with high sugar content because pathogenic bacteria thrive on sugar.
- Miso soup – This tofu and vegetable broth soup, available in stores, contains valuable proteins and probiotics.
- Soy milk – Full of live and active cultures, this is ideal for lactose intolerance and helps to soothe the digestive trouble dairy products can create.
- Fermented tea – Also known as kombucha, you can get this from most Asian food stores and it is a natural supporter of efficient digestion.
- Kefir – A cross between yogurt and milk, kefir is full of probiotics and vitamins and is great with granola or mixed into a smoothie.
- Sauerkraut – Add a scoop to a hot dog or serve as a side dish to get a delicious helping of friendly bacteria.
- Dark chocolate – Perfect for those sweet cravings, dark chocolate contains probiotics and antioxidants. That dynamic duo is awesome at fighting inflammation.
- Pickles – As a snack or on a sandwich, pickles provide probiotics and the crunch you love.
- Blue algae – A grassy green plant used in juices, this microalgae is surprisingly delicious, sweet, and full of bacteria.
- Tempeh – The meat substitute has the perfect digestive health cocktail; proteins, B vitamins and probiotics.
- Olives – Throw some in a salad or just eat as a snack. Olives in brine contain large numbers of probiotics. The brine allows the bacteria to thrive.
If these foods are difficult to come by, you don’t like them or perhaps you have food allergies and have to follow a strict diet, there is no need to fret. Probiotic supplements can be found in every health food store, but not all probiotics are alike. You want to look for a supplement containing active cultures in the billions that includes a minimum of 11 different strains and an effective prebiotic that assists in maintaining the vitality and growth of those strains. Always choose a reputable brand and be sure to store it in cool, dry location.
Don’t Forget Prebiotics
As we mentioned above, prebiotics are crucial for keeping probiotics alive. To get the most benefit from your probiotic foods or supplements, you should plan to include prebiotic sources in your diet, too. While your body is not able to digest prebiotics, probiotics love them and will thrive in their presence. Prebiotics include inulin, polydextrose, and polyols but you will be more familiar with the foods they are in:
- Barley, oats, quinoa , wheat, and rye
- Onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, and yams
- Bananas and berries
- Honey and agave
Probiotics can improve your current digestive situation, as well as prevent any serious conditions that can occur as a result of poor diet. Not only does your digestion system get an overhaul but your immune system gets the additional support it needs to keep you healthy and ready to fight any illness. When you throw in the fact that probiotics help alleviate inflammation and all its associated problems and pains, there is little room for argument against them. Through supplements, foods with probiotics or both, the essential takeaway fact is the same; bacteria fights bacteria, so make sure you have more of the good ones!