I am very excited today to share this post with you. Not only is the lovely Eliza Schneider of Embodied Emergence joining us again, to share her thoughts on probiotics, but I am also sharing some great probiotic encouraging recipes from some wonderful friends of mine, as well. Probiotics have single-handedly changed the game for my always troubled gut, my only complaint of probiotics is that I didn’t learn of them sooner. I am so happy Eliza took some time to explain probiotics and share all of the amazing benefits we get from them.
If you’re interested in taking better care of your digestion you’ve surely been hearing buzz words like “probiotic,” “prebiotic,” “digestive enzymes,” “intestinal flora”… don’t be scared by these terms! You’re not alone if you’re thinking “WTF is this biotic stuff all about? Should I be taking supplements? Do I need this stuff? What kind should I be getting?….!!??”
Don’t fear! The digestive detective (my new self-title, haha) is here to “break it down for you,” so to speak.
Today we’re going to focus on your intestines. These windy, long intestinal tunnels have villi (tiny hairs) capture the nutrients and send them into your blood stream. These villi are covered with tiny bacteria (probioitics). The probiotics repel yeast, bad bacteria, and fungi from getting into the blood stream. It is VITAL that the nutrients are able to absorb into the blood stream at this point in the digestive process, and the probiotics assist in allowing this to happen. The intestines are the final frontier for the digested food before it’s moved into the colon and then released as waste.
On average, we have over 1,000 different types of bacteria that live in our digestive track and help to break down food and absorb nutrients! (Amazing, right!?) But sadly, things like antibiotics and diets filled with processed foods can cause these helpful bacteria to die off. As I mentioned in a previous blog post on POO, foods that cause inflammation in the body can cause the villi to be covered in a mucous that prevents mineral and nutrient absorption! This in turn can cause problems like constipation or diarrhea, IBS, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating and other not-so-fun digestive problems.
Something to be aware in today’s factory-farmed world is that there can even be trace antibiotics in the meat you are eating. Conventional farmers often add antibiotics to animals who are grown close together and are prone to bacterial infections. Also, some fish are packed in antibiotics so that they don’t develop bacteria on them as they are shipped to stores. By choosing organic fish and meats you’ll avoid these risks.
The GOOD NEWS is that probiotics (supplements that help rebuild the intestinal bacterial [AKA flora]) can relieve many of these problems! Probiotics are microorganisms that offer some form of health benefit to the host. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a special kind of dietary fiber that nourish the existing bacteria already living in the colon. They are naturally occurring in many plants. Basically, prebioitics are fibers (non-living) that help feed the good bacteria (probioitics!).
In this post, we are going to focus on PRObiotics, the actual beneficial bacteria that we ingest either in foods, or through supplements and are produced naturally (in a healthy body) in our intestines.
Some foods with natural probiotics in them are:
- Plain yogurt (Be sure to pick one without too many filler sugars and that says something like “live and active cultures” to be sure you’re getting good bacteria!)
- Kefir (fermented milk drink made with kefir grains)
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, etc
- Miso (fermented soybean paste… makes great soups, and yummy dressings!)
- Tempeh (fermented soybean)
- Kombucha (basically bacterial cultures that in a tea-based drink)
- Dark Chocolate (YESS!!!)
- Olives (also go through a brine-fermenting process)
You also have the option of taking a probiotic supplements. I highly suggest checking with your doctor before taking any supplements to see if they would be right for you. There are lots of probiotics to choose from. Beware of going straight for the cheapest ones, they are not always the best. Go to your local health food store and ask someone to help you pick one that works for your individual needs.
I personally take probiotics daily as well as drinking a plant-based protein shake called Vega One which contains probiotics. (A simple and yummy way to get them in) The supplement that I use is called Optimal Flora Plus, it’s a blend of eight different bacteria along with trace minerals, enzymes, and Jerusalem artichoke to optimize establishment in the gut.
Probiotics have been shown to help the digestive system and BEYOND…
- Maintaining the healthy bacteria in your gut allows your body to absorb the nutrients it works so hard to break down. It takes less food to fulfill the body’s needs when it is able to absorb all the goodness of your dietary nutrients easily. Therefore, it can also help prevent obesity, as your body won’t feel hungry still when it’s absorbing all the nutrients it needs with less (nutrient-dense) food!
- In addition, for people who experience repeated UTIs (urinary tract infections) there is new evidence that probiotics can help prevent that BAD bacteria from invading by keeping the population healthy!
- For women, the probiotics can help maintain the balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. For those who have ever been on an ANTI-biotic, you may know that this can cause yeast infections for women. The antibiotics will kill off the “bad” bacteria that is making you sick, but also the good ones! The delicate balance of bacteria gets thrown off, but probiotics can help to reestablish the bacterial balance. A folk remedy for yeast infections is actually to use yogurt on a tampon to promote healthy bacteria in the vagina. By taking probiotics during and after a series of antibiotics, your body is more able to bounce back and rebalance it’s levels, preventing yeast infections!
- Another benefit of probiotics is that it can build up your immune system! It seems ironic that adding bacteria to your body would help keep you healthy, but one of the main functions of healthy bacteria is to stimulate immune response! Perfect for this time of the year as seasons are fluctuating, allergies are up, and one of the best things you can do it build up your immune system.
I hope that this has given you some insight into you insides and as always, please feel free to ask questions, leave comments and feedback below!
Eliza Schneider, the Digestive Detective
FB – Embodied Emergence
If you are looking to learn more about fermenting your own foods, my friend Jenny from Nourished Kitchen has an amazing cooking class on how to culture your own foods. You can sign up for the course, anytime here: Learn How to Ferment Anything The Full & Complete Guide to Preparing Probiotic, Live-cultured Fermented Foods at Home. earn the art of fermentation including when to use a starter, when not to use a starter, how to choose equipment and ferment anything from dairy to vegetables, fruits to meats, homemade sodas, kombucha, kefir, kvass and more… There are 13 workshops within the class, with over 50 videos, you even receive private one-on-one email support with Jenny, for help with any questions you might have on the process.
Now that you are ready for some probiotic goodness created right in your own kitchen, here are some great recipes from myself and a few lovely friends of mine. I hope you enjoy.
Fermented Salsa from Tasty Yummies
Fermented Hot Chili Sauce from Nourished Kitchen
Homemade Kimchi from Healthy Green Kitchen
Water Kefir from Nourished Kitchen
Ginger Bug for Homemade Sodas from Nourished Kitchen
Fermented Ketchup from A Girl Worth Saving
Continuous Brew Kombucha from Nourished Kitchen
Homemade Kombucha from Healthy Green Kitchen
Morrocan Preserved Lemons from Nourished Kitchen