I think by now many of us are aware of the important role probiotics play in our digestive health. In case you didn’t know, probiotics are bacteria that reside in our intestinal tract; other types of probiotics are yeast.
We obtain probiotics by eating certain foods and supplements, and there are many different types of probiotics with each one behaving differently in our gut. We’ve been ingesting probiotics for thousands of years, even though the term probiotic itself is fairly new. Probiotics come from any food that is cultured or fermented, including: yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, miso, tempeh, kombucha, and even beer and wine.
Food Is A Better Source Of Probiotics Than Supplements
There are tons of different probiotic supplements on the market, and while these can ensure you are getting your required dose, they may not me the most beneficial for you to consume. Besides, we shouldn’t have to rely on supplements to guarantee proper nutrition, as a diverse, healthy diet should be adequate for the essential vitamins and minerals we need.
The Lost Art Of Fermentation
People have been fermenting their own foods throughout history, from the common sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) of Germany, soy sauce and tempeh (fermented soy beans) of China, to the pickles and yogurts (fermented dairy) of the Middle East. One that is more common to many cultures around the world is kombucha (fermented sparkling tea) and of course the most popular, and potentially the oldest fermented item is wine, which dates back to at least 8000 years ago.
With cultures across the globe incorporating these fermented foods into their diets for thousands of years it is no surprise that these foods contain an array of very important health benefits for us. Fermenting our own foods is a practice that has almost been completely lost in Western culture. Most westerners don’t even eat fermented foods and wouldn’t even consider making their own. Now, it is time to reintroduce the fermented foods, and continue to take back our health.
One of the biggest issues with our diets today is that everything we are consuming is sterilized, pasteurized, and even radiated just so it can meet “safety” standards. This often means that essential enzymes are killed off during these processes and therefore we have a more difficult time digesting our food.
There are many benefits to adding fermented foods to our diets. Some of these include: adding probiotic bacteria to our guts to restore the balance of intestinal flora; clearing up our skin; providing B vitamins (especially beneficial for people who follow a Vegan lifestyle); and improving digestion, which means vitamins and minerals from all of the foods that we are eating will be better absorbed. A diet rich in fermented foods can also be extremely beneficial in keeping parasites at bay.
How Can We Maximize The Benefits Of Probiotics?
With all of the focus and stress on the importance of ingesting probiotics, sometimes the importance of ingesting equally as beneficial prebiotics gets lost in the limelight. Without prebiotics, the probiotics we are ingesting would eventually die off and cause an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in our guts. Probiotic bacteria actually feed off prebiotics.
Prebiotics are non-living and they are usually some form of fiber. Our bodies actually do not digest fiber, but the bacteria in our gut, including the aforementioned probiotics, do. In fact, they love fiber as it’s their main food source. By feeding the probiotic cultures, we are assisting in maintaining the best gut health.
Foods containing prebiotics include: raw chicory root (this is the top source at 60% fiber), raw Jerusalem artichoke, raw garlic, leeks and onions, whole wheat, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
So what this means is even if you are taking a probiotic supplement daily or eating an adequate source of probiotic foods, if you are not eating foods containing essential prebiotics your efforts may be wasted. We all have different varieties of bacteria swimming around in our gut, so the effects of the consumption of the exact measure of prebiotics and probiotics can vary. Try experimenting with different foods and see what works for you.
The Use Of Antibiotics
Antibiotics literally translates to killing life in Greek terminology. Antibiotics are prescribed as a treatment to kill off bacteria that cause infection. While antibiotics have helped tremendously, saving many lives since being discovered, this does not come without its drawbacks. First of all, if antibiotics are taken too frequently, they can weaken the immune system over time as the body is not getting a chance to fight off the “bad” bacteria with its own defences; the less they are used the less they are needed.
Also, antibiotics prescribed by your doctor tend to kill off all types of bacteria, which means the good, beneficial bacteria is often killed right along with it. This can lead to an imbalance of intestinal flora and cause yeast infections and also digestive issues.
There are many natural sources of antibiotics that are a bit less harsh than those that are generally prescribed by your doctor.
These include: raw honey, garlic, turmeric, oil of oregano, coconut oil, raw apple cider vinegar, and cabbage.
These are all amazing things that can be taken to prevent getting sick or even to help speed up the recovery process after getting sick.
Important To Know
With all antibiotics, whether prescribed by the doctor or not, it is important to take probiotics along with them in order to replenish the good bacteria that may have been killed off during the treatment with antibiotics. Consider keeping doctor-prescribed antibiotics to a minimum, as these tend to be a lot more potent than their more natural, gentle counterparts.