Welcome Probiotics!

You’ve probably heard that yogurt contains healthy bacteria, and have perhaps been swayed by recent ad campaigns treading dangerously close to “tmi”  bathroom talk. You may have tried one of the highly processed, packaged, flavored and sweetened yogurt products in an effort to improve your digestive situation. While it is true that real yogurt (as well as other naturally fermented foods) made with active cultures offer the body unique nutrition called “probiotics,” it is also true that Dannon was sued over unsubstantiated health claims made in their advertisements for “Activia” yogurt-like products and has been quietly reimbursing costumers. So beware of wannabes.

With 100 trillion bacterial cells from 500 different species, your gut is a veritable microbial zoo teaming with critters, and that’s exactly the way you want it.  These bacteria, when healthy and plentiful, in turn keep you healthy, digesting well, crowding out “bad” bacteria, and may also help protect against more serious chronic illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  According to this month’s issue of the Life Extension Foundation‘s magazine, your gut contains 70-80% of your body’s immune system, where probiotics work at the molecular level to keep you well.

Their biggest enemy? Antibiotics. Not only are we being prescribed the antis more and more often, but most of our animal foods come from CAFO factory farms where animals are pumped full of antibiotics, and so by extension, so are you when you eat the meat, milk and other animal foods from these sources.  The artificial sweetener aspartame and oral contraceptives both interfere with healthy gut bacteria, and genetically modified foods and chlorinated water very well may too.

A good way to repopulation your gut bacteria, is to frequently eat fermented foods – those  sometimes called “traditional” or “live” which contain natural forms of probiotics. A quick tour around the world of traditional fermented foods include Japanese miso, tamari and natto, German sauerkraut, Bulgarian yogurt, Russian kefir, Ethiopian injera bread, Korean kimchi, Indian lassi drinks, Salvadoran curtido, etc.  For more information and simple recipes for these traditional foods, I highly recommend Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.  Although probiotics have been receiving well deserved media attention only recently, they are by no means a new method of maintaining good health.

With the goal of a thriving community of probiotics in your gut, you have to be a good host. Keep them out of harm’s way (antibiotics) and nourish them with prebiotics.  Foods such as bananas, garlic, onions, raw honey, wheat, barley, and soybeans naturally contain prebiotics, or probiotic food. For additional support, or in times of therapeutic need (such as during and following a course of antibiotics), you may also want to consider a high quality probiotic and prebiotic supplement.

Since I’ve been focusing on probiotics, no meal feels quite complete without a generous scoop of kimchi or kraut.  A bowl of plain yogurt satisfies a snack or dessert desire, and when thirsty, I reach for kombucha (a fermented tea drink).  A few of my recent favorite “full of life” foods: kimchi in an avocado half; kimchi or kraut quesadilla; sourdough bread with cultured butter; yogurt with raw honey and ground flaxseeds, miso broth to sip and kombucha to drink. To satisfy my growing thirst, I ordered a SCOBY (a kombucha “mother”) and have started brewing my own kombucha).

Hungry for more?  Let me recommend these articles on probiotics:

And if you’re as hooked as I am, you’ll be happy to know this great looking new book is coming out next month: The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World by Sandor Katz with a foreword by Michael Pollan.

But first, my bowl of yogurt:

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Welcome Probiotics!

  1. I’ve been making my own kombucha and kefir for a while and feel that both have played an important role in restoring my health and immune system. My understanding is that kefir has a greater diversity of bacteria than does kombucha, but I love them both. I’ve made sauerkraut and mix a little in with my salads now and then, but I must admit: I’m still acquiring that taste (kimchee too). This is such an important and little-understood topic. Thanks!
    Eleanor

    • Sounds great, Eleanor! Making kefir a regular habit is next on my to do list. I don’t like how what’s available in natural food stores is generally full of sugar and packaged in plastic bottles.

      I grew up eating sauerkraut mixed with mashed potatoes, often with a sausage on top (meat or a veggie version). Have you tried it that way?

  2. Pingback: Taking Supplements « Living Beyond Organic Mom

  3. Pingback: Sliding Gently into Sauerkraut | Plan It Healthier

  4. Hey Guys,

    Great article! I l love hearing people get excited about this stuff. Fermented products are so underrated! Thought I would chime in since I have some extensive experience in this arena. When I found out my son had Autism we immediately started looking into natural alternatives. We started giving him fermented and Probiotic products and even went so far as to create out own which we now sell. He is now almost 6 feet tall and completely healthy. Obviously autism doesn’t just go away but I really feel like it has helped him immensely. Making your own stuff can be frustrating due to the wait time etc. I don’t mean to spam at all but am just passionate about this stuff! If you guys would like a few more options check out our fermented foods store and let me know if you have any questions!

    Tams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s