Did you know that there are as many microbes in your body as there are human cells?
There are trillions of these microbes in your body, which make up your unique human microbiome: the individual concentration of microbes and bacteria within your human body.
These microbes have tremendous potential to impact your physiology, both in health and in disease. They protect against pathogens, contribute to metabolic functions, and significantly influence the immune system. Through these basic functions, our microbes directly or indirectly affect most of the functions of the human body.
Your gut, in particular, is home to trillions of these microbes, and your gut flora plays an incredibly important role in your physiological processes. When your gut microbiome undergoes stress, whether from changes in your diet, chronic stress, antibiotics, or other factors, the physiology of your microbiome changes. These changes can result in dysbiosis, which is a microbial imbalance inside the body.
When this dysbiosis occurs, the intestinal lining can become more permeable, which allows microbes and bacteria themselves to leak through the gut lining. This contributes to a syndrome coined “leaky gut syndrome.” Leaky gut syndrome can create inflammation within the body, which can influence a variety of other health complications. The microbiome is known to play a role in many digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disorder (IBD), and is even linked to autoimmune and mental health disorders as well.
To avoid this imbalance and promote the level of “good bacteria” in your gut, you should consider taking probiotics, whether through a supplement recommended by your doctor or through the foods you eat.
Adding more probiotic foods to your diet can provide a host of benefits. Added probiotics have been shown to help promote a stronger immune system, improve digestion, reduce symptoms of IBD, promote better skin health, and even aid in weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, probiotics can also help treat or prevent diarrhea following antibiotic treatment, prevent and treat vaginal and urinary tract infections.
Probiotic foods are made through the process of fermentation. As the good bacteria grow, lactic acid chemically alters the food, and the friendly bacteria secrete enzymes, organic acids, and proteins. BOost the health of your gut and microbiome by incorporating these foods into your diet.
Greek Yogurt or Coconut yogurt
Yogurt is one of the most popular probiotic foods on the market. Not only does is it a great source of good bacteria, it also is a good source of calcium and protein.
Yogurt usually contains strains of the Lactobacillus family (such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. animalis and L. casei) along with common Bifidobacterium strains B. animalis and B. lactis. It is also commonly cultured with the strains from the Streptococcus thermophilus family. Check for yogurt options that come from grass-fed milk and that are organic for the options that are healthiest and best for your gut health. If you’re not able to eat dairy, coconut yogurt can be a very powerful and delicious source of probiotics as well. Look for brands on the market that are free of added sugar, that just combine coconut milk or coconut cream with live cultures.
Sauerkraut + Kimchi
Fermented veggies such as sauerkraut and kimchi can be another amazing probiotic addition to your meals. Sauerkraut and kimchi are made from fermented cabbage, and sometimes include other veggies like daikon radish. They are fermented through lactic acid fermentation, which increases the shelf life of these veggies, enhances many beneficial properties, and also reduces toxicity. These fermented vegetables are a source of probiotics and contain several bacteria of the Lactobacillus family, such as Lactobacillus plantarum, L. pentosus, L. brevis, L. acidophilus, L. fermentum, Leuconostoc fallax, and L. mesenteroides.
Miso is a Japanese seasoning, created by fermenting a mixture of soybeans, barley, and brown rice with a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae. The probiotic microorganisms grow as the miso ferments during a process that can take as little as a few days to over a year. The length of the fermentation process contributes to the number of probiotic microorganisms in the final paste. In addition to being a great source of probiotics, miso is also rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, and zinc. Make sure you that when you are using miso in hot dishes or soups, only add the miso at the end of cooking and then immediately remove it from high heat, as the high heat can destroy the probiotic organisms.
Tempeh, a traditional Indonesian dish, is made from fermented soybeans and is formed into a solid, cake-like block. During the fermentation process, tempeh becomes a great source of gut-friendly bacteria. Tempeh has a delicious, earthy, nutty flavor, and has a hearty and firm texture, unlike tofu. Packed with protein, tempeh makes an awesome meat substitute in your recipes.
Kefir or coconut kefir
Kefir is a cultured dairy product that is similar to yogurt, but a little different. Unlike yogurt, which is fermented under heat, kefir is fermented at room temperature. It’s also thinner and drinkable. It has a slightly acidic and tart flavor, and packs a more powerful probiotic punch than yogurt. It contains anywhere from 10 to 34 strains of probiotics and beneficial yeasts, and is very easy to digest.) Kefir is commonly made with dairy milk, but like yogurt, it can be made with non-dairy options as well. Opt for coconut kefir if you want a dairy-free option that’s also rich in gut-friendly bacteria.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea and a little sugar. The tea is fermented by bacteria and yeast known as a “SCOBY,” AKA a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The primary family of probiotics found in kombucha is Lactobacillus. Kombucha can be a great fizzy, low sugar alternative to soda if you are trying to cut back on sugary beverages. During the fermentation process, kombucha obtains a small amount of alcohol, so it may not be safe to drink if you are pregnant.
Author: Maggie Harriman