The idea that bacteria are not all bad – that good bacteria called probiotics live in your body and actually help you maintain health and even fight diseases, is one that’s just now going mainstream in the United States. You can get probiotics, along with the fiber that good bacteria eat, called prebiotics, from certain foods and from probiotic supplements.
Probiotics: The good bacteria
Your digestive system is full of good bacteria, that help your immune system. This keeps your digestive system healthy and efficient. Bad bacteria, too, can get into your body, and if the bacteria balance get out of whack, probiotics add good bacteria back into your system.
Prebiotics: Fiber food for bacteria
Prebiotics are basically food for probiotics. Taking prebiotics helps probiotics work better and more efficiently. Prebiotics not digestible by humans, but they stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria. Common prebiotics are inulin and carbohydrate fibers called oligosaccharides.
You can find prebiotics in items such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, maple syrup, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Try prebiotic foods on their own or with probiotic foods to perhaps give the probiotics a boost.
Synbiotics: Combining probiotics and prebiotics
A synbiotic is a supplement that contains both probiotics and prebiotics. It makes sense to make sure any supplement you take contains both probiotics and prebiotics, as they work in tandem to make sure that your system has enough of beneficial bacteria.
Foods, drinks, and supplements with probiotics are everywhere these days, but only some probiotic strains are proven remedies for common health issues, like tummy troubles.
Yogurt is one of the most familiar sources of probiotics. Studies suggest that probiotics can help ease lactose intolerance. They also may help tame gas, diarrhea, and other digestive problems. You can pay extra for special digestive yogurt brands, but any with “live and active cultures” listed may help. Some yogurts are pasteurized, which kills the bacteria. Those yogurts with live cultures add them back in after the pasteurization process.
Foods that Contain Probiotics and Prebiotics
Many foods contain probiotics and prebiotics. However, it’s difficult to get enough probiotics strictly through food. You need to take a probiotic supplement to get enough probiotics in your diet to maintain good health, especially if you’re treating a particular illness (such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea).
Fermented foods – contain probiotics. Fermentation is the process of adding yeast to a food to change its structure. Primarily, sugars and starches are broken down during fermentation.
Probiotic-rich foods include the following:
Yogurt (with live cultures)
Kimchi (a spicy fermented cabbage common in the Korean diet)
Dark chocolate (a good, high-quality chocolate)
Natto (a fermented soybean)
Some soft cheeses (such as Gouda) contain Lactobacilli bacteria
Sourdough bread may also contain Lactobacilli
Fruits such as bananas and tomatoes
Vegetables like artichokes, green beans, leeks
You’ll find probiotics in fermented foods such as yogurts (with live, active cultures), sauerkraut, and kimchi. Keep in mind that most of the time, you can’t get enough probiotics through eating foods alone, and you’ll need to take a supplement.
Sauerkraut Boosts Digestion
Choose the unpasteurized kind, because pasteurization (used to treat most supermarket sauerkraut) kills active, good bacteria. This sour, salty food — and the similar but spicy Korean dish, kimchi — is also loaded with immune-boosting vitamins that may help ward off infection.
Kefir: Probiotic-Filled Drink
According to legend, kefir dates back to the shepherds of Eurasia’s Caucasus Mountains. They discovered the milk they carried tended to ferment into a bubbly beverage. Thick, creamy, and tangy like yogurt, kefir has its own strains of probiotic bacteria, plus a few helpful yeast varieties.
The next time you make a sandwich, pay attention to what’s holding your cold cuts and cheese. San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread packs a probiotic that may help digestion
When looking to pickles for probiotics, choose naturally fermented kinds, where vinegar wasn’t used in the pickling process. A sea salt and water solution feeds the growth of good bacteria and may give sour pickles some digestive benefits.
Aside from being found in foods, probiotics come in supplements in capsule, tablet, powder, and liquid forms. Although they don’t provide the extra nutrition that foods can offer, they can be convenient. If you’re interested, talk to your doctor. If you’re ill or have immune system problems, you may want to be cautious about taking probiotics.
Benefits of adding probiotic foods into your diet:
- Stronger immune system
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy from production of vitamin B12
- Better breath because probiotics destroy candida
- Healthier skin, since probiotics improve eczema and psoriasis
- Reduced cold and flu
- Healing from leaky gut and inflammatory bowel disease
- Weight loss
For your own benefit it’s advisable to stick to organic foods.
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