The Power of Probiotics

Probiotics are the good bacteria that reside in your gut, supplementing your body with all kinds of major health benefits (1). Without these healthy germs, our bodies would otherwise become predisposed to not just allergies, but chronic and autoimmune diseases as well (2). In fact, besides protecting our bodies from such conditions, probiotics are essential to our very survival for many reasons. First of all, they are necessary for digestion. And once our food is consumed, probiotics are responsible for assimilating the nutrients that come in it. It’s also a major player in many bodily processes, including the functioning of our immune systems. The unfortunate aspect of our modernized lives, however, is that we are putting more and more unnatural chemicals into our bodies, thus requiring the need for regular replenishment of good bacteria (3).

So how do probiotics work? To cover the basics, probiotics work to maintain the lining of our intestines and mainly function to promote overall intestinal health and proper functioning. They also help fight off the bad kind of bacteria, like those that cause diarrhea. This results in the prevention of a lot of digestive ailments because these ailments otherwise come about from disturbances in the good bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics also help in cases of infections from damaged intestinal lining or taking antibiotics (4).

Aside from regular maintenance and preventative measures, probiotics are also effective for treating a whole array of ailments. These include, though are not limited to the following (1, 4):

  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Infection and inflammation of the intestines
  • Eczema
  • Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Vaginitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Yeast infection

There is a high occurrence of allergic and autoimmune diseases in highly hygienic societies, and this is most likely due to the lack of pathogenic organisms to challenge and strengthen the immune system. Therefore, adding probiotics to our diets is a healthy and efficient way to introduce this necessary challenge to our immune systems (4).

yogurtHowever, just knowing the benefits of probiotics isn’t quite enough. It’s essential that we know where to get these probiotics from and, most importantly, to incorporate those sources into our diets. The best sources for probiotics include the following (2):

  • Yogurt – Just make sure to steer clear of those full of artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and high fructose corn syrup.
  • Miso soup – Simply adding a tablespoon of miso to hot water makes for a delicious soup made from fermented rye, beans, rice, or barley.
  • Sauerkraut – This is made from fermented cabbage and is therefore rich in probiotics, plus it is also a great source of vitamins A, B, C, and E.
  • Kefir – This combination of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains (a bacterial fermentation activator) is similar to yogurt and rich in good bacteria and antioxidants.
  • Kombucha – This is a kind of fermented tea full of all kinds of good gut bacteria that also promotes increased energy, overall wellbeing, and may even aid in weight loss. Keep in mind, kombucha is not for everyone, and those with candida problems are especially recommended not to try it.
  • Microalgae – This can be supplemented in your smoothies or juices for that extra kick of the ocean’s superfoods.
  • Pickles – Your common, everyday green pickles, especially those less commercialized brands of them, are a great source of probiotics.
  • Tempeh – This is an excellent substitute for meat or tofu, as it’s made from fermented soybeans, and it can be served in a variety of ways, from being sautéed to baked to crumbled on top of salads.
  • Kimchi – If your taste buds can handle the spice of this Asian version of sauerkraut often served alongside Korean dishes, you will be introducing your body to one of the most potent sources of probiotics.
  • Supplements – In addition to these foods, there is a variety of different supplements you can take in order to get a sufficient share of probiotics. If you are concerned about whether you’re getting enough from your diet, talk to your doctor and find out what kind of changes should be made and if starting a probiotic supplement regimen is best for you.

References (click to show/hide)

  1. Ventresca, Mike. "The Best Probiotics for IBS, Yeast, and More." Mimi Vanderhaven n.d.: n. pag. Print.
  2. Maskell, James. "Top 10 Probiotic Foods To Add To Your Diet." MindBodyGreen. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.mindbodygreen.com/1-9331-10/top-10probiotic-foods-to-add-to-your-diet.html>.
  3. Katz, Sandor E. "'Fermentation': When Food Goes Bad But Stays Good." NPR, n.d. Web. <http://www.npr.org/2012/06/13/154914381/fermentation-when-foodgoes-bad-but-stays-good>.
  4. Jaret, Peter. "What Are Probiotics? Benefits, Supplements, Foods & More." WebMD. Ed. Laura J. Martin. WebMD, n.d. Web.<http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/what-areprobiotics>.

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