Well Between 2021
Gut health. Probiotics. Fermented foods. These words appear across the covers of magazines in the grocery aisle and in our instagram feed all the time. But what do they mean and what do we need to know? Your Well Between girls are here breaking down key takeaways so you don’t have to do the research.
First, the nerdy deets. The gastrointestinal system, gastrointestinal tract, digestive system or digestive tract are all names for our gut. Our gut is a group of organs that includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum. Each person’s gut contains trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes known as your microbiome. The microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion, regulating your immune system, protecting against disease and creating essential vitamins.
The importance of a healthy gut. You’ve probably heard your Body Well Coach say it, but a healthy gut really is an extremely important part of overall health.
Did you know that your gut is home to more than 100 trillion bacteria?! Most of the time when we hear the word bacteria we think of the “bad” bacteria that makes us sick. But there’s also good bacteria. The bacteria play a variety of key roles such as supporting your immune system, detoxification, hormone balance, skin and mental health, energy production, nourishment and even waste elimination.
Another important reason to have a healthy gut is because the gut is what some refer to as our “second brain.” Our brain and gut are connected by a network of neurons, chemicals and hormones. A healthy gut sends messages to the brain and the brain sends messages back! These messages transmit information about hunger or feeling full, or about the presence of dangerous microbes. This communication helps maintain general health and well being.
Because our gut plays such an important role in our health it is important that we keep it functioning properly.
How probiotics help. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help keep your digestive system healthy. The main job of probiotics is to maintain a healthy balance in your body by patrolling your intestines to make sure everything is running smoothly. As we already know, not all bacteria is good bacteria. For example; when you are sick, bad bacteria enters your body and increases in number. So to get rid of the harmful bacteria we need to add more beneficial bacteria to fight off the bad. When there is an imbalance of bacteria it can lead to sickness or disease. This is where probiotics come into play. A probiotic can help keep your body healthy and working its best. Think of it as your own personal stomach watch-dog!
Probiotics In Fermented Foods and Drinks
Fermented Foods - Fermented foods are “foods produced through controlled microbial growth, and the conversion of food components through enzymatic action.”* Fermented foods are mainly known to contain the healthy bacteria, Lactobacilli. Keep in mind that not all foods contain live probiotics as in some cases, the live bacteria have been killed during processing. Read your labels and try to choose foods with active or live cultures. Here are a few fermented foods you can easily add into your diet.
Yogurt- Perhaps one of the most popular and widely consumed probiotic rich foods. Yogurt is a fermented milk product that contains the characteristic bacterial cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Yogurt can treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and is also a popular choice to snack on when taking antibiotics. Since antibiotics diminish healthy bacteria in your gut while you are on them, yogurt is a great choice of replenishment!
Raw Cheese - Some cheeses are a great source of probiotics. Soft fermented options such as cheddar, feta and gouda contain probiotics as they are made from lactic acid culture and milk. From there, they are left to ferment for weeks at a time!
Olives - We never would have guessed that olives are actually fermented! Reach for green olives to reap probiotic benefits! They contain two strains of Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus pentosus. This type of bacteria is known to reduce bloating and help with symptoms of IBS.
Miso - A Japanese staple made from soybeans and sometimes mixed with barley, rice or ry and is fermented with a starter called koji. It is most common in miso soup and main dishes. Miso provides many essential nutrients, including B-complex vitamins, vitamin K, copper and manganese. Miso has been shown to fight cancer and lower heart rate.
Dark Chocolate - Yes dark chocolate is also fermented! Dark chocolate is known for being rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants and providing gut healthy probiotics. Just be sure to choose a chocolate with 70% or more cacao!
Kombucha - Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been around for years which contains probiotics. It also contains antioxidants and can help kill harmful bacteria. However, only drink unpasteurized kombucha as pasteurization can kill gut healthy probiotics. Kombucha comes in many flavors but it is important to read labels as some are known to contain high levels of sugar.
Kefir - While Kefir is another probiotic rich dairy product, unlike yogurt, many people who are lactose intolerant are able to drink this product with no problem. Kefir is known to improve bone health, digestive health and fight infection.
You can also increase the amount of probiotics in your body by taking a dietary supplement.* Here are a few tips of what to look for to get started...
Make sure a product contains both live and active bacterial cultures. Those details should be indicated on its packaging. Also check the expiration date to be sure it has not expired.
Bargain supplements typically don’t equal quality. So go ahead, invest in your gut!
There is mixed information regarding if refrigerated or shelved products are best. When in doubt, research before you buy!
Choose a brand with at least 1 billion colony forming units and be sure they contain Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium or Saccharomyces boulardii as they are some of the most researched probiotics. **Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common probiotics found in stores while Saccharomyces boulardii is another commonly found probiotic made of good yeast.
When looking to help vaginal health, diarrhea, acne, inflammation or brain function it is said that the Lactobacillus strand can be your friend. Whereas the Bifidobacterium strand may be more beneficial to help things such as immunity, anti aging and constipation. Based on what your body needs look for a higher amount of each strand in the brand you choose.
If you don’t notice any benefits from one product after a few weeks, try a different one with a different strain of bacteria.
Just because one probiotic works for a friend doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Pay attention to your body to decide if the one you’ve chosen is a good fit for you.
**Probiotics are generally recognized as safe, but always ask a physician if probiotics are right for you.