It seems like everyone I know these days has some sort of digestive distress - whether it be foods they "react" poorly to, IBS, colitis, or allergies. And for some reason, these kinds of maladies are tough to find a root cause. I went through this a couple of years ago, and coupled with my rheumatoid arthritis we just chalked it up to autoimmune inflammation. It's so interesting that our bodies have evolved this way - I definitely think it has something to do with the amount of processed food that we are exposed to. Equally interesting is that digestive disorders - Chrone's, ulcerative colitis, IBS - are way more prevalent in developed countries. Some research has shown that digestive issues occur when there becomes an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. So what is there to do about it if we we don't have a diagnosis, but we experience and feel real pain or distress? While there is probably nothing better for your system than a balanced, healthy diet, supplementing with probiotics has helped myself and many others reduce additional"unknown" digestive distress. So let's take a deeper look!
What the hell are probiotics anyways? Probiotics are live bacteria with a variety of reported health benefits, including improving digestive and immune health, and inflammation reduction. They can be found in lots of foods you recognize or in pill form. You already have lots of "good" bacteria which live in your stomach already, which helps you break down and digest foods. Fun fact - your gut is your largest component of your immune system.
Okay, so what are these things I hear called PREbiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible carbs, which are eaten by the probiotics. Circle of life, people!
Do I need a prescription to get probiotics? No. The best way to get probiotics is through probiotic-rich foods (see list below). You can also take probiotics in a pill form (like I do).
Are there any "side effects" of probiotics? I have never had any negative side effects from probiotics - whether incorporating them in my diet through food or pills.
I'm unconvinced. Where can I find more info on probiotics? I don't blame you. Eating bacteria sounds weird. If you are curious on more info on probiotics WebMD (I know, I know), The Atlantic, and Everyday Health have some interesting pieces on them. Talk to your doctor. Research the Paleo diet, which is a big proponent of fermented foods - check out Danielle Walker's Against All Grain.
Readers, lucky for you, most probiotic-rich food - fermented food - is DELICIOUS and easy to come by! You're probably eating a lot of these already. See below for the top ten ways to up your intake of probiotics.
1. Supplements - I take a daily probiotic pill supplement first thing in the morning. I buy Nature's Bounty Advanced Probiotic from Amazon in bulk, but you can find probiotics in pill-form anywhere - Target, Trader Joe's, etc.
2. Kefir - prononced (kee-fer). So yum. Keefir is a probiotic rich smoothie-like drink that you can find in the refrigerated dairy aisle. Good news though - it is 99% lactose free, so even those with dairy sensitivities can often handle kefir! Drink it plain, or make overnight oats with it. It tastes a lot like yogurt - a bit more liquid and even a little carbonated at times. I love it.
3. Sauerkraut - Traditionally, sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. I know "fermented" and "cabbage" sounds kind of horrendous, but it's so delicious and chances are you've had it on top of hot dogs already. My favorite way to eat sauerkraut is to grill up some chicken sausages and vegetables, and then serve with sauerkraut on the side! I love Trader Joe's sauerkraut, which you can find in their meat section. I think it's under $4.
4. Kombucha - So if I didn't lose you at "fermented cabbage", I may here. Kombucha is fermented tea, but I would relate it more to natural soda. It's naturally lightly carbonated and is often sweetened with small amounts of fruit juices. You can buy kombucha in a variety flavors, and don't be freaked by the "material" that accumulates in the glass bottle. Drink kombucha within a day or two of purchase, and most popular and common brands out there are GT's Kombucha and Dr. Reed's Kombucha. There's a growing "local" kombucha scene - I love my local LA's Healthade brand.
5. Miso - Made from fermented soybeans! Make your own ginger-miso salad dressing, or order miso soup alongside your sushi.
6. Yogurt - Probably the most common and easy way of getting your probiotics, in Greek or regular form. Make sure to look for "active and live cultures" on the kind of yogurt you are purchasing. Some froyo places use live and active cultures in their product - that way, you get dessert AND probiotics! Enjoy eating yogurt for breakfast? Top if off with my Homemade Quinoa Oat Granola with Almonds and Flax Seeds to start your day off right.
7. Other probiotic rich foods include tempeh (fermented grain from soybeans), kimchi, pickles, and raw cheeses.
Any questions? Feel free to reach out (or ask Google!)