Probiotics in fermented foods
Should we be eating "good bugs?" This certainly sounds strange, but when you realize that we are actually made up of more "good bugs" or beneficial bacteria than any other cell type, this brings light onto this growing market. Probiotics are strains of beneficial bacteria, they are sold everywhere and even prescribed by doctors, especially when recovering from an antibiotic. The ironic part is, most of our ancestors naturally ate probiotics in their food.
Fermented foods contain probiotics
Homemade yoghurts, kefir, sour krauts, salt brined pickles (not in vinegar and sugar), Kombucha and miso soups are some of the many probiotic foods. Every culture has their significant fermented food from Indian dosas to Russian beet kvass (in the photo). All of these naturally fermented foods have some seriously healthy strains of beneficial bacteria in them.
The one crucial ingredient that is necessary for a probiotic to survive in the digestive tract is "food", called a prebiotic. The beneficial bacteria proliferate in the large intestine so fiber rich complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and whole grains that often make it to the large intestine make great "food." These soluble fibers are great prebiotics for beneficial bacteria.
If you are troubled with constant colds, infections, have a suppressed immune system, or if you have recently taken an antibiotic then you may have a dysbiosis or more "bad bugs" than good in the digestive tract. You may want to start with a high dose of probiotics with prebiotics in them to balance the situation. You cannot really overdose on beneficial bacteria because the excess will simply go right through you. When purchasing a probiotic, do not necessarily look for the highest dose, instead look for the following qualities.
Qualities of a good probiotic
- The dose should be about 6-10 billion/per capsule, take 1 per day for general maintenance
- For a serious health concern you can dose up to 30 billion/per capsule, take 1 per day
- There should be lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species within the capsule
- Most reputable brands are refrigerated to keep the species alive
- Consistency is not best; the gut is highly competitive; try to rotate probiotics monthly
- Find a brand with prebiotics such as soluble fibers from whole grains, fruits or vegetables
I recommend Jarrow, Culturelle, Lactobaccillus Coagulans, Biodoph-7, Prescript-Assist, or Bio-Kult. The best time to take one capsule is an hour or so after a meal with complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and properly prepared whole grains. The carbs will act as prebiotics and you should take the capsule away from your meals so the stomach acid is not digesting it with your food.
If you do not want to take a probiotic, then I recommend building a healthy food foundation and eating your fermented and raw foods. At least 2-3 servings a day of cultured whole fat dairy yoghurts or kefirs, pickles, sour krauts or Kombucha. I cannot recommend all store brands as many are pasteurized and thus heated to the point of death, but these are very easy to prepare at home. You can also eat raw fruits, raw vegetables, raw meats and raw fish for their active enzymes which promote beneficial bacteria.
Avoid refined processed foods, starchy carbohydrates, and all sugars until your gut is healed. These foods cause an over acidic condition for the beneficial bacteria. Avoid chlorinated water as chlorine is a strong antibiotic. Choose foods from a biodynamic, organic, local farm that emphasizes healthy microorganisms and eat in a relaxed manner to facilitate proper digestion. When you feel like your digestive tract is inflammation free and you do not experience any of the symptoms of dysbiosis, you can add back in the taboo foods. Remember moderation is key to a healthy food foundation.