Tina wrote an article recently on the importance of probiotics for maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria–and, thus, overall good health. She explains that these “good” bacteria are super important in aiding digestion and boosting immunity. Unfortunately, due to increasingly common lifestyle triggers (like over-usage of antibiotics and diets high in sugars and carbohydrates), our delicate balance of gut bacteria gets disrupted.
An imbalance of intestinal bacteria, or “gut dysbiosis,” has been linked to health conditions such as IBS, celiac disease, psoriasis and other skin conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disease, just to name a few. Tina recommended options for improving this imbalance via both dietary probiotics (kimchi, kombucha, etc.) as well as a couple supplements (specific recommendations here).
For those who are interested in boosting your “good” bacteria via the food you eat, here are some tasty ways to add more probiotics to your diet:
Labneh (homemade yogurt cheese)
A note on fermented foods…
Fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates into alcohol, carbon dioxide, or organic acids, using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof under anaerobic conditions. Fermented products like beer and wine are made with yeast, which converts the sugar in grains or grapes into alcohol. Lacto-fermented foods are fermented by lactobacillus bacteria–a beneficial bacteria that feeds on sugar and produces lactic acid as a byproduct. (That’s why lacto-fermented foods, like pickles, taste acidic.)
Fermented foods have been around for centuries, in almost every society. (Fermentation was an important method for preserving food before refrigeration.) Although some of these traditional foods have made it into our modern diet, they are now often pasteurized (heat processed) to sterilize the product and kill bacteria. Hence, not a great source of probiotics.
Fortunately, home fermentation is easy and quite safe, if done correctly. Lacto-fermentation requires no supplies other than a suitable glass jar, salt, and whatever vegetable (or fruit) you’d like to ferment. Some recipes call for whey as a starter, which speeds up the process by adding more lactobacillus bacteria, but it’s not necessary–the bacteria are present in vegetables naturally as well.
Fermented foods are more easily digested by the body and often contain higher nutrient levels than their raw or cooked counterparts. And, because your gut is the largest component of your immune system, increasing your beneficial bacteria via fermented foods helps to boost immunity and keep illness, inflammation, and autoimmune symptoms away.
And, of course, check out the Kombucha post for more details on home-brewing kombucha.