The human body is home to thousands of naturally occurring microorganisms. This may sound frightening, but it is actually a very positive thing; these “friendly” bacteria play a crucial role in our health.
Beneficial bacteria in our gut assist in digesting the food we eat, and in keeping more pathological bacteria and fungus in-check. Maintaining a favorable ratio of “friendly” to “unfriendly” bacteria can alleviate common digestive disorders such as constipation, gas and diarrhea, as well as increase our ability to absorb nutrients from food, enhance our immune response, and increase our overall energy and mental clarity. Resent studies suggest that these intestinal bacteria may also be a factor in maintaining a healthy weight. Weightloss scientists have even experimented with fecal transplants in overweight and obese patients. (EEEEK!)
We can support our optimal health by including traditional fermented foods in our diet. Most people already eat yogurt. Some other pro-biotic rich foods are kefir (a fermented milk drink), sauerkraut and kimchi (fermented cabbage), and tempeh and miso (fermented soybeans). Lara has been on a kimchi kick and just started making her own!
Some other Considerations:
- When purchasing yogurt or kefir it is best to stay away from products with lots of added sugar and artificial colors and sweeteners. Unfortunately, many yogurts on the market now are no better than pudding or ice cream. Be sure they have “live active cultures”. Nothing beats Fage Greek Yogurt in my book!
For those of us who don’t eat dairy, there are a number of coconut, almond and soy yogurt and kefir products available. I have also seen goat and sheep milk products.
- Kambucha is a nutritious fermented tea product. It is available in the cooler of most health-food stores, and has a refreshing effervescence (kind of like champagne). I love the sparkling probiotic drink, Kevita. I usually go for the coconut flavor, made with coconut water, apple cider vinegar and a ton of probiotic cultures (yum!)
- Probiotic supplements are now widely available. At the very least, a good supplement will supply 1 billion certified viable organisms, and a good variety of species from both the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium family. Many supplements need to be kept in the fridge. I supplement with probiotics periodically or after any course of prescription antibiotics.