Nearly everyone has heard about probiotics
There is research that supports their use:
- to ease digestive problems such as diarrhea, H. pylori and bloating
- to boost immunity against colds, flu and common respiratory infections
- to reduce cholesterol levels
- and to reduce atopic eczema, allergies and asthma
Some of the most well researched strains are the lactic acid producing bacteria of the Bifidobaceterium and Lactobacillus families, as well as the yeast species Saccharomyces boulardii and cerevisiae.
If there is one natural supplement doctors are recommending these days, it is a well-sourced probiotic (and maybe vitamin D…..but the sourcing of that isn’t as crucial, as most vitamin D supplements are either from sheep lanolin or algae if we are taking D3……..mushrooms only provide you with Vitamin D2).
But what about probiotic foods? And how do you know which supplements are best, as there are single strain probiotics, multi strain products, and then the range of counts can go from 100million to 100billion.
The IMPORTANCE of probiotics to overall health and vitality
Elie Metchnikoff is considered the “father of probiotics,” as he proposed in the early 20th century that ingesting microorganisms could be beneficial to human health. In his writing, The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies, Metchnikoff wrote what we now know to be true. There are numerous strains of beneficial bacteria that populate our gut and live on our skin. In fact scientists now propose there are more microorganisms that live within and on us, than there are human cells by a factor of ten (ten times as many micro-organisms as our own cells).
These beneficial bacteria are believed to hold some very important jobs in our overall health: watch the video to learn about the benefits PROBIOTICS (could) impart on your health!
They reduce the number of harmful microorganisms, such as Clostridium difficile and Candida albicans, from taking up residence on our skin, or infecting the digestive tract and subsequently causing disease.
They support the digestive process:
- Assist in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins with meals
- Bacteria like those mentioned here help keep the colon acidic by increasing butyric, acetic and lactic acid. Butyric acid is a direct food source for the cells of the color. This helps get rid of other bacteria and yeast that thrive in a more alkaline environment, and produce more gas.
In addition, beneficial bacteria are believed to produce compounds that stimulate the body’s own immune response.The digestive tract contains the GALT, gut-associated lymphoid tissue, which accounts for about 70% of the human immune system. This allows for proper immune development. Why do you think kids get sick so often? This is actually a good thing and part of their immunological development. Of course, we don’t want them to stay sick, and can use lots of natural therapies to help them get better. But all in all, a kid getting a few colds a year is good!
Eating and/or consuming probiotics daily is imperative to keeping all that immune system healthy and ready to protect us whenever we need it. We can say that 70% of the immune system lives in the gut because that is one of the main places we are exposed to pathogens (remember or digestive tract is a hollow tube connected to the outside word). But we can also think of the digestive tract and the immune system as the foundation of health in our body, and giving our body what it needs: probiotics, will keep this area well nourished and help protect the rest of the body.
One other major factor that we now recognize about microorganisms is that they communicate with, and influence, human gene activity and expression.
Beyond Supplements: Probiotic Foods and Lactobacillus
How did humans acquire probiotics before the advent of modern supplements? Yup, you guessed it: food! Humans have been making fermented foods since antiquity, and while some individuals might propose this was due to a lack of electricity for refrigerators or freezers, which is true and brilliant, I might add! We are now also beginning to see the direct benefits of fermented foods providing beneficial bacteria to our guts.
For instance, the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families of bacteria are in the “lactic acid” bacteria group. Lactobacillus is considered a small intestine bacteria, whereas Bifidobacterium is considered a bacteria of the color. They convert lactose and other sugars into lactic acid. This is why some individuals can tolerate fermented dairy better, as the sugars are converted, lactose is reduced and many of the proteins have been broken down into amino acids. Kefir contains hundreds of peptides NOT found in milk. Pretty cool!
Lactic acid increases the release of Acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is released from the nervous system and helps muscles contract (in addition to other jobs). This is important in the colon, as lactic acid can help with peristalsis and keeping the digestive tract “regular.”
The list of foods high in probiotics is numerous and I recommend investigating your local co-op or the natural foods section of your favorite grocery store. You may find kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, nato, miso, sourdough, tempeh, kombucha, pickles (non-vinegar), injera, tamari, fish sauce salami, prosciutto, crème fraiche, salted fish, and olives (non-vinegar). All of these foods share a common bond – the healing power of fermentation.
What are your favorite Lactobacillus fermented foods?
Please leave a comment below.
Your Wellness Expert,