Probiotics: Dietary Sources

In each of us, there is a microbiome – a diverse ecosystem of ‘friendly’ bacteria which work alongside each other and our gut. Our predecessors (hunter-gatherers and sustenance farmer humans) may have had far more diverse gut bacteria than us modern humans due to their exposure to soil which housed beneficial bacteria (and much less hand washing!) we are also exposed to antibiotics whether this is because we are sick and have taken them, or because of the products we consume. Because of all of this – our gut microbiomes are depleted (not as good as they should be!) this can be linked to a multitude of health implications for us.

Before I cut my Masters short, I was tempted to inquire about researching into growing the bacteria in probiotics just to see for myself if the well-advertised and best-selling probiotics were as potent as they say they are, compared to moderately priced and expensive other brands. I never was able to do this research but what I can say is this:

Probiotic capsules are great, probiotic foods are great too:

As a nation, we love exciting products that seem innovative and cutting edge. But what if I told you some of the oldest practices is culinary history actually were great for promoting gut bacteria? Kefir is a grain that occurs in nature were said to be first discovered thousands of years ago in the Caucasus Mountains and Kefir actually means ‘long life’ in Turkish. Similarly, the first records of consuming Kombucha come from China and can be dated back to 221 BC.

Both Kefir (grains) and Kombucha (scoby) have the ability to produce a potently probiotic beverage, either based on milk, water or tea. These drinks are fermented and contain thousands of live ‘friendly’ bacteria (much like your favourite probiotic capsule). These bacteria can help restore the balance of the bacteria in the gut (the microbiome) and can reduce things like bloating and gastrointestinal issues, rebalancing gut bacteria can also reduce symptoms of some skin conditions as these can be attributed to impaired gut function.

There are many other foods that have benefits for the gut microbiome. These are usually fermented foods. Below are listed some other examples;

  • Sauerkraut – Fermented raw white or red cabbage. Raw and unpasteurized as this process kills the live cultures.
  • Bio live yogurt – Organic and natural is best, alternatively, live coconut yogurt has the same benefits but is also lactose and dairy free.
  • Traditionally fermented Miso – a savoury paste made from fermented rice or other grains, can be added to sauces or soups to give a rich savoury taste.
  • Kimchi – An Asian product similar to sauerkraut but spicier in flavour, also a source of vitamin C.

This is just a snapshot of how you can naturally enrich your diet with probiotic foods to help protect and nurture your own microbiome – many of these foods such as sauerkraut can be cultured at home and may save a lot of money on expensive probiotics!

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