Having a healthy gut is important to the wellbeing of the entire body. In traditional Chinese medicine much importance is placed on the stomach and gut area, for digestion plays a vital part in the body’s overall functioning.
Processed foods, prescription drugs, antibiotics and the degradation of food, including use of pesticides and injecting animals with artificial hormones, has led to a decline in the effective functioning of the gut area as healthy bacteria is depleted.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the body. These living micro-organisms support normal health and help to enhance and repopulate intestinal bacteria, balancing gut flora, boosting immunity and aiding in the absorption of nutrients.
Probiotics are beneficial to overall health and gastrointestinal health especially. They are also responsible for synthesizing nutrients in the intestinal tract such as folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins B6 and B12.
If these beneficial bacteria become depleted due to poor diet, disease, stress, or the over-use of medications such as antibiotics, health problems can result. Under healthy conditions, the good bacteria will thrive.
Maintaining the health of your gut is easy through a natural diet. Here’s a list of foods that contain probiotics.
Live cultured yogurt is one of the best known probiotic foods. Probiotics in yogurt stimulate healthy digestive function, and help produce vitamin B12 and K. Strains of healthy bacteria added to yogurt include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidus.
Use your intuition when buying yogurt as many yogurts on the market contain sugar and other additions that make it far less beneficial for the gut even though it’s marketed as a probiotic yogurt. Look for the full fat varieties than low fat yogurts such as Yeo Valley’s Natural Organic Bio Live Yogurt which contains only milk’s naturally occurring sugar, lactose.
Kefir is a fermented dairy product, similar to yogurt, which is a unique combination of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains. High in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria, kefir is also rich in antioxidants.
The bacteria in milk kefir can actually colonise the intestinal tract. Kefir also contains a far larger range of bacteria, in addition to containing yeasts.
Kefir is readily available in health food stores.
For those who are lactose intolerant, there are alternatives to yogurt to getting probiotics naturally, such as kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to a solution of tea, sugar and sometimes fruit juice and other flavourings.
This probiotic drink has been used for centuries and is believed to help increase energy, enhance wellbeing, and aid in weight loss.
Kombucha’s popularity has risen in recent years and is readily available in health food stores. As with anything, use your discernment on this one as kombucha’s not going to suit everyone as a way to introduce probiotics in to your diet.
Kimchi is a well-known Korean condiment made from cabbage seasoned with hot pepper flakes, radish, carrot, garlic, ginger, onion, salt and fish sauce.
Kimchi contains the bacterium called lactobacillus kimchii as well as other lactic acid bacteria that are beneficial to gastrointestinal as well as immune systems. A typical kimchi made with Chinese cabbage, carrot, garlic, ginger, onion and pepper is also high in vitamin A, C, B1, B2, beta-carotene, calcium and iron.
Sauerkraut is made by allowing salted cabbage to ferment on its own without the addition of any starter or vinegar for two weeks or more. Like kimchi, sauerkraut is high in vitamin C and digestive enzymes. It is also a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria such as lactobacillus and pediococcus.
Juice from sauerkraut is reportedly good against gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea and constipation.
Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, and entertainments. Rosalind also works as a psychic, counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com