What are probiotics and what do they do?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, or good bacteria, that promote better digestive health and a better immune system. They produce these benefits as they help create a balance between the helpful and harmful bacteria that coexist in the body, but specifically the gut. They are important for digestive health because they help move food through the gut by affecting the nerves which are in control of the gut’s movement.
What are the health benefits of probiotics?
Some conditions probiotics may be used for include: Irritable bowel syndrome, Inflammatory bowel disease, and diarrhea. There is some research that has shown they may have additional benefits in treating skin conditions such as eczema, preventing allergies and general strengthening of your immune system. The research on probiotics is varied and efficacy is still unknown for the conditions listed above.
What are the top 5 probiotic foods to eat?
Probiotics can be taken as a supplemental pill, but they also naturally form in some foods. Probiotics in the pill form are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) like other medications are, if you have a weak immune system you should talk with your doctor before using probiotics as they could be harmful for people with certain conditions. Below are 5 foods you can incorporate into your diet that contain healthy probiotics.
The most popular probiotic food is greek yogurt made from the milk of goats, sheep or cows. To ensure that your yogurt is the best possible source of probiotics choose one that comes from a grass-fed animal, is organic and preferably comes from the milk of sheep or goats. Kefir is also a great alternative because it is milder than yogurt and has three times even more probiotics per serving.
2. Cultured/Fermented Vegetables
Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi are high in organic acids and probiotics which support the growth of that “helpful” bacteria. Also because these cultured vegetables are created through fermentation, they typically are high in enzymes which aid in digestion.
Another food/drink that is created through the fermentation process, kombucha is a type of fermented black tea that contains good bacteria and yeast. From Japan, originally, many claim that its benefits include increased energy levels, improved digestive health and detoxification of the liver.
Miso is a Japanese spice that many have tried in dishes such as miso soup. It’s created through fermenting soybeans, brown rice or barley with a fungus called koji. Along with being made into soup, miso can be used in place of butter, as a type of dip for crackers, etc.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains diverse probiotics. It has been suggested that apple cider vinegar may help control your cholesterol, blood pressure or diabetes. You can drink a small amount regularly or add it to to something like a salad dressing. However, drinking an excess of apple cider vinegar can damage your teeth, hurt your throat, and upset your stomach; so be sure to use this sparingly.
About the author
Dr. Kristin Dean is a Family Practice Physician who received her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in Nutritional Sciences. She continued her loyalty to the ‘Gator Nation’ and completed her medical school education at the University of Florida College of Medicine in 2010. Dr. Dean then moved to Los Angeles to complete her training in Family Medicine at Kaiser Permanente. Dr. Dean considers healthcare to be a team approach, with the patient being the captain of the healthcare team. Although she considers a healthy lifestyle to be the starting point for all healthcare plans, she uses medicine, empathy and education to continue to improve her patient’s health.