We’ve all heard of antibiotics.
We use them to help combat illness by warding off bacterial infections.
You were probably administered antibiotics when you were a child, and memories of that strange (or to some, delicious) artificial banana flavour may linger on your tongue to this day.
But there are also probiotics.
Because not all of the little bugs taking up residence in our bodies are bad for us.
So let’s look more closely at probiotics, and if you want help taking control of your digestive health, you can always consult a digestive health naturopath for more information.
Are All Bacteria Bad?
Bacteria are bad, right?
All of them?
Not so fast.
Some bacteria are good.
They help with gut-health and play an important role in keeping us healthy.
So how do we get these good bacteria into our systems?
One way is with foods rich in probiotics.
They are a big part of gut-health, and gut-health impacts many other areas of your health and well-being.
Bacteria In Your Gut
“Good bacteria” in your gut help with digestion by affecting the nerves that control gut movement.
They are often cited as being useful for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, infectious diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel disease.
However, they can also help with other areas of health, not related to digestion.
They may help with skin conditions, urinary and vaginal health, oral health, and even in the prevention of allergies.
What Do Probiotics Have To Do With It?
So what are these good bacteria, and how can you make sure you are getting them in your system?
Some common types include lactobacillus, which can help with digesting lactose, bifidobacterium which can help with irritable bowel syndrome, and saccharomyces bouldardii, a type of yeast that may help with diarrhea.
And how to make sure you have enough of them?
There are many probiotic supplements on the market, but you can also get the benefit of probiotics by adding certain foods to your diet.
Dietary Sources Of Probiotics
As with any supplementation, there are people who should be cautious of using probiotics.
Those taking antibiotic medications, those being treated for a fungal infection, or people with pancreatitis, should consult with a qualified doctor before using probiotics.
Probiotics may not be safe for those who are prone to infection, with a weakened immune system, or are sensitive to the source (for example, those with sensitivity to dairy should be careful getting probiotics from yogurt).
Be sure to consult with your naturopathic doctor if you have concerns.
Let’s look at a few common dietary sources.
1. Fermented Vegetables
Sauerkraut is a food with its origins in Germany.
If you translate it literally, it means “sour cabbage”.
So, as you might expect, it’s made from fermented cabbage, and is high in organic acid which give it a sour taste.
It also supports the growth of good bacteria.
It’s popular to this day in Germany and a common side-dish with sausages.
Kimchi, similarly, literally means “soaked veggies”, since it is made of, you guessed it, fermented veggies.
This popular Korean dish is high in enzymes, and helps with digestion.
If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because this fermented tea-based drink is rising in popularity.
It’s created by using a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), combined with sweetened black or green tea.
This fermented drink has been around for thousands of years, and it is fairly easy to make at home, but you can also find prepared versions of it at most local health food stores.
Be careful which kind you get, though, since some brands of kombucha tend to be very high in sugar content.
Yogurt is probably the most well-known probiotic food, and many of us were probably eating it well before we knew about the benefits it can have.
If the yogurt is made with grass-fed dairy and is not pasteurized it can be one of the top sources of probiotics, so consider the quality of yogurt before purchasing.
Three things to look for when buying yogurt for the probiotics are: is it made with goat or sheep’s milk, is it grass-fed, and is it organic?
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can be consumed on its own or added to salad dressing.
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product.
It is made by adding a tempeh starter to soybeans, and can be eaten raw or boiling with miso.
It is common to deep-fry tempeh, however this can substantially reduce its nutritional value.
Contact Annex Naturopathic
Are you worried about your digestive health?
Are you looking for a natural way to combat irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease?
Are you looking to incorporate probiotics into your diet?
At Annex Naturopathic we can help you come up with a plan to safely explore your options.
Contact us today to come in for a consult, we will listen to your health concerns and come up with a plan that is right for you.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND