How many of these probiotic foods have you had in the past few days?
- Cottage Cheese
- Pickled beets
I usually try to eat yogurt at least twice a week to get the good bacteria, but recently I have discovered Kefir. It’s like a yogurt smoothie that taste’s a little sweet but still tart and has twice the live active cultures as my favorite yogurt!
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are fermented foods that resupply the good bacteria in your digestive tract. Prebiotics are the foods that feed the good bacteria.
Think of probiotics as your army of soldiers defending against attackers that want to make your body sick. The army has to have a supply of energy to stay strong and keep defending, right? That fuel comes from the prebiotic foods.
Why do we need probiotics?
About 60 to 70% of our immune system is in our gut. The average adult gut has about 5 lbs of bacteria. I know that doesn’t sound so pleasant but just go back to the picture in your mind of an army of good soldiers protecting you!
When you are healthy, most of the bacteria is in your large intestine – your colon. If they move into your small intestine it causes health problems.
The bad bacteria like to feed on the sugar, alcohol, and processed foods that our common American diet is loaded with. If we eat that way for too long we end up with more bad bacteria than good bacteria and we leave ourselves easy target for colds, flu and other illness and infection. Then we might need the antibiotic to kill off the bad bacteria. Just remember that antibiotic medications kill the good guys too so after a round of antibiotics you need to resupply with good probiotic foods or supplements.
What can I do to build up my good bacteria for a stronger immune system?
A small clinical study at the Stanford School of Medicine showed that a diet with more fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi and other fermented food or drink resulted in less activation of immune cells that are linked to chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes.
In as little as 24 hours you can improve the health of your gut bacteria situation. The general guideline is to eat less sugar and processed foods and more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
My more specific take action steps would be:
- Take a look at the foods you have at home and check labels when you are grocery shopping. Look at the ingredients and notice how many foods have sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners.
- Each day try to replace one processed or high sugar food or drink with a prebiotic food (such as almonds, banana, kiwifruit) or a probiotic food (such as yogurt or kefir).
“But I hate yogurt”.
You have another option. Take a probiotic supplement. The challenging part, as with all supplements, is to find a good quality probiotic, which often is kept refrigerated in the pharmacy.
And don’t forget the other important habits for a strong immune system . . .
Practice stress management. Find ways to relax, laugh and smile. It’s good medicine.
Exercise. Besides all the obvious benefits to weight and diabetes regular physical activity also helps your immune system. Try to do something you enjoy that’s comfortable. Starting exercise that’s too intense may backfire and lower your immune strength.
Sleep 7-8 hours to allow your body to rest and repair.
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche: German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer.