The importance of gut health cannot be over-emphasised. It’s integrity is central to our overall health. If it’s out of balance, then so is some aspect of our health. Our gut flora (mainly bacteria) are a significant part in helping maintain our wellness (e.g. immune function, making vitamins & neuro transmitters, role in detoxification & digestion, anti-viral/bacterial properties) so it is important to ensure we have a good balance of the good and bad bacteria. We are indeed outnumbered by bacteria by a factor of 10 to 1!
There are about 400 species and more that have yet to be discovered but the most common ones are Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria and E Coli. Other microbes in the gut include fungi. The good bacteria help to keep these in control and keep the bad bacteria out. When there is an imbalance in the good and the bad, we refer to this as “gut dysbiosis”. This can contribute to “leaky gut” which lends itself to potentially many ailments and illnesses.
It’s a great idea to incorporate “natural probiotics” as part of our healthy eating plan. Here’s a list that can be included daily.
7 great natural probitics
Yoghurt is one of the best probiotic foods available to us and easy to incorporate into the diet. It contains good bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Yoghurt can easily be made at home although various types are available to buy too – including sheep and goat’s milk yoghurt. Again, great to mix in – nuts, seeds, berries and chia seeds. However, do be careful of some brands- there may be added sugar, artificial flavours and sweeteners.
Miso is widely used in Japan, medicinally and as a popular breakfast soup. Miso paste/powder can be added to hot water to make a quick nutritious soup or base for any soup. It has several probiotic strains as well as other nutrients like B vitamins and antioxidants.
Used widely in Indonesia, Tempeh is fermented soy beans and can be used in a similar way to tofu, although its taste is nutty and smoky. Tempeh is rich in protein, makes a great meat substitute and can be used in stir fries, soups and curries.
Kombucha is thought to have been used for over a 1000 years, known for its health benefits in digestion/reflux, cleansing and vitality. Kombucha tea is great, as is the kombucha drink itself. It’s a healthy refreshing drink and so also a good soft drink substitute. Available in different flavours including Ginger –fantastic tasting (almost as good as Bundaberg!)
Keffir has been used for over 300 years and also well known for its health benefits in digestion and vitality. It is a probiotic (bacteria and yeast strains) that can be used to make something that is similar to yoghurt. It is available as a powder that can be mixed with different milks or can be bought ready-made. Eg. Coconut keffir, goats /cow’s milk keffir. Keffir has Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria probiotics as well as antioxidants. Like with yoghurt, nuts, seeds and berries can be added to keffir to make a yummy and nutritious breakfast.
Fermented vegetables (sauerkraut and kim chi)
These are essentially fermented cabbage products.
Sauerkraut comes from Germany. It has various probiotics strains including Lactobacilli plantarum which can help with digestive problems.
Kim chi is Korean- but with added chilli if you prefer a bit of spice! -it’s usually served with meals. Kim chi is also rich in other nutrients like vitamins A, B1, B2 and iron.
Fermented vegetables generally are great as they also contain many other nutrients and are easy to digest.
Pickles are a surprisingly good source of probiotics, especially sour pickles and can also aid digestion. After drying out your choice of pickle in the sun, they can then be mixed in salt / water (this encourages probiotic growth) and eaten with meals.