What are probiotics? For starters, they’re the opposite of antibiotics. You know, those giant pills the doctor prescribes every time you get the sniffles and feel like your throat is going to explode?
Antibiotics kill bacteria in your system - in your intestines, blood stream, everywhere. The idea is that once the bacteria that making you sick is dead, you’ll start to get healthy again.
Unfortunately, antibiotics also kill good bacteria. Yep, there’s such a thing as good bacteria - lactobacilli and bifidobacteria - and we all need them. Millions of bacteria live in our digestive tract, keeping us healthy, vibrant and immune to evil viruses and chronic illness.
These good bacteria are called probiotics because they are pro-life. Oh, that means something else these days, doesn’t it? Let’s not get political, just yet anyway. So probiotics don’t kill anything in your system, but rather live harmoniously inside you and they are essential.
If you’ve taken a lot of rounds of antibiotics in your life, or your diet could stand some improvement, you’re likely in need of adding some extra probiotics to your diet.
Rule #1: Eat Your Probiotics
This means that instead of taking a supplement you found online or at the health food store that claims to contain millions upon billions of probiotics and is the best way to populate that gut of yours, you should be consuming your intake of probiotics in food and beverage form. Why?:
“Prebiotics? What the heck are those? I was just learning about probiotics!” We’ll get to those in a minute.
So what you should always do, ideally, is eat fermented foods that contain probiotics, aka good bacteria, and drink fermented beverages - non-alcoholic drinks like kombucha, sauerkraut juice and kefir. This way you’re getting the added benefits of the whole food or drink, like vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and essential fatty acids.
Most people’s guts are craving valuable nutrients anyway, so if you’re going to dose up on healthy microorganisms, you might as well add nutritious foods to the list too: sauerkraut, yogurt, properly fermented sourdough bread*, kimchi, kombucha, jun, etc.
Now back to prebiotics
These are foods that pair well with your probiotic foods, kind of like a wine tasting! Foods that prime the digestive system to receive the probiotics, and assimilate and absorb them optimally.
When you eat tomatoes, honey, bitter greens like dandelion, onion or raw garlic, and then add your probiotics, they enter a supremely healthy environment where they can thrive and serve you best.
What have we learned?
Good bacteria populate your gut, aka small intestines, thereby crowding out the bad bacteria - the stuff that lives off sugar and artificial sweeteners, alcohol, chemicals, meat and dairy. The more good bacteria, or probiotics, in your gut, the healthier your digestive system is, the healthier you are and the better you feel!
Questions? Scroll down to the comments section below and ask away! Or tell me: What foods or drinks have you incorporated into your regular diet that are keeping your gut healthy? What are your favorites? I’d love to know!
* Most store-bought bread only contains added dry yeast. Bread made with a fermented sourdough starter is ideal for gut health.