Why You Should Care About Probiotic Foods & Microbiome Health

by Gregory
probiotic foods & microbiome

We are crawling with bugs.  Literally!  An astonishing 90% of the cells in us or on us are NOT HUMAN.  This tidbit is discombobulating at first and might give you a little pause, but it shouldn’t.  I have my high school students close their eyes and imagine if we had glasses that allowed us to the see the critters oozing out of our orifices multiplying faster than rabbits in heat.  We would never kiss much less engage in coitus!   While this little factoid might throw you into a tizzy know that a large majority of these bacteria and fungi are not detrimental to your health.  I am going to do a quick review of probiotic foods & microbiome health


Probiotic Foods & Microbiome Health

Read more about Prebiotics Here

From the dawn of time we have had an intimate symbiotic relationship with bacteria.  Our prehistoric ancestors didn’t have easy access to any sort of proto-faucet to clean their foods so they brushed it off the best they could before ingesting.  Through this exposure bacteria inhabited our skin, body orifices, and most importantly our gut.   They evolved to help break down the food they we eat.  They are also responsible for flatus…farts!  We need these “Mike & Ikes” and they need us.


We are going to focus mostly on probiotic foods & microbiome health in this article.  We call the trillions of bacteria and fungus that reside in our gut as the microbiome (literally “little life kingdom”).  We have an ongoing battle for our health in the gut.  On one side (the little angel on your right shoulder) is your immune system and the good bacteria that promotes health called Probiotic bacteria.  On the left (the devil) are your pathogenic, or disease-causing, bacteria.  They fight and fight and we either want a nice homeostatic balance between the two or the good guys winning all the time.  How do you do the former?

{Read our article on Items to Purge From Your House Now.}

Eat a well-balanced diet (preferably no grains and allergy-causing foods) and a lot of prebiotic (foods that feed your probiotics) foods.  The SAD diet of today, replete with grains and other inflammatory foods, has caused a seismic shift in most people’s guts resulting in the proverbial pendulum swing toward the pathogenic side.

This shift is punctuated by the increase of digestive disorders, such as “leaky gut” syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis, Celiac Disease, et al.   When the “bad” guys are winning over the “good” probiotic guys, we generally call that dysbiosis or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).  (We will talk about prebiotics and many of these conditions at another time.)


kombucha 1074594 340

Kombucha is a great fermented, probiotic drink.

The Benefits of a Well-Adjusted Bowel

There are several reasons why it is important to boast a good proportion of probiotic over pathogenic bacteria in the gut.  I’ll just name a few that are important for probiotic foods & microbiome health.

Less Depression– Serotonin, the mood neurotransmitter/hormone responsible for your mood, is largely produced by probiotic bacteria.  There are studies which show a correlative link between depression and dysbiosis.  (In the naturopathic world, we search for the underlying reason why one is suffering from an ailment, not just treat the symptom.  Here is a perfect example,  a typical PCP or psychiatrist would prescribe an anti-depressant to increase your serotonin in lieu of finding out why your serotonin is naturally low.  As with many things, afflictions are caused by nutritional deficiencies.  Let’s talk more about probiotic foods & microbiome health.

Stronger Immune System-Close to 70% of our immune system lies in the gut.  This makes sense on one level since many of the pathogens we are exposed to are introduced to the body via food.  So it is great that we have these little sentries of health waiting to destroy these buggers.  The better balanced your gut is the stronger your immune system will be (it also helps if you are high in Vitamin D,  glutathione, which is our master immune system enzyme, and ingesting low amounts of sugar.)

{Read our article on the benefits of intermittent fasting.}

Interestingly, studies have come out that children born from C-section instead of natural delivery have a higher rate of infections later in life.  The reason seems to be that as a child leaves the sterile amniotic sac of his/her mother and struggles his way through the vagina, he/she is exposed to the mom’s probiotic bacteria.  This bacteria quickly inhabits the gut and skin and provides protection.  C-section kids do not get that benefit.

Tempeh

Better overall digestive health– When you have dysbiosis, most commonly seen in “leaky gut” syndrome or SIBO, the pathogenic bacteria are preponderant in the gut.  They are wreaking havoc and unfortunately you can feel it.  Bloating, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fatigue, and weight gain are just a few symptoms.

Probiotic foods

We all want to be happy, healthy, and not scare people away with our stinky flatulence, right?  So, how do we ensure a preponderance of probiotic bacteria in our gut?  Two main ways: prebiotic foods and probiotic foods.  (Click here to read about prebiotics.)  The better way to naturally grown your probiotics is by making them multiply and grow on their own.  These are the prebiotics foods.  The other way is by introducing fermented foods (which are veritable cornucopia of healthy bugs).

When looking at probiotic foods, look for the words “fermented” or “contains active cultures” on the label.  Lactobacillus and acidophilus are the most well-known probiotic bacteria, but the best foods/drinks will contain a wide variety of both bacteria and fungus.  Either way a few good bacteria is better than none.

{Read our article on 4 Superfoods you should be eating now. Published in Natural Awakenings magazine.}


Hear are just a couple of items that are relatively easy to make/buy.  Let’s get real about probiotic foods & microbiome health

Must-Have Superfood Snacks

Greek Yogurt is a inexpensive probiotic source.

Greek Yogurt- The most accessible of the probiotic foods and it is growing in popularity.  Greek yogurt is produced in a way where it retains its bacteria (not going to pretend what the process is) as opposed to standard yogurt.  It is inexpensive and tasty.   Consume it unless you have a sensitivity to dairy, but honestly my understanding is that Greek yogurt is low in both lactose and casein, the two big trouble-makers of dairy.  Couple of recommendations:

  1. Buy full fat Greek yogurt (or at the least 2% if they don’t sell full fat).  We need to get off the low-fat wagon.
  2. Buy plain yogurt (the flavored varieties have 15-20 grams of sugar).  Buy the plain and then mix in your own berries, cinnamon, honey, etc.
  3. Ideally, try to guy Greek yogurt that states that its cows were not injected with rBST or rBGH.  (Article forthcoming)

Read our Review of Popular Greek Yogurt Brands.

Kombucha- My three-year-old daughter loves this stuff!  She probably wouldn’t if she knew how it was made. Kombucha is fermented tea (typically black) with added sugar and some fruit flavor.  For those of you who have not tasted it, it boast a sweet vinegar-esque flavor.  The beauty of kombucha is that it is a great alternative to sodas, since it is much lower than sugar vis-a-vis sodas and boast the probiotic benefit.  Recommendations:

  1. Ideally make your own.  One of my friend’s teenage son used to make it at home.  Go to YouTube to find a video. (Here is a decent one. https://youtu.be/0Ve_YrSp500)
  2. Kombucha is about $2-5 per bottle so it is pricey.  Ideally, buy one that comes in glass not plastic (BPA-issues). GT is the most popular brand.

Kefir-Kefir is a fermented yogurt drink that is popular in the Middle East.  My kids drank a shot of kefir every day when they were younger since it goes down easier than kombucha.  Lifeway is the most common brand here in the states.  Check the nutritional information on kefir since many of the brands put in a large amount of sugar to make it more palatable.  Let’s talk even more about probiotic foods & microbiome health,

Sauerkraut/Kimchi- Different varieties of fermented cabbage exists.  You can you can make your own, but if you purchase it make sure it is the refrigerated variety.  The ones on the shelf either don’t have the bacteria or they have been diminished.  Kimchi, the Korean equivalent, is an acquired taste, but try it a couple of times before turning it away.

Dark Chocolate– Again, another reason to eat dark chocolate!  As always, opt for the high-percentage ones. (I particularly like the Green & Black brand.)

Dairy-Milk was once a probiotic drink until we pasteurized it.  Now to find probiotic-laden milk you need to venture to your local farmer’s market or Co-Op.    Certain cheeses, Edam, cheddar, feta, provolone are probiotic.  Just look on the back for “live cultures” or “probiotic.”

Naturally Strengthen Your Immune System

Miso is another great probiotic source.

Miso-A mainstay soup of Japanese cuisine made of fermented rye, beans.

Tempeh-A good meat-substitute, tempeh is made from fermented soy. (Soy has some issues so be a little wary.)

Probiotic PillsProbiotic pills run the gamut from $5 Acidophilus bottles to $50 premium ones.  This is the most expensive of probiotic foods & microbiome health items.  Ideally, you want to get your probiotics from the naturally-occurring aforementioned foods, and frankly they are cheaper than the pills.  In full disclosure, I do take the high-end pills.

Recommendations:

  1. Buy refrigerated ones.  Cold preserves the bacteria better than room temperature.
  2. Buy the ones that boast the most strands of bacteria and fungus.

Buy some of the better-made probiotics now.


A healthy microbiome is a key in optimizing your overall health.  Make a concerted effort to ingest these foods at least a couple of times a week, especially if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues.

Hope you enjoyed this article on probiotic foods & microbiome health.  Reach out to me…I am here to help you reach your goals.

Read my weight loss back story here; subscribe to my podcast here.

A. Gregory Luna

 


 

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5 comments

Ashley Taplin January 27, 2017 - 10:33 AM

Thanks for this article. I’m going to refer back to this because our pediatrician just suggested getting more probiotics to help our little boy. Definitely going to come talk to you more about this.

Reply
A. Gregory Luna January 28, 2017 - 10:47 PM

Thanks for being the first post!! Start out with unflavored Greek yogurt by Fage or Chobani since both don’t use rBST or rBGH hormones with their cows and smoosh in some fruit into a nice puree. Or you could go to Lifeway kefir, but that has a tad more sugar than yogurt.

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