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November 9, 2013

Are We Friendly with Our Flora? ~ Sue Van Raes

Today’s question is: Are we friendly with our flora? How is our digestion?

Are we getting enough of those good little bacteria in our life?

If not, probiotics might be a great answer for us.

Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria found in both cultured and fermented foods, or in supplement form. When consumed, the benefits of these bacteria go above and beyond our gut, positively impacting our overall health.

Traditionally, people prepared and ate cultured and fermented foods on a regular basis to support intestinal and systemic function.

Since the advent of the industrial revolution, particularly in Western societies, this practice has almost vanished with the introduction of more processed, devitalized foods on our plates. As a result, our health has suffered with chronic disease and autoimmune conditions are on the rise.

By implementing probiotics into our diet, we may be able to avoid ill health while living a longer, healthier and more vital life.

There are many benefits to friendly flora.

Friendly flora modulates immune function.

Up to 80 percent of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, with probiotics being a key contributor. Beneficial flora has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic effects, keeping our immune system in check.

Another bonus is their ability to detoxify and rid the body of heavy metals. Consider adding a probiotic supplement into your daily regimen to reap these supportive immune benefits.

Probiotics also provide fuel for intestinal cells, enhance healing of bowel tissue and support healthy cell proliferation in the intestines. Vitamin K, also produced when beneficial bacteria feast on fiber, helps with calcium absorption and healthy blood clotting.

The next time you make your favorite bean dish, be sure to add some delicious cultured butter, whey or saurkraut to the mix to boost the probiotic count.

Beneficial bacteria also protects the intestinal barrier, creating a protective layer that coats the lining of the intestines, preventing bad bugs from sticking around, and ensuring that our gut, as well as our body, stays healthy and strong.

When we have a robust intestinal tract we are more able to digest and absorb nutrients effectively, a strong contributor to optimal health. Consider substituting a glass of kefir in place of milk. You won’t regret it!

When looking for a probiotic supplement, be sure to look for one with different strains of good bacteria. This will broaden the positive effect and enhance digestion and health more effectively.

Start slow.

If you find you are sensitive when starting to supplement, start with a smaller dose and build yourself up. You can even start with a child size dosage if you like.

Let those friendly flora into your life!

Prepare for a strong and healthy winter and feel better than ever.

Below are our favorite probiotic rich foods that you can add to your diet with ease.

One easy way to help regulate my system is to consume foods rich in probiotics. Literally, probiotic means “for life” and is the name given to the friendly intestinal microflora and beneficial bacteria that reside within all of us.

There are many enjoyable ways to increase probiotic intake through food. You may have even tried these five without even knowing it!

1. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is loaded with extra B vitamins and vitamin C. Fermented cabbage offers more of an anti-carcinogenic effect than its raw or cooked relatives. You can make it or buy it at your local health food store. It is a great garnish for many dishes. Add it to your meat and veggies, or add it to your eggs and rice. You can’t go wrong with a little sauerkraut.

2. Kombucha

Kombucha is a popular healthful beverage made by fermenting teas. It produces a refreshingly light, sparkling, sweet and sour drink with a fruity fragrance full of healthy acids and nutrients.

Many people have cut out alcohol and replaced their diet with Kombucha, which naturally helps elevate feelings of energy and a sense of well-being. We recommend going easy on the dosage and sticking to about 6 ounces at a time. That means you can stretch those average bottles out over a couple of days.

3. Yogurt

I’m sure you have heard before on a commercial, or two, about the benefits of yogurt—an easy to find tasty treat. The yogurt aisle in your local grocery store can be deceiving since different bacteria are added to the milk as part of the fermentation process. Non-pasteurized plain yogurt is your best option.

Avoid the sugary, low fat versions and go for the whole milk, high bacteria count types.

Allergic to dairy?

Try the coconut yogurt variations (available at health food stores) for a great dairy free option.

4. Microalgae

This refers to super-food, ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chlorella and blue-green algae.

These probiotic foods have been shown to increase the amount of both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the digestive tract. They also offer the most amount of energetic return, per ounce, for the human system. Sprinkle on your popcorn, add to your smoothies, garnish your grains with a little spirulina or chlorella or take as a supplement.

5. Kimchi

An Asian form of pickled sauerkraut, kimchi can be an extremely spicy and sour fermented cabbage, typically served alongside meals in Korea. Besides beneficial bacteria, Kimchi is also a great source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, B1 and B2.

Kimchi is one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet, assuming you can handle the heat.

 

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Assitant Editor: Laura Ashworth/Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: Flickr.}

 

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