These days, everyone is reading, talking and learning about probiotics.
Most of us know the simple definition of probiotics: probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system - they help keep your gut healthy. Such living organisms already live inside your body and are essential for your health and well-being. By consuming additional probiotics you help your body maintain a natural, healthy balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut.
Most people know this essential definition of probiotics because more and more experts (and also manufacturers or retailers of food supplements) warn us about potential risks and health benefits related to probiotics and the good vs bad bacteria balance.
There's absolutely nothing wrong withprobiotic supplements, but you have to be cautious of the quality regardless you buy them in a pharmacy or online. If you plan to buy probiotics in capsules make sure to buy them from a trusted brand, but more importantly, make sure you buy probiotic supplements with as many different bacteria strains as possible (people mostly look only for the number of living cultures, but strains are more important). Also, don't forget that not all strains are highly beneficial for all of your troubles, and if you consume probiotics just to maintain your gut health, make sure you change the brand once in a while - so your gut can benefit from a variety of strains (not all probiotic brands contain the same bacteria strains). As in every aspect of life, diversity matters! :)
Now, you might be wondering - if probiotics are so important (they are!) and if nowadays we mainly consume them as food supplements - how did our grandparents and their grandparents ... consume enough probiotics to maintain their health?
Easier than it might seem!
Naturally probiotic foods
The best natural source of probiotics is without doubt fermented food. In the last decades we have collectively put our ancestors' knowledge and wisdom on hold - yet our grandparents are often 90 or even 100 years old and still going strong - they must have done something right!
A closer look at our grandparents' menu has confirmed - they consumed a whole lot of naturally fermented foods, made at home from local, seasonal ingredients. Those naturally probiotic foods are:
pickled veggies (beets, cucumbers, peppers ...),
fermented drinks (water/milk kefir and kombucha),
sourdough baked goods ...
Thankfully fermented food is making it's way back on our menus - nowadays we make sourdough pancakes, pizzas and muffins, we brew our own kombucha at home, we pickle all kind of veggies plus we can choose from a variety of fermented goodies that are originally a part of foreign (mostly Asian) cuisines: miso, kimchi, tempeh and so on.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish of salted and slowly fermented vegetables Photo: Portuguese Gravity, Unsplash
Sadly, a bunch of food products you can buy in stores are only supposed to be "rich in probiotics". Most of them are highly processed or bacteria strains are added after numerous cycles of food processing. Besides, when probiotics are added subsequently, they often just don't stay in the gut for as long as they should to bring us any benefits and make a change..
Regardless how familiar you are with probiotics, we're sure you have been advised to consume them when you were prescribed with antibiotics. That's a smart move, considering antibiotics work, as the name suggests, against microbes and destroy all living organisms in your gut, not only the bad ones.
Within the human gut microbiota exists a complex ecosystem of cca 300 to 500 bacterial species, comprising nearly 2 million genes (the microbiome). They all work together for you to stay healthy and feel good.
The benefits of probiotics
Probiotics, naturally found mostly in fermented foods, have a long list of health benefits.
As you can see, probiotics help with various health troubles and condition; they have a lot of benefits and improve or even prevent some conditions and disorders.
improve immune system (70 % of it is housed in your gut)
improve micronutrient absorption (especially important with lazy or leaky gut)
beneficent effect on allergy reactions
preventing diarrhea, caused by antibiotics
preventing vaginal and urinary infections
help with maintaining healthy BMI
improve and stabilize mental health (90 % of serotonin, the happiness hormone, is housed in your gut!)
lower your cholesterol and blood pressure
prevent colon cancer
improve lactose intolerance
slow down growth of pathogenic bacteria, such as e.coli
help alleviate the symptoms of several chronic and auto-immune diseases.
The risks of unbalanced gut bacteria
As you can see, a sufficient number of good gut bacteria is extremely important for maintaining good health and condition.
That's why destroyed balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut has several severe consequences.
Long-lasting predominance of toxins and bad bacteria can lead to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome or other severe inflammations.
If one or more of these symptoms are a part of your everyday troubles, it's time to take care of your gut health in your hands! These are the signs of unhealthy gut:
- upset stomach and the need to burp frequently,
- stomach ache,
- poor blood count,
Of course, consult your doctor, but also start eating wholesome, real, fibre-reach and preferably plant-based food, enriched with fermented products! That's how you restore your intestinal flora so the good bacteria prevail and the gut can start doing its job properly again.
Replenish your gut flora with appropriate food: make sure the majority of your menu are fibre-rich, plant-based and fermented foods. Also, hidrate properly.
What are prebiotics and why do they matter?
With the word probiotics another, similar one often follows: prebiotics.
What are prebiotics? How important are they? Are prebiotics equally important as probiotics? To shorten things up:
Prebiotics are special plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow in your gut - they basically makes your digestive system work better.
Prebiotics are a source of food and nutrients for your gut’s healthy bacteria. They’re fiber - carbs your body can’t digest. So they go to your lower digestive tract, where they act like food to help the healthy bacteria grow.
You'll find most prebiotics in whole-grain, fibre-rich, unprocessed plant-based food: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, such as:
grains and seeds,
Besides prebiotics, there are a couple of other foods that have a beneficial effect on your gut microflora. Those are topinambur, yacon root and grain coffee.
Kale is a leafy green, good for your gut - plus it can be used in many different ways and tastes delicious.
Is kombucha a probiotic beverage?
As you probably already know, AYATANA's hashtag is#CleanGutHappyButt.
Choosing this hashtag was not a coincidence or just a random witty idea. We wanted to emphasize the beneficial effects of fermented drinks (such as kombucha) on our gut health, affecting such big and important parts of our lives.
As we said before and will say it again:
gut is responsible for creating an astonishing
70 % of our immune cells and
90 % of our happiness hormone serotonin.
So, is taking care of your gut health a priority? If it's not yet, it should be! And kombucha might help you along the way.
Kombucha is a rich source of vitamins (B, D, C, A), acidic acid, glucosamine, and some important probiotic strains, such as Acetobacter, Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, Gluconacetobacter kombuchae and Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis.
Kombucha is a perfect blend of important micronutrients and probiotics that help aid digestion, metabolism and your overall health.
Kombucha is a great source of probiotics.
Is it important what kind of kombucha I drink?
Are all store-bought kombuchas the same? The answer is simple: NO.
The majority of commercially sold kombucha is pasturised. This simply mean that the beverage has been heated up to:
have a longer shelf-life,
gain the ability to be stored on shelves (aka not refrigerated).
These two things are achieved because with pasteurization, the process of fermentation is stopped and the living bacteria are not living any more. That's why pasteurized kombucha has less health benefits than real, unpasteurized traditionally brewed kombucha.
So always make sure you pick living, unpasturized fermented drinks, such as AYATANA kombucha.