What are probiotics?
Our gut is populated by trillions of bacteria that have specific roles in the maintenance of different functions in the gut.
Probiotics are made of good live bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live within the body and have a number of different roles:
• they help maintain pH
• they can reduce flatulence
• they help detoxification
• they aid reduction of inflammation
• they are important for some vitamin formation
• they help to increase absorption of vital nutrients
• they help fight the population of bad bacteria and inhibit bad guys taken up the residence
• they improve the consistency and frequency of bowel motions, and much more.
Dysbiosis is when there is an imbalance in the gut flora and the bad guy (bacteria) takes over.
Dysbiosis manifests with the following symptoms:
• bloating, burning, flatulence
• indigestion, diarrhea, constipation
• nausea or diarrhea after taking supplements
• post-adolescent acne or other skin irritations such as rosacea
• chronic intestinal infections, parasites, yeast, unfriendly bacteria
• undigested food in the stool and greasy stools
• chronic vaginitis (vaginal irritation).
• In the gut there is a continuous battle between good bacteria and bad bacteria. It is in our interest to support the good guys because they fight for us.
• Many things have an impact on our gut flora, among the most influential include diet, chemicals derived with food, water and air, stress and drugs. To facilitate the work of the gut flora we should aim for organic food, purified water, managing stress effectively and minimisation of the drug intake.
Although we can have some probiotics from food, in my opinion, it is not enough to rely on the food source completely. If you do not have any health issue at all, it might be enough for you to use at least two of the following on a daily basis: plain yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut (raw, not pasteurised as pasteurisation kills all the good bacteria. It can be made at home very easily: kombucha and kefir.
• Supplementing with probiotics may help you with fighting infection, supporting immune system, improve gut dysbiosis, preventing obesity, calming down the skin issues, improving bowel movements and constipation.
How to choose the best probiotics
First look for a diversity of strains. The diversity provide different benefits and because they work synergistically, they increase the ability to colonise digestive tract.
I would go for six and more different strains in a probiotic and look if the supplement have any prebiotics. Prebiotics are usually coming from fibre in the food. Prebiotics are essential fuel/food to feed the probiotic so they can settle well, multiply and thrive in the gut. If there are any, then you need to make sure you have some good dietary fibre when taking probiotics.
Foods high in fibre include beans, asparagus, chicory root, garlic, onion, chives, leeks and celery.
Second, look for at least four to five billion per capsule or two.
Third, look for a probiotic that most suit your needs. There are some types of probiotics that support your specific need. For example:
• If you travelling abroad choose the probiotics that have saccharomyces boulardii, which may prevent you from suffering sickness.
• If you suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or any other gut issues, go for a multiple strains with the major in bifidobacterium bifidum, lactobacillus plantarum and bifidobacterium infantis.
• If you suffer from urinary track or vaginal infections, then the best probiotic would be one that has lactobacilli reuteri and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
• If you need an advice on best probiotics tailored to your needs please contact a qualified nutrition professional, who will be happy to help you.
Fermented foods focus: Kimchi
Kimchi can be considered a vegetable probiotic food that contributes health benefits in the same way we consider yoghurt to be a dairy probiotic food. It is a traditional Korean food made by fermenting vegetables with probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB).
Lactic-acid producing bacteria inhibit undesirable bacteria from proliferating, both in the food we eat and within the human body. They are vitally important players when it comes to daily immune defence.
Fermented foods are easier to digest than non-fermented foods and contain an array of vitamins: A (growth and development, immune function and reproduction), B (important for energy), C (growth, development and repair of body tissues), Folic acid (nervous system and pregnancy health) and Vitamin K2 which works in partneship with vitamin D (health health, immunity, reducing inflammation). Kimchi also contains minerals such as calcium (healthy teeth and bones), Iron (heme syntehisis, oxygenating blood cwlls and haemoglobin), Phosphorus (important role in how the body uses carbs and fats, aids how the body makes protein for growth, repair, maintenance of cells and tissues) and selenium (critical role in metabolism and thyroid function, protection from damage caused by oxidative stress).
Many bacteria are involved in the fermentation of kimchi, but Lactic acid producing bacteria become dominant whilst the cabbage is soaked in salty brine, killing off harmful bacteria. The addition of other sub-ingredients (cruciferous vegetables and other functional foods such as garlic, ginger, red pepper, chilli flakes and so on), further promote the fermentation process of LAB and also increase the functionalities of kimchi as a probiotic.
During the next stage of fermentation, the remaining lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid; preserving the vegetables and giving them their depth and tangy flavour.
Because kimchi is both tasty and highly functional, it is typically served with steamed rice at every Korean meal. Health functionality of kimchi, based upon research includes anticancer, antiobesity, anticonstipation, colorectal health promotion, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effect, antioxidative and antiaging properties, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion.
One of the major health beneifts of regularly including fermented foods in your diet is that you are constantly nourishing your gut with a wide range of naturally occurring beneficial microorganisms thus supporting immunity, reducing inflammation, aiding neurological health and supporting detoxification within the body.
Kimchi is easy to make and can last for several weeks to months once opened, with taste changing over time. I personally keep opened kimchi in the fridge and discard after 3 months.
The majority of fermented foods are designed to be eaten as a side dish, so eat a small amount each day for optimal effects.