We recently discovered this wonderful article from Rodale Wellness detailing some of the lesser-known benefits of having probiotics into your diet, and decided to share it with our beloved readers.
"To put it simply: Bacteria follow the food you eat. The easiest way to manipulate your gut flora is by enriching your diet with a variety of probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are the actual bacteria that live in your gut. Prebiotics are the substances that the bacteria eat. Food sources are the best way to get both of these, since the diversity of the bacteria in supplements is not as smart as nature; your second choice could be a high-quality, specific-flora supplement.
Once you've established a healthy colony, you have to care for it. Just as you wouldn't plant a garden and not feed or water it, you can't just pour some kefir on top of a bad diet and expect those beneficial microorganisms to grow and flourish. You need to feed them! Fiber from a balanced diet is one way to nourish your gut microbiome.
Every day scientists are discovering more benefits of having teeming, diverse gut colonies. Some probiotic health and performance benefits we know for certain include:
Research shows that probiotics is one of the most surprising ways to improve immunity and can help fight bad bacteria and fend off and reduce the duration of upper respiratory infections (such as the common cold) and gastrointestinal woes such as diarrhea. One particularly interesting study found that highly trained distance runners (who are prone to falling ill from overtaxed immune systems) had less than half the number of sick days when they pumped up their diet with probiotics.
3. Heat Tolerance
Though more research is needed, it appears that having a healthy level of probiotics also improves exercise performance in the heat. In one study, runners were tasked to run to exhaustion in a series of tests pre- and postprobiotic supplementation (specifically 45 billion CFU of lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and streptococcus strains). After supplementation, the runners improved their performance by a whopping 14 percent in hot conditions. It is likely that the gut lining is protected from damage, which allows digestion and the cooling system to function optimally.
4. Lower Inflammation
Research shows that probiotics can lower levels of inflammation in the body. This helps prevent numerous diseases and illnesses, including chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as inflammation-based conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and irritable bowel syndrome.
5. Improved Well-Being
Probiotics have been linked to general health benefits of all kinds, including lower cholesterol; lower blood pressure; healthier blood sugar, body weight and body composition; and even better oral health. Healthy probiotic levels may also improve mood and some research finds that they may even help treat depression."
Sauerkraut - Famous for boosting healthy digestion habits, sauerkraut also contains more probiotics than any other food in the world. Two ounces of homemade fermented sauerkraut contains the probiotic equivalent of roughly 100 probiotic pills. Cabbage is also a great source of Vitamin A & C due to the fermenting process, which helps reduce lipids within the bloodstream. Additionally, Sauerkraut is high in tyrosine, an amino acid that affects many aspects of the body including blood pressure regulation and dopamine.
Miso Soup - Miso is a salty paste made from fermented beans that has been a staple ingredient in the Japanese diet for quite some time now. Probiotic-filled miso is often used to make a salty soup that's low in calories and high in B vitamins/protective antioxidants. It is also known for it's ability to relieve the following health conditions: fatigue, gastric ulcers, high cholesterol, and fighting harmful bacteria. Phytonutrients contained in miso are highly regarded in modern day diets for their capability to ward off cancerous cells and maintain healthy blood pressure.
Sour Pickles - When looking to pickles for probiotics, be sure to choose the naturally fermented kinds, so that vinegar wasn't used in the pickling process. A sea salt and water solution feeds the growth of good bacteria and may give sour pickles some digestive benefits. Additionally, when purchasing said pickles, look for a container labeled “live and active cultures” and sold in the refrigerated section. Very few store-bought brands actually contain live probiotic bacteria, but the ones that do tend to advertise it proudly, so you should be able to tell from reading the label.
Tempeh - Hailing from Indonesia, tempeh is another probiotic food derived from the fermenting of soybeans. Tempeh is produced by adding a tempeh starter containing the fungus rhizopus oligosporus to partially cooked soybeans and allowing the dehulled beans to ferment for about a day or two.
Sourdough Bread - This mildly sour, chewy bread is made with a lactic acid starter that contains strains of lactobacillus, a friendly type of bacteria found in DairyCare that adds good microbes into the bakery staple. Sourdough may also be the healthiest bread choice if diabetes is a concern for you: one 2008 study found that people with pre-diabetes who ate sourdough bread had less of a blood sugar spike compared to when they ate bread made with baker's yeast. The researchers credit the lactic acid for the favorable effect.