When we eat, we are not only feeding ourselves but the millions of bacteria that naturally exist within our gut. This collection of bacteria, also known as the microbiome, is made up of thousands of different strains of bacteria. Each strain has its own unique role in human health, many of which we are just beginning to understand. More and more research is emerging with evidence on the important role that some bacteria play in regulating our immune system and protecting us against a variety of diseases.
Revive a Healthy Microbiome
Many different factors influence the development of a healthy microbiome including diet and lifestyle. We can revive a healthy microbiome by eating foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are fermented products that contain live cultures of bacteria like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are foods that contain certain types of carbohydrates that humans do not digest but serve as a source of food for our bacteria. When bacteria feed on prebiotics, they thrive and multiply, creating a healthier gut. Some sources of prebiotics are onion, garlic, leek, soybean, asparagus, wheat and oats.
Unfortunately, our probiotic good bacteria do not thrive on foods typically consumed in the Western diet. In fact, processed products like chips, candy, and other packaged foods feed the bad bacteria in the gut, causing them to multiply and flourish.
Signs of Bad Bacteria in the Gut
An increase in the amount of bad bacteria in the gut can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea or constipation. Adding fermented foods to your diet and eating a variety of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains will provide probiotics and prebiotics to promote and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Try at Home: Probiotic Friendly Recipe
Adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Makes 1 quart.
- 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pound mixture with wooden mallet or meat hammer for about 10 minutes until juices are released.
- Place mixture in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with wooden mallet or meat hammer until all juices rise to the top of the cabbage. Make sure there is at least a one inch of space between the top of the cabbage and liquid and the top of the jar.
- Tightly cover the mason jar with a lid and keep at room temperature for three to seven days. Refrigerate after opening. The sauerkraut can be eaten immediately but the flavor improves with age!
- Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1417-1435.
- Create a Healthier Gut: Probiotics Checklist - The Polyclinic
- Nutrition Education at The Polyclinic
- How a Registered Dietitian Can Help You Achieve Health Goals - The Polyclinic