What are probiotics?
Probiotics refer to the incredible population of beneficial bacteria in our gut. These beneficial bacteria are critical to maintaining normal gastrointestinal and immune system function. They help stimulate the natural digestive juices and enzymes that keep our digestive organs functioning properly, defend against the illness and infection caused by harmful bacteria which may thrive where beneficial colonies are lacking and aid the production of certain vitamins such as vitamins B and K.
Where do they come from?
Probiotics are normally consumed in fermented foods that contain active bacterial cultures such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi. Fermenting foods creates an environment to allow good bacteria such as lactobacillus to flourish. While probiotics are available in supplemental form, fermented foods not only give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, they also give you far more of them. A 4-6 ounce serving of home-made sauerkraut was reported to have literally ten trillion bacteria. With each serving of fermented vegetables you will be replenishing the beneficial flora in your digestive tract.
What are the benefits?
A healthy colony of beneficial microorganisms in the gut can:
- Maintain a healthy digestive system
- Replenish lost or damaged beneficial bacteria
- Protect the body from pathogenic bacterial infection and illness
- Reduce symptoms of diarrhea and constipation
- Promote balance of alkalinity and acidity in the intestine
- Provide support to the immune system
- Support overall wellness
Sources of unpasteurized probiotic rich foods include:
- Pickled Vegetables
Should I make my own fermented foods?
Fermenting foods at home can be a fun and enjoyable way to get the most out of the fermented foods you consume. Even though the whole process might seem long and complex, fermenting food at home takes nothing but a few basic instruments and ingredients. Making your own fermented foods can save you money while feeding your family nutrient-dense cultured foods. Below are listed a number of great sources of information to make your own fermented foods.
Should I buy fermented foods?
Any product that you buy should ideally contain organic ingredients, unrefined sea salt, and be produced through natural lactic acid fermentation. Because natural fermentation can be unpredictable and inconsistent, most food manufacturers don’t want to be bothered with its inconvenience. As a result, most commercially fermented products are vinegar based and don’t provide the same benefits as natural lactic acid fermentation. Look for locally make products made through naturally fermented process.
How much should I eat?
The key is to introduce fermented foods slowly as not too overwhelm your digextive system. Begin with ¼ cup of cultured vegetables or 2 oz. of your favorite probiotic liquid to see how your body reacts. As your body gets used to fermented foods and drinks, you can start to add 1 additional serving at a time. Eventually, you can work up to having a serving of cultured vegetables and probiotic liquids at every meal or possibly, as a between-meal snack. Try to consume fermented foods at least five times a weeks from three different sources.
Sources for more information:
Sandor Katz is a pioneer in the world of fermented foods. His website is a treasure of information, with links to his New York Time best selling book, “The Art of Fermentation”, workshops and blogs.
Kraut Source is mason jar kitchenware for making fermented foods like sauerkraut, natural pickles, kimchi, kefir and more. A must have for making fermented foods. Pictured above.
Fermented food lab is another great source of recipes and information on how to make fermented foods.
Kombucha Kamp is a one-stop source of learning tools and products to make your own kombucha.
The Cultured Food Guild, a non-profit organization, is a new trade association created to support and promote the local cultured food in Colorado.
Cultures for health is a great place to get your first starter kit to make fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese and tofu.
Cultured Food Life is another great source of information on fermented foods.