There is a strong association with eating foods that contain probiotics and having a healthy gut flora. This article exams the proof and lists the top gut-friendly bacteria containing foods.
Probiotic Foods Digestion and Weight Loss
Probiotic foods are very much in vogue. That’s not surprising because probiotic bacteria is associated with many health benefits.
Probiotics aid digestion – it also appears to help keep the immune system strong and its ability to support efficient energy metabolism makes probiotic bacteria good for keeping you slim.
People have been eating probiotic foods for thousands of years. The only difference is, these days people often search out foods that provide this type of good bacteria. Probiotic yogurts and yogurt drinks are particularly popular.
However, before the probiotic revolution, that began in the 1990s, most people were eating probiotic foods without realizing they were consuming health-boosting bacteria.
Sauerkraut is a good example. The lactic acid bacteria that ferments the raw cabbage and gives it such a distinctive taste is probiotic.
To this day, many people eat it just for the flavor and remain blissfully ignorant of the many good things it is doing for them inside.
Scientists became aware of probiotic bacteria around 150 years ago. Then, in 1907, the noted immune system expert Élie Metchnikoff suggested it may be beneficial to modify the normal gut microbiota by replacing harmful microbes with useful ones.
Apart from improving health, he believed the substitution may slow the aging process as well.
Strangely enough, there was very little further research until the 1990s. That’s when scientists began exploring the value of gut microbiota in earnest. It’s also the decade the probiotic industry began.
For a while buying products to reap their probiotic benefits was nothing more than an interesting new fad.
Now, probiotic foods have greater credibility. Even people who choose not to buy them know what they are about.
Probiotic Foods – An Insight Into the Ongoing Battle Within
When we eat probiotic foods, we are not putting anything alien into our bodies. The good bacteria the food provides is similar to certain strains of bacteria that are already present in our guts.
Unfortunately, the human intestinal tract contains less friendly bacteria as well. If the level of bad bacteria becomes too high, it can be damaging to the health.
Probiotic bacteria overpowers the bad bacteria and keep its numbers down. We may not be aware of it but our gut microbiota are waging a war within us.
Eating probiotic foods is a simple way to replenish the troops and help the good guys retain the upper hand.
In addition it is advised to either refrain or cut down on foods that are bad for gut health; refined sugars, processed foods and eggs
How Probiotic Foods aid Digestion
Although research suggests probiotics can be good for easing and preventing digestive problems, further study is required. We need to know more.
Some of the digestive issues probiotics appear to be good for tackling include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Lactose intolerance
Although studies show consuming good bacteria is beneficial, researchers are still trying to figure out why this is so.
For this reason, there remains some controversy over the value of consuming probiotics to aid digestion. How important is this?
It depends on who you talk to but you don’t need to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive from point A to point B in your car.
However, researchers are aware of some of the ways probiotics aid digestion.
One of the things they do is lower pH levels in the colon. In so doing they may help ease the stool through more easily. [source]
Research also reveals probiotics help you to absorb protein and other important nutrients.
This is very desirable because it helps us to get the maximum benefit from our food.
Consuming probiotic foods or products may be especially beneficial after a course of antibiotics.
Antibiotics wreak havoc with the gut microbiota. In some cases, this leads to diarrhea.
Consuming plenty of probiotic foods is a good way to replenish your good bacteria levels as quickly as possible.
The Relationship Between Probiotic Foods and Weight Loss
Research shows certain strains of good bacteria, from the lactobacillus family, can help you to burn fat and lose weight.
The results of one study, conducted in Canada, show eating probiotic yogurt that contained Lactobacillus amylovorus or Lactobacillus fermentum caused a body fat reduction of 3–4% over a period of 6-weeks.
In another study, that ran for three months, taking supplements that provided Lactobacillus rhamnosus helped the probiotic group to lose 50% more weight than the placebo group.
Research also shows certain probiotics may help prevent weight gain. Obviously, that’s desirable. Nobody want’s to lose weight only to put it back on again.
It’s important to be aware a few study results do not support using probiotics for weight loss. Some even suggest the bacteria may cause weight gain.
However, these are in the minority. There’s a much greater body of clinical evidence that suggests consuming probiotic foods and supplements is a good way to get your weight where you want it to be.
Probiotics are all Around Us
There are two kinds of probiotic food. The first kind flies the probiotic flag by stating it’s probiotic on the packaging and listing the strains of good bacteria it provides.
Things like sauerkraut are in another class entirely. The packaging doesn’t generally mention the probiotic link.
Specialist Probiotic Food Products
When you go to the supermarket you’ll find most of the deliberately probiotic products sitting inside a fridge. Possibly with an area of shelves all to themselves.
Probiotic yogurt and yogurt drinks are probably the most popular option with people who are looking for a product that’s marketed solely on its ability to improve gut microbiota.
Some of the larger supermarkets stock a surprising number of brands.
It’s also possible to buy pill-type supplements that have live good bacteria cultures inside.
Traditional Sources of Gut-Friendly Bacteria
The unsung heroes of the probiotic world are more plentiful. There’s no need to go over old ground here by extolling the virtues of sauerkraut again.
If you’ve read this far you will already know sauerkraut is good.
Many yogurts that are not flying the flag contain live good bacteria as well. If you see one that states it contains active or live cultures, it going to be very friendly to your gut.
Moving on, let’s take a look at some of the other gut-friendly food options we’ve got.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that’s popular in Poland and many other European countries.
The key ingredients are kefir grains and milk from a cow or a goat.
Kefir grains are cauliflower-like cultures of lactic acid bacteria. The name comes from the word “keyif” which, in Turkish, means to feel good after eating.
You may be surprised to learn, kefir’s probiotic abilities are superior to those of yogurt.
It provides several major strains of bacteria and tends to be a better option than yogurts if you are lactose intolerant.
Certain types of cheese are also good for providing probiotic bacteria. Gouda and mozzarella are two good examples.
The good bacteria they contain survives the aging process so every time you eat it, you’re giving your good bacteria a top-up.
Cottage cheese and Greek feta cheese are good sources of probiotics as well. They are also lower in fat than many other kinds of cheese.
That’s a point worth remembering if you are nurturing your gut microbiota because you want to lose weight.
Genuine sourdough bread is made from a starter that contains bacteria from the Lactobacillus family so it’s a good probiotic food too.
However, you need to buy the freshly baked kind, so it’s best to buy from a baker.
The mass-produced version is often lacking in probiotic potency.
Sourdough bread also takes longer to digest; studies have shown that rye flour (which is used the making) can help regulate blood sugar levels which help control diabetes.
Gherkins are a special type of pickled cucumber. It’s an acquired taste, so you are either going to love them or hate them, but pickled gherkins are a very good probiotic food.
Whether you are tweaking your gut microbiota to improve digestion or doing so to lose weight, these little green pickles can help.
Kombucha is a slightly alcoholic drink made by fermenting green or black tea with sugar.
The drink is believed to have originated in China and people drink it specially to try and improve their health.
Study and research has identified that adding beverages like kombucha to your diet might improve your health in many ways (weight loss, digestion and inflammation to name but a few).
Probiotic Foods, Digestion and Weight Loss Summary
This article lists a few good probiotic foods but there are many more. The thing to remember is, you don’t have to consume special probiotic yogurts and yogurt drinks to benefit from this type of gut-friendly bacteria.
However, regardless of your reasons for wanting to improve the status quo in your gut, there is never any substitute for a healthy diet.
Don’t become overly focused on bacteria, think about vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as well.
Also think about fiber. Dietary fiber also improves gut health and it may do so in a couple of ways.
All fiber forces your intestinal muscles to work harder. By doing this it gives them a workout that helps keep them strong.
Certain types of fiber are prebiotic. You may have heard of the term.
Prebiotic fiber nourishes your good bacteria and helps it multiply. Garlic, onions, and leeks, are all good sources of prebiotic fiber.
Oats, bananas, and asparagus are prebiotic foods too and there are many more.
Of course, one of the best ways you can improve your digestion and/or lose weight with probiotics is to eat food that provides gut-friendly bacteria and prebiotic foods as well.