Research is ongoing, but studies have pointed to “gut health” as impacting not only the digestive system, but the immune system as well. A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that consuming different strains of probiotics over an eight-week period could reduce body weight and BMI, which are two caution areas related to diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Studies at Johns Hopkins have revealed an altering of blood pressure when different gut bacteria are produced in mice, rats, and people. Good gut bacteria have also been known to help reduce allergy symptoms, inflammation, and skin issues, like acne. Experts have been looking at the effects of probiotics on mood and stress, too.
Here are just a few probiotic foods:
- Kimchi (a Korean staple of fermented, spicy vegetables)
- Kombucha (a fermented tea)
- Miso (a Japanese favorite, made from fermented, seasoned soybeans, often used in soup)
- Brine- or water-cured olives
- Fermented pickles or sauerkraut
- Tempeh (a meat substitute made from whole soybeans, originating from Indonesia)
Just like fertilizer, high-fiber, plant-based prebiotics help feed and grow the more than 1,000 good microbes that are already in your stomach. Prebiotic foods provide the complex carbs from fruits, veggies, and whole grains needed by good bacteria to balance out the microorganism population. Artichokes, bananas, garlic, greens, onions, soybeans, whole grains, and yams are examples of some prebiotic foods.
Some probiotic foods have been known to cause mild gas. While most healthy people are able to add probiotics to their diets, others should take caution. Children, seniors, people who are pregnant, or anyone with a compromised immune system should not eat homemade, unpasteurized, fermented foods.* As with all foods or supplements of any kind, ask your doctor what’s safe for you.
Probiotics and prebiotics work as a team — just listen to your gut (and your doctor)!
*Fermentation breaks down carbs via bacteria and yeast. It gives some foods their tart flavor. While unpasteurized choices can yield the most probiotic benefit, it may be dangerous for some. Pasteurization kills most probiotic bacteria.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano