Probiotic foods contain live, beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms. A bacterial fermentation process naturally produces them.
These fermented foods, when consumed, add beneficial bacteria to your digestive system.
Role of the Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome consists of many bacteria, viruses, and fungi. (For brevity's sake, we'll refer to these microbes as "bacteria" throughout this article.) The gut strives to maintain a precise balance of healthy bacteria vs. unhealthy kinds.
If this balance is disturbed and harmful bacteria overrun the digestive tract, it negatively affects gut health and can lead to numerous health problems.
Various probiotic strains provide specific, powerful benefits for the brain and body. For example, probiotic bacteria may:
Improve digestive health
Prevent or health leaky gut syndrome
Support cardiovascular health
Improve cognitive function
Prevent specific types of cancer
Assist with weight control
Defend against infections
How Does Gut Bacteria Affect Overall Health?
We used to believe that intestinal bacteria was only involved in digestive matters. For example, they break down foods, extract nutrients, store calories for later use, synthesize specific vitamins, etc.
But modern research has revealed a vast and diverse microbial network involved in matters far beyond the gut.
How can bacteria influence the entire body?
The enteric nervous system (ENS) -- often called the "second brain" -- is located in the digestive tract. It contains more than 100millionneurons, more than the human spinal cord. (3) The ENS extends from the esophagus to the anus.
And how do they reach the rest of the body?
Evidence suggests that gut bacteria communicate with the brain through the vagus nerve, which transmits information to the central nervous system (CNS).
This system is called the gut-brain axis, "linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions." (4)
As the brain controls most bodily functions, it makes sense that bacterial communication with this crucial organ can affect health in various ways.
Signs of Poor Gut Health
Health issues can occur if the communication between the gut and the brain doesn't go well.
Here are just some of the conditions associated with poor gut health. (5, 6)
Some cancers, such as colon, prostate, and gastrointestinal cancers
Compromised immune system
Chronic HIV infection
Where are Beneficial Gut Bacteria Located?
Most of the bacteria in the digestive tract are located in the small intestines (where food is digested) and the large intestines (where food is fermented).
However, most beneficial bacteria are found in the large intestine (colon), which speaks to the importance of the fermentation process.
How Does the Fermentation Process Work?
When you consume soluble fiber and resistant starch, aka prebiotic foods, it passes into the colon undigested.
Then the healthy bacteria eat (ferment it) and excrete short-chain fatty acids and other postbiotic metabolites.
Postbiotics are a recent discovery. Researchers knew that probiotic bacteria excreted substances after fermentation, but they considered it waste.
However, new research has found that postbiotics provide a host of benefits. Indeed, they may even be responsible for the health benefits usually credited to probiotic bacteria!
To reap these health benefits, you need to provide plenty of prebiotic foods for fermentation -- and suffer the excess gas and bloating that typically occur after consuming significant amounts of fiber.
Or, you can simply skip this step and take SANE Viscera-3™ POSTBiotic supplements that provide postbiotics directly to your lower colon -- no intestinal fermentation necessary—more about this in a moment.
Can I Just Take Probiotic Supplements?
You can take a good probiotic supplement each day; however, they typically contain just a few strains of helpful bacteria.
In addition, probiotics supplements can be a risky choice for those with compromised immune systems or severe illnesses.
Though probiotics are generally considered safe to use, there is not enough research into potential side effects.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH):
"Possible harmful effects of probiotics include infections, production of harmful substances by the probiotic microorganisms, and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from probiotic microorganisms to other microorganisms in the digestive tract." (1)
In addition, there have been reports of probiotics containing microorganisms not listed on the label. Though this is not necessarily harmful, it can create severe health problems in some cases. (2)
Best Probiotic Foods For a Healthy Gut And Body
Here are 10 of the best probiotic foods that help rebalance your gut bacteria and improve your health.
Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria, giving it its signature sour taste. It is one of the few prebiotic foods, meaning that it feeds healthy bacteria and increases their numbers in the intestines.
It is a popular food in Germany and other countries. It's also a traditional practice to eat spare ribs with sauerkraut on New Year's Eve to ensure prosperity for the coming year.
In addition to being a great probiotic, sauerkraut is an excellent source of health-promoting fiber. In addition, it contains significant amounts of vitamins C and digestive enzymes, which help the body break down and digest foods.
Fun fact: sauerkraut is the oldest and most common form of preserving cabbage. (7)
Though there is not much research regarding sauerkraut's effects on gut health, one study published in Food & Function found that Lacto-fermented sauerkraut improved patients' IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. (8)
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that combines kefir grains with goat's or cow's milk.
Kefir grains grow in nature and resemble boiled cauliflower pieces. They contain yeast and active cultures of lactic acid bacteria.
Kefir has a thin yogurt-like consistency and has been consumed for thousands of years.
The word "kefir" means "feeling good," which indicates people's positive relationship with this drink.
It tastes delicious. But it also contains up to 30 different strains of good bacteria, which is one of the reasons it has been shown to provide several incredible health benefits in research studies.
According to research studies, kefir has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-allergenic effects. It may also support healthy blood pressure, and its antioxidant effects could support overall health. (9)
Coconut kefir is coconut water fermented kefir grains. Like traditional kefir, it is a rich source of probiotics known to defend against disease, bacteria, cancers, and more.
Why choose coconut kefir over the traditional version? Besides tasting delicious, it also supplies all the incredible health benefits of coconut.
Consider this: coconuts contain fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins. Its fat content is primarily saturated fatty acids, which caused nutrition experts to shun its consumption in the past. However, these fats are primarily medium-chain fatty acids, so they are healthier than the long-chain fatty acids in beef.
As Dr. Susan Hewlings noted in her research article published in theJournal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease:
"The medium-chain fatty acids are absorbed differently and have been associated with several health benefits including improvements in cognitive function and a more favorable lipid profile compared to longer chain fatty acids." (10)
So, go ahead and drink up! Coconut kefir is a tasty way to improve your health.
Yogurt, made from the bacterial fermentation of milk, is probably the most popular probiotic food. But unfortunately, the yogurt brands you enjoy may not contain any probiotics. Instead, many brands use a heat-treating method that kills beneficial bacteria.
To reap all the incredible probiotic benefits, yogurt must contain live active cultures as stated on the label. Greek yogurt is your best choice in this regard.
One caution: even if yogurt checks all the probiotic boxes, it may not be the healthiest choice due to added sugars, artificial flavors, etc. Therefore, the best way to reap all of its health benefits is to consume plain, unsweetened yogurt.
Natto is a cheese-like food comprised of fermented soybeans. Usually served with white rice, it is a popular breakfast dish in Japan.
Natto is a fermented food that packs a mighty nutritional and probiotic wallop. It is an excellent source of protein, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, and more. It also contains 5 grams of fiber per serving, making it a prebiotic and probiotic food.
In addition, natto contains the highly potent probiotic strainBacillus subtilis, proven to provide several health benefits.
For example, research studies suggest thatBacillus subtilis supplementation can rebalance gut bacteria, increasing the number of beneficial bacteria, such as lactic acid bacteria, while decreasing the harmful ones. It has also been found to boost the immune system. (11, 12)
Scientific evidence also strongly suggests that Natto consumption may defend against cardiovascular disease. (12)
Most cheeses are created through bacterial fermentation, but not all of them contain probiotics.
To enjoy probiotic benefits, you must consume cheese made from raw unpasteurized milk, as the processing and pasteurization process destroys probiotics. Cheese made from goat or cow milk is rich in probiotics, but the latter is easier to digest.
Along with their nutrient and probiotic benefits, fermented cheeses also supply digestive enzymes that help you digest their fats and proteins more efficiently.
Miso soup -- made with fermented soybeans, salt, and koji, a type of fungus -- is a traditional Japanese soup. (Miso can also be made with barley or brown rice and koji.)
Miso is rich in natural probiotics, containing Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Staphylococcus gallinarum, Staphylococcus kloosii, and others.
In addition to its probiotic benefits, miso soup is a rich soy protein source, naturally occurring plant isoflavones and saponins, and antioxidants.
If soup is not your thing, no worries. Miso is a versatile food that can flavor vegetarian soup and stews. You can also add it to stir fry dishes, use it to prepare sauces or gravies, make miso butter, and more!
How To Get More Probiotics in Your Diet
Increasing your probiotic intake is easy. All you need to do is make a few simple swaps.
Replace those sugary, inflammatory soft drinks with fermented beverages like kefir or coconut kefir.
Choose probiotic yogurts.
Replace your processed cheeses with raw, unpasteurized ones.
Make probiotic foods a side dish. For example, you can easily include a small serving of sauerkraut or natto with your meal.
Eat more prebiotic foods, which feed good bacteria, fostering their growth and replication.
Use as an ingredient in recipes. (Miso is great for this.)
Benefits of Replacing Probiotics with Postbiotics
Probiotic foods are always a healthy choice. After all, they contain various probiotics strains and health-promoting nutrients.
They help increase the number of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract, many of which wind up in the lower colon fermenting fiber.
For the bacteria to do their jobs properly, they must have a consistent supply of prebiotic fiber, which means that you need to consume a LOT of fiber. Unfortunately, high-fiber diets can cause gastrointestinal upsets.
The gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms you may experience after a meal comes from intestinal fermentation.
So, though fiber is necessary for health, one of its most significant functions is to feed the good bacteria so that they can excrete postbiotic metabolites.
As mentioned earlier in this article, experts believe that postbiotics may provide the health benefits attributed to fiber and probiotic supplements.
But what if you can skip the uncomfortable and embarrassing gas and bloat, going straight to the postbiotic stage?
Now, you can!
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Viscera-3™ is a breakthrough POSTBiotic supplement containing TRIbutyrate, the superior bioavailable form of butyrate. Harvard doctors call butyrate the "optimal" gut health nutrient and note that it provides more health benefits than others of its class.
Butyrate is the most widely studied postbiotic and the one that has the most scientific evidence showing health benefits. For example, studies show that butyrate may positively affect irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.
The only problem is that butyrate is called an “unstable” compound. This means that it breaks down quickly before getting to the lower colon, where it’s needed to improve gut health. The solution is TRIbutyrate, clinically proven to transport butyrate to the colon intact.
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