My Digestive Journey- Probiotics

Last week I talked about eliminating certain things from your diet in order to help heal your gut.  For me personally that meant getting rid of dairy as well as gluten.  This week I want to talk about adding something to your diet: probiotics.

Little Biology lesson for you:  You have bacteria and microbes all over your body, from your skin, to your eyelashes, to inside your digestive system.  Before you freak out and douse your body with sanitizer, these are good bacteria and essential to your every day functions.  These bacteria have various jobs, but the ones in your gut help to digest your food.  A healthy gut can have upwards of trillions of microbes helping to breakdown your food so you can use it to function.

When you don’t have a healthy gut, your microbe count can drop way down.  This in turn affects your digestion.  You no longer have a billion little helpers and food can sit in your digestive tract and rot or pass through only partially digested.  Clearly having rotting food sit in your gut is not an ideal situation.  This can lead to stomach problems, bloating, gas, and just general unpleasantness.  Many things contribute to unhealthy microbes.  Taking anti-biotics can damage good bacteria as well as bad bacteria, as well as eating an unhealthy diet.

This is where probiotics come in.  Adding probiotics to your diet can help restore and repair the bacteria in your gut, in turn helping your body to properly digest and use the food you eat.  There are plenty of ways to get probiotics into your diet and I’ve tried a few here on this list. REMEMBER: I’m not a doctor or any type of certified medical professional.  This is just a list that I have made based on my own research.  Talk with your health care professional if you want to start adding more of these to your life.

Probiotic Pills There are a plethora of probiotic pills out there on the market.  It can be overwhelming to try and find the right one for you.  While I’m a believer in trying to get your nutrients/vitamins/minerals from food, I realize it’s difficult to get everything you need every day from food alone. When looking for probiotics you don’t need anything fancy, just probiotics.  Here is a list, by all means not all inclusive, of different probiotics and their functions.  Start here and go through and find the function that you need and then work from there.  Look for pills that contain that strand of bacteria.  Talking to your doctor or a nutritionist can also help as they are well equipped to help you sort through all the information out there.

Some forms of dairy  This one I approach with caution.  Obviously I do not eat any dairy, but there are products, such as yogurt, that have probiotics in them..  The downside is that many times they will also have added sugar and chemicals that don’t help your digestion.  So be careful if you choose this approach.  Plain Greek yogurt is a good start and you can add in your own flavoring such as honey or fruit.

Fermented Foods Tempeh, kimchi, kombucha.  All of these are fermented food/drinks.  Because of the fermentation process, these products have probiotics that can help with digestion.  This is the route that I have been experimenting with lately and it has given me some great results.  While these foods may sound weird and not as appetizing as, say, a plate of cookies, they really taste good and are immensely helpful.  I have mentioned kombucha before and this is the fermented food that I have used the most. Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that you can purchase at most grocery stores.  Unfortunately it is pretty expensive (around $4 for us here in the Midwest  but the good news is that you can actually make your own!  I recently purchased my own kombucha kit, and while I haven’t started to grow it yet (I’m going to wait until after we move in April), it is actually a fairly simple process and not at all intimidating.  Plus once you start to grow your own kombucha you can have a never ending supply because it just continues to grow, as long as you maintain it.  Once I get kombucha down I plan to start trying to make my own fermented vegetables.  I’ll try to share that process with you as I go through it so that you can reap all the benefits of fermented food!

This is by no means a complete list of probiotic help.  There are other things such as papaya and apple cider vinegar that also have probiotic qualities and will help with your digestion.  Again, the key here is finding a method that works best for you.  Perhaps you can’t stomach the idea of eating billions of microbes (don’t worry, it is a little creepy at first) and want the convenience of a pill.  That’s totally fine, this isn’t about following the crowd and choosing what is most popular at the time. This is about finding the combination of digestive aids that works for you and gives you the best results.

Hopefully these last few posts and some of the advice have been helpful to you.  I would love to hear from you readers with any questions, comments, and/or concerns.  I write this blog to help you and your input is greatly appreciated!  Have a great Monday and an awesome week!

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