Hippocrates considered the father of medicine, once wisely stated, “All disease begins in the gut.” Current and ongoing medical research is proving how true that statement made centuries ago, really may be.

It does indeed appear that in order to achieve excellent health, it begins in our gut – specifically our large intestine.  Our large intestine – the colon – is home to hundreds of trillions of bacteria.  This may sound gross but those bacteria, which are considered “good,” are extremely beneficial in performing many vital bodyily functions.  For example, they help keep “bad” bacteria at bay, play a role in immunity, help us digest food and absorb nutrients, and may even have anticancer effects.

These “good” bacteria are also known as probiotics which naturally live in the colon.  Probiotics have the job of promoting good gut health along with making sure your digestive system runs efficiently.  These active cultures help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora particularly boosting our gut health.  For instance, probiotics have been used for managing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.  Some strains of these live cultures may help prevent specific allergy symptoms or reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance.  However, the effects can vary from person to person.

Although probiotics are available as dietary supplements, it is not necessary to use special pills, potions, cleanses or other concoctions to get probiotics into your diet.  Fortunately, these “natural nutrition boosters” are found already within everyday food.  In fact, when probiotics are consumed as a food source, they are much more readily available for absorption and digestion.

To help you get good gut health, start by buying natural food sources of probiotics adding them to your grocery list – here is what to include:

  • Cheese 

Fermented cheeses, such as Gouda, and some cheddars and parmesan, are probiotic-packed and are all strong enough to balance out your gut flora.  Lovers of cottage cheese can rejoice as it also is gut-tastic as well.

  • Yogurt

Yogurt is a natural source of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles since it is made from fermented milk.  Check the package on any yogurt you buy to see if it says “live active cultures” somewhere on the label.  Also look for the Live and Active Cultures seal which is the official seal of the National Yogurt Association.  This seal indicates that the yogurt has at least 100 million active cultures per gram at the time of manufacture.  Stay away from high-sugar varieties – more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.  Most of us already consume more than enough sugar in our diet.

  • Miso soup

Made from fermented beans, miso soup comes in many different flavors.  Some soups may be sweeter while others more salty.  Miso soup can be enjoyed on its’ own or you can use it as a foundation for soups and stews.  Be sure to buy the unpasteurized version as it will contain the good bacteria and active cultures.

  • Sauerkraut

Maybe sauerkraut is not your favorite food but this fermented cabbage is a winner when it comes to probiotics.  This sour and tangy treat which can be enjoyed on its’ own is popular in cultures of Russia and Germany.  Others like to top a hot dog or sausage with it or add sauerkraut to a pastrami sandwich.  Look for the raw version when shopping for it.

  • Kombucha

Made with lightly sweetened tea that goes through a fermentation process, kombucha is an increasingly popular drink that tastes delicious and is nutritious.  This tea contains a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast floating on top and has been linked with increasing energy and improving digestion.

  • Kefir

You must try a sip of Kefir.  This cultured, tart and tangy milk-based product works to cleanse and balance the digestive tract.  Similar to a drinking-style yogurt in texture, the refreshing flavor of kefir is a delicious source of protein, calcium and vitamin D and is lactose-free making it suitable for people who are lactose intolerant.

  • Sourdough bread

Looking for good bread for your lunch sandwich?  Consider using artisan sourdough bread to reap the probiotic rewards.  Authentic sourdough bread is made from a sourdough starter.  It’s full of yeast cultures and bacteria that arise naturally in bread flour and dough through the long fermentation process.

Categories: Health

Cheryl Mussatto

Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City, an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, Ks where she teaches Basic Nutrition, and is a blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi and nutroutine.com, an online market place connecting nutrition experts with customers worldwide. She can be contacted here.

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