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Your digestive system is a major player in the immunity game. In fact, a 1999 study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that 70-80% of the body’s immune cells reside in the gut. Furthermore, recent scientific inquiry has revealed a link between intestinal dysbiosis and anxiety and panic disorders, both of which plague a disproportionate number of Lyme patients. Needless to say, caring for your digestive system is critical to recovering from chronic illness.
Probiotic supplements are usually one of the first things prescribed by LLMDs along with antibiotics, but unfortunately supplements don’t always work as advertised. When I was first diagnosed, my doctor prescribed a cocktail of oral antibiotics along with some of the best medical-grade probiotics on the market. Three months later I was diagnosed with c. difficile. The infection was relatively easy to cure, but it took more than two years to heal the damage done by the antibiotics just enough so that I no longer experienced nausea every single day. I wish I had known about probiotic foods earlier.
Most bacteria strains found in well-made probiotic foods are heartier than those found in supplements and are more easily assimilated into the digestive tract. Here are five probiotic foods you might want to consider adding to your diet.
1. Cultured Vegetables
Cultured vegetables are perfect for people who have trouble digesting raw vegetables. Cultured vegetables provide all the nutrients and health benefits of raw vegetables, but the fermentation process makes them more easily digestible. Fiber + probiotics = a happy tummy.
You can buy premade cultured vegetables, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles, at your local health food store or you can make them yourself at home. I am very partial to Bubbies cultured foods. One of the strange neurological symptoms I have is a sensation of electrical buzzing in my head. I was astonished to find that the buzzing noticeably reduced just a few minutes after drinking an ounce of the juice from a Bubbies sauerkraut jar. The effect was temporary, but remarkable considering the number of probiotics and probiotic foods I’ve tried with no tangible benefit.
If you want to try making your own cultured vegetables, here’s an easy beginner’s guide.
Kefir is a fantastic probiotic beverage because it’s so versatile. You can make kefir with coconut, soy, nut, goat, or cow’s milk, water, or coconut water. Kefir is best made at home because it’s cheaper, fresher, and usually has more probiotic strains.
You have two options when making kefir: you can use a starter culture or kefir grains. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Starter cultures are more versatile and can be used to make dairy or non-dairy kefir, but they only last for a few batches and they’re not as rich in probiotics. Grains are specific to either dairy or water kefir, but they last forever (as long as you take care of them) and are extremely rich in probiotics.#Heal Your Gut with These 5 Delicious #Probiotic Foods & Beverages: Click To Tweet
I currently use Body Ecology’s Kefir Starter Culture, which lasts for about three batches before running out of steam. (You might be able to eke out more, depending on your climate, choice of milk, and other factors). I have a million boxes of this culture in my fridge, but I plan to switch to the more economical kefir grains when I finish them up.
Making kefir is super easy (it literally takes me less than five minutes to prepare a batch for fermenting), so it’s a great option for those who don’t have the energy to go through the rigmorale of chopping up vegetables for culturing or the money to buy premade probiotic foods.
Kombucha is a delicious carbonated beverage that will make you wonder why anyone is still drinking soda. Despite its probiotic content, I recommend drinking kombucha in moderation. There was one reported case in 1995 of a death caused by metabolic acidosis that may have been related to excessive kombucha consumption. In this case, too much of a good thing may be a bad thing. Use good judgment and pay attention to how it makes you feel.
Some health food stores offer locally brewed kombucha on tap (usually in the beer section). Whole Foods and many other health food stores carry GT’s Kombucha, which is my personal favorite. You can also make your own kombucha at home using a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).
Miso is a versatile and yummy traditional Japanese food made by fermenting soybeans. Miso is rich in nutrients and has been lauded for its ability to reduce breast cancer risk. Soy-based foods are typically difficult to digest and carry a high risk of allergic reaction, but miso is different. Beneficial bacteria pre-digest the phytic acid in the soybeans during the fermentation process and the result is a healthy, easy-to-digest food.
If you have a known soy allergy or sensitivity, you may want to buy non-soy miso just to be safe. Make sure that you choose miso made from organic, non-GMO soybeans. There are numerous ways to eat miso. If you’re making miso soup, keep in mind that heating it will kill off some of the beneficial bacteria.
Miso has to be aged for at least six months to be truly effective, so you’ll want to purchase it at a health food store or online. I recommend South River Miso Company’s One Year Miso. (According to studies conducted by Dr. Hiro Watanabe, miso is most effective when aged six months to two years.) They offer soy and soy-free options.
Yogurt is by far the most popular probiotic food in the U.S., but store-bought yogurt might not be as beneficial as you think. To obtain all of the health benefits that high quality yogurt has to offer, I recommend making it yourself. Making yogurt is more involved than making kefir, but it might be worth the hassle if you prefer the thicker consistency or want to add it to other recipes. Having a yogurt maker will make the process easier.
There are a few different types of starter cultures including traditional American-style, Greek, and vegan, which you can use with dairy-free milks like rice or soy.
If your gut needs extra help, I strongly recommend adding a healing bone broth to your diet and taking a carbon supplement like Restore.
What is your favorite probiotic food?