I don’t know if you have noticed but over the past year or so there has been a ton of new marketing focused on yogurt and smoothie products containing “live cultures” or more specifically probiotics. I mean c’mon, you must have seen that commercial with all the Jamie Lee Curtis and skinny women running around singing Activia!, loving life and eating yogurt.
But what exactly are probiotics and are they all that they are supposed to be cracked up to be? Are they necessary? Can we get enough of them from whole food or should we take a supplement? Will they really help our digestive system so we don’t need a full lenght novel like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo every time we go to the bathroom?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to any of these questions nor have I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but I plan to do my research to share with all of you. I could use a little fiction and microorganisms in my life.
I have always been a huge supporter of yogurt and the new front runner greek yogurt for not only the great protein and calcium content but also the live cultures. You know, the L acidophilosaurus rex an the B bacterium instomachus yum. (What did he just say?)
The one thing that I do know about intestinal flora is that it contributes to digestion and absorbtion of nutrients and protects our innards from evil tummy bugs like E. Coli and salmonella. The indoor plumbing where these healthy bacteria reside is your large intestine which covers over 75% of your body’s immune system.
Over all, there are over 400 known species of these microbes living in your digestive tract helping to protect your immune system. It is a very important job and your first line of defense against viruses and other stomach bugs. Think the Battle of Mordor from Lord of the Rings going on in your intestion: good vs. evil.
Good food sources include yogurt of course as well as fermented foods like saurkraut, kimchi and kombucha. Another great source of probiotics which I have recently added to my diet is kefir, which is a probiotic yogurt-like drink. I have been drinking the Lifeway brand plain kefir throughout the day to aid in digestion since I have been taking in extra calories lately…not always to the liking of my stomach. Believe it or not, after a week the probiotics made a huge difference.
Things that can affect the healthy bacteria are changes in diet, stress, hormones, radiation, pollution, antibiotics, infection and Jillian Michaels. All things that I’m sure effect you in one way or another. And a decrease in the good guys means an increase in the bad guys which will cause poor digestion, poor nutrient absortion and a lower immune system.
I have not taken probiotic supplements but I know a few people who have and had great success. Tablets, drinks, chewables and acidophilus pearls are available for your supplemental pleasure.
Another great way to make sure that your little squirmy dudes are doing their job is to make sure you are eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods that may irritate the lining of your intestine. Just another good reason to stock up on fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains.
Post your questions and comments below, I would love to hear your take on probiotics.