The Benefits of Homemade Probiotics


Fresh Sauerkraut with Carrots

There's an old saying: Big bugs have little bugs, upon their backs to bite 'em; and so on and so on and so on, ad infinitum. Some of those little bugs live inside you, especially in the intestines, where they are sometimes called beneficial bacteria. Known as the gut microbiome, millions of microorganisms affect your health in very positive ways.

Fermentable carbohydrates feed the gut microbiome, as do certain kinds of fiber found in leafy greens like kale. These probiotics may include starches, dietary fibers, other non-absorbable sugars, sugar alcohols and oligosaccharids. Each feeds one or more types of beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods like yogurt that contain live cultures (see the label) can support the gut microbiome, as can sourdough breads and various kinds of fermented pickles or pickled foods.

Good Choices for Fermented Foods

When choosing probiotic foods, it's better to select raw rather than pasteurized foods, as pasteurization kills the beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods should be made with salt and water rather than vinegar. Foods like spicy fermented kimchee, a Korean dish, or old-fashioned fermented sauerkraut, are good choices. Such foods are more likely to be available in a health food store, although some supermarkets may carry them. You can even make your own; recipes on food fermentation are readily available.

Although probiotics are probably best known for their role in digestive health, they have other benefits. They are known to boost the immune system response. Probiotics can be used to prevent and treat urinary tract and vaginal infections, and often help people who have irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics can combat insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition. Most importantly, if you're trying to lose weight with a whole food program like that at Metabolic Research Center, probiotics can boost your nutrient uptake, giving you more mileage out of your food.

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