Probiotics are known as the “good bacteria” that are normally found in our gut and digestive tract. They serve an important role in supporting our immune system and can even rid the body of certain harmful bacteria that are consumed in our foods. These helping hands are often recommended after or during a course of antibiotics, in efforts to replenish the normal flora of gut bacteria that get wiped away by the antibiotics. Some people have what is considered “leaky gut syndrome” where tiny holes in their digestive system allows good bacteria to escape, which leaves their body susceptible. Most of our foods are treated to get rid of any bugs that may invade them, but this also destroys the probiotics that grow within and leaves us with a lackluster source of probiotics.
Good sources of probiotics include:
- Fermented foods such as cheeses and yogurts
- Dark chocolate and tempeh
- Various pickled vegetables (sauerkraut), miso, and olives
If your diet is restricted and you can’t replenish your gut with these probiotic packed treats, “good bacteria” can also be reintroduced into our systems through probiotic supplements. There are many different formulations of probiotics that carry different strains of bacteria and amounts of active cultures, and may not be all that you’re looking for.
The truth of the matter is that most probiotics are mislabeled, impotent, inactive due to poor storage conditions, or do not contain the proper strains of bacteria that are needed. There are certain things to look for in your probiotics to ensure that you are getting the best product for you. First, look for a product that contains a wide variety of bacteria. This broad spectrum helps to ensure that the full flora is restored, but make sure that the product contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Try to find a potent product that contains ≥15 billion bacteria per capsule and make sure that an expiration date is clearly labeled on the package to ensure potency. For best results make sure to take this on an empty stomach in the morning and before you go to bed at the recommended dosage noted on the package.
Food based probiotics are usually much more potent than those found in supplements and would be the recommended source of enrichment. They carry a very broad source of bacteria and therefore cover the spectrum of what is normally found in your gut. Most of these food sources are plentiful and some can even be made at home from your favorite vegetables. The fermentation process is simple and only takes between 3-10 days. Materials you will need include a mason jar, vegetables, salt or whey, water, and your refrigerator.
- A clean, size specific, air tight jar must be cleaned prior to the process.
- Your selected vegetables can be left whole, sliced, diced, shaved, or grated to your liking.
- Select your salt: Sea salt, Himalayan salt, Pickling salt, and Kosher salt are preferred because they do not contain iodine or anti-caking agents.
- Iodized salt (table salt) is not preferred for vegetable fermentation because the iodine prevents the growth of the good bacteria.
- Dissolve your selected salt in water to create your brine (highly concentrated salt water)
- The normal ratio of salt to water is 1 tablespoon:1 cup of water
- The water source used in the process should be free from contaminants.
- Add your vegetables to the brine and ensure that they remain completely submerged.
- The vegetables must remain in an anaerobic environment for the fermentation process to work, so a cabbage leaf, or capable object must be used to keep your vegetables submerged in the brine.
- Once the fermentation process has finished, the jar should be moved to the refrigerator to preserve freshness!
- Signs of complete fermentation: bubbling, sour smell, or taste test (larger pieces take longer to acquire a fermented flavor)