There are many important components to maintaining good health. If there was just one thing you could do to alter your overall state of health for the better, stay out of the doctor’s office, and avoid catching each and every virus or bacteria that make you sick enough to call up your boss and say, “I’m not coming in today”, it would be to eat foods naturally rich in probiotics like raw dairy such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and kefir, or to find a good daily probiotic supplement to take. Why?
Of course, eating a healthy diet and getting adequate rest are also really important. But your immune system, located in the intestinal tract, is the epicenter of health. It controls how the body deals with illnesses, bacteria, viruses, and disease. The most integral component of the immune system is healthy bacteria, or probiotics.
This may be a new word to you, but it is so essential to health, learning its meaning and importance to your body’s ability to function properly is more important than most people realize. If you fail to receive appropriate amounts of healthy bacteria along with proper diet and rest, problems will occur. The ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your intestinal tract is ideally about 85/15%. We have trillions of bacteria in our digestive system, so this balance is very challenging to maintain – especially with the average Western or American diet.
Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics. These living bacterial microorganisms are essential in assisting the body’s naturally occuring flora to repopulate themselves. We have become so accustomed to doctors prescribing antibiotics for illness, we seldom stop to think what those medications are actually doing to the human body. While these drugs may have immediate short-term effects we consider convenient because they allow us to return to our normal everyday activities, antibiotics effectively kill all bacteria in the body. The result is a weakened immune system that is rendered defenseless to other invaders which may come in the future. This includes any viruses as well as unfriendly bacteria that may have mutated into some other strain.
Probiotics prevent and offer protection against a wide-range of health problems. Studies also show that these friendly organisms can actually be responsible for helping to ward off serious diseases such as cancer, Diabetes, and heart disease.
The best way to obtain probiotics from good, healthy sources is to eat or drink raw dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, and traditionally-fermented foods like home-made yogurt from organic raw milk, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir (not usually the store-bought variety – check labels as there are some brands that sell truly healthy, fermented products such as Zukay).
There are also a wonderful variety of lacto-fermented vegetables that are not only rich in nutrients but also provide a wealth of flavor to the diet as well. The process of making these foods produces a by-product called whey (the protein source in dairy) which is used to develop beneficial bacteria in foods that are already nutritious. For some information on preparing vegetables this way, read Getting the Most out of Your Vegetables. Read more about the lacto-fermenetation process on the Weston A. Price Foundation site.
Some practitioners or health consultants may say that probiotics are only necessary to those with gastrointestinal problems, patients who take antibiotics, people who are susceptible to chronic yeast infections, or those who are under a lot of stress. The truth is that most people in developed countries fall into at least one of these catagories and therefore, everyone can benefit from a good quality, daily dose of probiotics. Keep in mind that all probiotics are not the same, and care must be used when choosing the appropriate type for your body. The best way to go about selecting such an important supplement for your health is to visit a healthcare practitioner that uses muscle testing or other effective method, to determine which probiotic will effectively maintain immune system performance at its optimal function. In today’s market, probiotics can be found nearly everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations to health food stores. Choosing the correct type can be overwhelming and confusing.
Where to Find Effective Probiotics
If you choose not to seek guidance from a healthcare practitioner, here is a list of superior probiotic products that will improve your health even without testing:
Complete Probiotics from Mercola.com.
Doctors Formula ultra high potency probiotics – 100 million strains per capsule. Recommended as dietary support for autism and related medical conditions .
Bio-Kult – manufactured in Somerset, U.K., this powerful, effective product contains 14 strains and 2 billion per 2 capsules of friendly bacteria.
Prescript-Assist from SaferMedical. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results.
Nature’s Life Green Apple Pro-96 Acidophilus Probiotic (also widely available in health food stores around the country). This product is great because its liquid state allows for greater absorp-ability. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results.
Advanced Naturals – containing 50 billion cultures per capsule, recommended by colon hydrotherapists.
Biotics Research Corporation is an outstanding leader in health supplements. Biotics Research sells various superior quality probiotic supplements. To learn more about Biotics Research and determine which of these is right for you, have a look at their web site and consult a professional practitioner. I have personally taken them for over two years with fantastic results.
A Word About Yogurt
Many people popularly believe the misconception that eating grocery store yogurt is a good way to keep your digestive system working properly. Unfortunately, this practice does not do the job everyone thinks it does. The reality is, even the “organic” labeled products have flaws that prevent our digestive system from reaping the benefits of the important probiotics supposedly contained within the package. One major problem is that 99% of yogurts on the market contain some type of sugar (even so-called “benign” sugars such as maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, or fructose). Sugar is the number one, arch enemy to populating your digestive tract with friendly bacteria. So instead of adding to the good bacteria, the sugar content is simply causing your digestive system more duress by growing more bad bacteria. The second reason yogurt is inferior for promoting good bacteria is that the dairy product itself has been processed and most notably, pasteurized. The process of pasteurization kills most good bacteria, thus rendering the yogurt useless to your digestive tract.
When people ask why I don’t eat most store-bought yogurt anymore, I explain for the reasons above, I don’t want to consume something that is not useful to my health. Although homemade yogurt does take a bit of effort, the health results are worth it. Here is a recipe for making homemade yogurt that leaves good bacteria intact.It’s really much easier than many people would imagine, can turn out exceptionally delicious, and the health benefits it confers are fantastic!
If you are hesitant to embark upon making your own, here are some good brands which sell organic yogurt from grass-fed cows that do provide some nutritional benefit:
Beware of products on the mainstream market such as Activia by Dannon and YoPlus by Yoplait. Contrary to product labeling and marketing, these products are not whole foods by any imagination-stretch and do not provide nutrition. They contain ingredients such as corn syrup, sugar, fructose, modified corn starch, and pasteurized dairy that is skim or non-fat (altered and not whole or raw). All of these ingredients spell trouble for the digestive system because they do not guarantee live delivery of necessary bacteria into the intestinal tract and add more toxins to your body. Even though these companies add fruit like strawberries to their product so you will better enjoy the flavor, fruit is an unnecessary additive and may actually inhibit the delivery of friendly bacteria into your gut.
Remember that while all these companies are in business to make money, those listed that produce probiotic supplements are reliable companies working to improve people’s health and have used studies and research to back up their claims, while the others are not presenting the whole truth to their consumers about the effectiveness of their products – nor the manner in which they are produced – and use marketing lingo to sell products. A simple comparison of the net nutritional value of those listed above should clearly reveal the quality of ingredients and efficacy of their use.
Resolution for Allergies
Along with a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, the use of probiotics can also greatly reduce the body’s reaction to allergies of many kinds. A great deal of practitioners and patients alike agree that this type of supplement, when taken properly, is highly effective to greatly reducing and eliminating allergies.
Many people hold the belief that that allergies are triggered by so-called “allergens”, but this is a common misconception. Although the allergen may indeed be the culprit of allergenic symptoms, the underlying cause of allergies is almost always a weakened immune system. A key factor to avoiding allergies in foods is variety and avoidance of foods that cause symptoms. Repeated exposure to the same elements can cause allergies to develop over time. To learn more about how allergies are affected by probiotic use, read this medical journal article from Cambridge University and the Nutrition Society.
What are Prebiotics?
A significant amount of prebiotic foods are also necessary to help maintain this delicate balance of healthy immunity within the body. Prebiotics are a indigestible dietary fiber which trigger the growth of favorable bacteria and subsequently have positive effect on the intestinal flora found in your gut. Together, prebiotics and probiotics help your body in a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotics can be found in foods with sugar. But since sugar itself is an enemy to the body, we must select the correct types of sugar for this need. Here are some foods with good prebiotic content:
- raw dairy products
- inulin, found in 36,000 plants, such as:
fruits – apples and bananas
sweet vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks
raw apple cider vinegar – mix with water, juice, or over salads with healthy oils such as olive and grapeseed oil
herbs – dandelion, burdock, and chicory root
For more information on probiotics and prebiotics, visit the following sites: