You may have heard about probiotics and wondered what they are and what health benefits they claim to provide, or if perhaps they’re just another trendy health-related fad. In fact, probiotics are actually live bacteria and yeasts found in some foods and supplements that research has shown can treat and even prevent some illnesses.1
Probiotics, or “good bacteria”, are also naturally found in your body. While research into the effectiveness and function of probiotics is ongoing, doctors often recommend using them when you have gut-related conditions like irritable bowl syndrome, inflammatory bowl disease, infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites), and antibiotic-related diarrhea because their primary function is to help move food through the digestive system effectively.2
Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and certain kinds of sauerkraut and pickles that are prepared without vinegar as the pickling agent. They are also found in supplement form, however you need to be cautious about what supplements you are taking since there are different kinds of probiotics. Always check with your doctor before adding any over the counter supplements to your diet to make sure they are right for you and won’t interact with any prescription medication you may be taking.
If you want to try adding probiotics to your diet in a more natural way, eating fermented food is the way to go. You can certainly purchase fermented food and foods that have added probiotics, but you can also try making your own fermented pickles and sauerkraut.
According to Food Safety News,3 fermented vegetables can be safer than raw vegetables because when made correctly, the fermentation process kills harmful bacteria. However you do need to follow basic food-safety practices including thoroughly washing your vegetables, your hands, your work surfaces and the containers you’ll be using for fermenting. You also need to ensure that your vegetables are always below the level of the brine, that you use the recommended amount of salt, and that you are aware of the temperature in your home because temperature impacts the length of time it takes to ferment.
Check out these tips and recipes for making your own fermented pickles:
- Fermented pickles from My Humble Kitchen
- Fermented sauerkraut from Wellness Mama
- Safe fermenting practices from Food Safety News
There is still more research to be done into the effectiveness of probiotics, but evidence does suggest that these busy little bacteria may be a good way to improve gut and overall health.
For more information about the ways probiotics may help you, visit Healthline and WebMD. For additional information about the potential health benefits of fermented foods, check out Mercola.com. To learn more about bacteria in general – and how sometimes they are misunderstood – read our article on bacteria’s bad rap.
414627E CAN/US (02/17)