You may be aware of the recent trend for the increased consumption of probiotic foods. Probiotic foods are full of bacteria which can be extremely beneficial for an individual's digestive system. Having diverse, positive, bacteria cultures in your gut can give you many health benefits including; maintaining your correct body weight, improved digestion and nutrient absorbtion, improved immunity, higher energy levels and more...
By Amin - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68130480
The only way to improve your gut flora (positive bacteria in your gut) is through the consumption of a varied diet. The more diverse a diet is, the more diverse your gut flora will be. Certain foods hold elevated numbers of these positive bacteria. Foods containing high numbers of these bacterial cultures have come to be known as "probiotic". Amongst the best probiotic foods sources are full fat yoghurt, pickled vegetables including cabbage, Kimchi, Tempeh, Miso Soup, Kombucha Tea, kefir and micro algea.
When consuming probiotic foods it is best to eat them on an empty stomach because more of the beneficial bacterial cultures will reach your gut in tact. This is particularly important when consuming non-fatty probiotic foods. In the case of yoghurt, for example, which does contain lots of fat and water, the bacterial cultures are better able to reach your gut in tact. This is because the water content dilutes stomach acid and the fat content shields the probiotics from the stomach acid. Consuming probiotics on an empty stomach means that stomach acid has less time to break down and destroy the good bacteria.
A recent study has shown (1) that by eating probiotic foods on an empty stomach, many more of the positive bacteria reach the gut in tact. This is even more so the case, with non fatty forms. However, eating non fatty forms on a full stomach will procure little benefit, relatively speaking, as the bacteria are broken down by the stomach acid before they can reach the gut.
Another factor to be aware of, when trying to improve gut flora, is the consumption of PRE-biotics. These are foods that help the probiotic bacteria already present in the gut to remain healthy and multiply. Good sources of prebiotics include; Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leek, chicory root, dandelion roots, raw asparagus and bananas.
So, to conclude, eating a varied diet is essential to good health and a balanced lifestyle (nothing new there!). The recent fashion for consuming pre and pro biotics is simply the culmination of thousands of years of culinary knowledge, which has now been backed by science. It is no coincidence that people living into their nineties and further usually live on a frugal diet including of lots of raw, pickled and fermented foods. Raw foods as opposed to processed foods are naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, beneficial bacteria and other nutrients. Make sure you get your daily dose.
Live long and prosper!
PS - Want to make your own probiotic foods? Stay tuned for our next article in this series!
The Bushgear Team
(*1) Channel 4 - Food Unwrapped