The pros of probiotics

Bacteria is all around us. There are more prokaryotic cells than there are eukaryotic cells. Let’s think about that for a second: eukaryotic cells are your cells­ – your skin cells, your blood cells, your tissues and your organs. Prokaryotic cells are the cells that aren’t you; they are the bacteria living in your blood, on your skin, and most importantly your gut. Now, this isn’t meant to gross anyone out — it’s just a fact that we live in conjunction with many tiny little life forms.

One important distinction to make is that some bacteria are good and some are bad. For example, we’ve all gotten sick before and we’ve all gotten infections. That is an example of bad bacteria taking over your cells and causing an adverse reaction. If you take an antibiotic, you wipe out everything, the good and the bad. So after taking an antibiotic, you want to make sure you’re replenishing the good bacteria in your body. We do need the good bacteria to survive, especially the bacteria in our gut. These bacteria help you digest certain foods that you normally wouldn’t be able to do.

In order to maintain a healthy culture of good bacteria in your gut, you have to constantly resupply these probiotics. Every time you go to the bathroom, you are excreting both good and bad bacteria. They are constantly getting flushed out of your system, which is why it’s so important to resupply your gut with the good bacteria. This can be done through probiotic supplements or your diet. As many probiotics can be expensive to buy, many people choose to go the nutrition route. So, what can you eat to make sure you’re getting enough of the good bacteria into your food processing system?

The first one that everyone probably knows about is yogurt. How many times have you gone to the store and seen a container labeled: one million active cultures. Active cultures is synonymous with “good bacteria.” So, make sure when you’re picking out your yogurt you are picking a variety that does provide you with some of these probiotics.

Another source that people may or may not be aware of is called kefir. Kefir is a cross between milk and yogurt; it is not as thick as yogurt, but is definitely thicker than milk, with a smoothie-like consistency. It has a sour taste, similar to Greek yogurt. It is very good in smoothies, or you can purchase it pre-mixed with fruit and drink it right out of the bottle. Kefir is an excellent source of probiotics, so it is an excellent source for people who may want to try something a little different than yogurt.

If you are lactose intolerant, there are other ways you can get the good bacteria in your gut besides these dairy products. These next foods are less widely known sources of probiotics but contain just as many cultures as yogurt and kefir. One food that many people consume but don’t realize has probiotics in it are pickles. The next time you go out to eat with your friends and want to give away the pickle that comes on the side of your plate, reconsider giving it away. It’s going to provide you with some healthy probiotics.

Along those same lines, sauerkraut is also a good source of probiotics. Although we’re almost past the brat-grilling stages of summer, you may have a few more cookouts in the near future. Not only is sauerkraut delicious on brats, it makes that summertime meal a little bit healthier for you!

So sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and yogurt are your go-to foods to get some good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are an important part of your diet for optimal gastrointestinal health and your tummy will feel much happier when it is stocked with all these helpful cells.

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Audrey Miller is a writer for The Lorian.

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