Your microbiome, which is in the gut, consists of about three pounds of bacteria. It’s often referred to as the body’s Grand Central Station for good reason. Over 80 percent of serotonin is produced in the gut plus the nervous system and the immune system both take direction from the gut. Feeding the gut specific, nutrient-rich foods helps keep it and the whole body healthy.
Probiotics are a great way to feed the gut and improve the health of the microbiome. The benefits of probiotics include boosted immunity, curbed cravings, easing Irritable Bowel Syndrome and more. But, which probiotic should you choose? Grocery store shelves are full of probiotic supplements but what many don’t know is that natural foods are a rich and diverse source of probiotics trumping the single probiotic pill.
Probiotic supplements are best when specifically targeting a bacteria strain under the supervision of a health professional. Probiotic pills are limited to the strains of bacteria that can be replicated in a petri dish. On the flip side, fermented foods produce probiotics naturally during the fermentation process which results in hundreds of varieties of probiotic bacteria that are beneficial to the gut. In fact, studies have found 16 ounces of sauerkraut is equal to 8 bottles of probiotics.
Additionally, probiotic pills are tricky because the industry is only lightly regulated which leads to questions about how the product is packaged and stored. Several reports have found that you may actually only be getting about 20% of the probiotics in a pill. These types of concerns aren’t a factor with fermented foods because they are the natural, original preservation method for producing healthy bacteria the gut needs. Some cultures have been fermenting foods as long ago as 4000 BC.
Variety is the spice of life and that includes fermented foods. Krauts, kvass, kefir and kombucha are all great ferments to consume. Don’t forget cheese, yogurt, breads, wine and beer as well. The bottom line is – you are what you eat. You have a full ecosystem as a human that has to be fed. Fermented foods are the best way to feed your microbiome because it’s a natural food. Your body knows what to do with it because there’s no processing involved and it’s the purest form of probiotic.
—Suzette Smith is the founder of Garden Goddess Ferments, Phoenix’s only fermented food company. Her unique line includes fermented vegetables known as kraut and a fermented beet juice called Beet Kvass. Garden Goddess products can be found online at GardenGoddessFerments.com, local farmers markets, Amazon.com, AJ’s Fine Foods and Whole Foods in Tempe.