Just what does it mean to drink your probiotics?
Drinking your probiotics delivers a thirst quenching way to boost the good bacteria or flora in your gut.
Probiotic means “for life.”
Cheers to the good life!
But why? What’s so good about the favorable flora?
News about the importance of the microbiome is not so new.
You are likely more informed about the gut and gut bacteria than the average Jane or Joe. The amount of research on how many areas of the body are impacted by the balance of intestinal flora (from brain to immune to hormonal to cardiovascular and so on) is staggering. Ample “good” bacteria in your gut is the foundation for resolving many health issues— from allergies to anger, asthma to anxiety. Those good guys can turn your emotional and immune Blahs into spirited Ahas.
We humans are made up of a lot of bacteria. And the things that affect that bacterial population, diversity, and balance are going to influence our overall health. There are a good number of factors that are key contributors, such as:
Interestingly, the Western diet is correlated with significantly different microbiome compositions than traditional diets were. We can now look at diets amongst distinct populations and communities and see variations in bacterial make-up. And we can shift our microbiome in just a day’s worth of eating… and drinking!
When we talk about eating and drinking foods that feed the microbiome, one category of foods that we all know about are the ferments. Fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi and other lacto-fermented veggies (pickles can count!) Miso, tempeh, natto, sourdough and yogurt. And our drinks like kombucha, kefir and vinegar.
Probiotic drinks can offer improved digestion, enhanced detoxification, support for sugar cravings, plus a boost of energy. Many of these drinks contain cultures that have been prized for thousands of years for improving beneficial digestive flora.
Do I need more good bacteria?
You betcha! Contemporary culture has done a number on our good guys.
And consuming our probiotic-rich foods isn’t just an occasional endeavor. It’s a practice we need to embrace often and repeatedly, because the population in your gut should be very diverse for your optimal health outcomes. Over time, we’ve lost a lot of the microbial diversity that acts as our best defense, leaving us more vulnerable to overgrowth from opportunistic or pathogenic bacterial strains.
If I’m taking a probiotic supplement do I still need to consume fermented foods and beverages?
It’s great to do both. It’s difficult to know how active your probiotic pills are after they pass through the digestive terrain. When probiotics are consumed through food and drink they’re more readily absorbed and utilized by your body. And while more isn’t always better, consistency is key.
Are probiotic drinks always sugar, gluten and dairy free?
Good question! I’m so glad you asked. It’s important to read labels. Some of the flavored kefirs contain cane sugar, and most kombucha is made with cane sugar from the start. (Jun is like kombucha but made with honey instead of sugar.) When looking at kefirs, be sure to choose a coconut kefir if you are dairy-free. Gluten shouldn’t be an issue in these fermented drinks, but again, always read actual ingredients on your labels if you are aiming to steer clear of a certain food or food category!
I choose to stay away from both refined sugar and cow dairy, so I always read through the ingredients and make no assumptions when I pick up something new to me. And if you’re making your own fermented drinks, A) brownie points! and B) you get to choose your own adventure (and ingredients) to meet your unique needs.
What about other purposes, besides drinking it straight-up?
Sure! You can use your probiotic drinks in a number of ways. Try them in smoothies. (Add at the end of the blending to keep those delicate cultures alive and well!) Use unflavored varieties to soak grains before cooking. Consume the coconut based kefirs after a workout to receive the benefits of the good flora along with the great electrolytes provided by the coconut water. Or make a “float” by dropping some store-bought or homemade coconut ice cream into the fizzy drink!
These drinks are perfect for hot late-summer days and back-to-school immune support.
So, raise a glass and guzzle some good guys for your gut!
Functional nutritionist and educator Andrea Nakayama (FNLP, MSN, CNC, CNE, CHHC) is leading patients and practitioners around the world in a revolution to reclaim ownership over our own health. Her passion for food as personalized medicine was born from the loss of her young husband to a brain tumor in 2002. She’s now regularly consulted as the nutrition expert for the toughest clinical cases in the practices of many world-renowned doctors, and trains a thousand practitioners online each year in her methodologies at Functional Nutrition Lab. Learn more about Andrea here.