What are probiotics?
A huge portion of our body's immune system (70%!) lives within our gut. Healthy gut flora is made up of trillions of tiny microbes which not only work to keep you healthy and digest your food, but also help to keep bad bacteria from taking hold and growing out of control.
Probiotic foods have been shown to populate the gut with healthy bacteria to bolster your immune system, some great options are:
Yogurt - make sure it is labeled as having live & active cultures, and skip the brands that are loaded with sugar. There are also alternatives to regular dairy products: Forager Project's Chashewgurt, it is a yogurt and also a drinkable smoothie that is loaded with probiotics, and is dairy free. My personal favorite is SO Delicious Coconut Yogurt, another great option is Cocoyo, both available at Whole Foods.
Kefir - I am taking a break from dairy (I am trying a low inflammation diet as I have recently developed psoriatic arthritis), but for the past year following my C. diff infection I drank Lifeway which contains "12 live and active cultures and 15 to 20 billion beneficial CFU (Colony Forming Units)." Trader Joe's has a great selection of Kefir, including kefir made from goat milk. If you are looking for dairy-free kefir checkout Whole Foods for nut based kefir and coconut kefir.
Kombucha - is a fermented tea, I LOVE Revive Kombucha (my favorite flavor is Campfire) so far I have been able to find it at Whole Foods and some flavors are available on Amazon Fresh. I also like the Trilogy and Health-Ade brands. Always check the sugar content on your kombucha some can contain more as much as a soda or more than a doughnut!
Sauerkraut - I eat Sauerkraut almost everyday, I like the Trader Joe's brand, Bubbies Sauerkraut is also good. When I was growing up in Northern California my step-father used to make his own pickles and sauerkraut from our family garden, this year I have BIG plans to make my own sauerkraut, and to brew my own Kombucha!
Kimchi - my husband swears that SARS skipped Korea because of Kimchi and will eat a jar of "Mother-in-Law's Kimchi" in one sitting. There is also now a Trader Joe's brand of Kimchi.
Raw Honey - Raw honey contains L. kunkeei bacteria. Amazon has a great deal on raw honey and my entire family loves it.
Green Olives - (or other brine cured varieties).
Miso Soup - which is made from fermented soybeans and grains.
Tempeh - made from fermented soybeans it is also a good source of protein.
Natto - (the only food on this list I don't eat on a regular basis, if you try it let me know what you think, I've heard mixed reviews).
Prebiotics are also very important to gut health, as prebiotics supply the non-digestible fiber that the good bacteria in our guts use as their food source. Here is a list of some prebiotic foods:
Seaweed (I like the snack packs at Trader Joes)
Bananas (slightly green).
Onions (cooked and raw)
Raw dandelion greens
Probiotics are especially important if you are taking an antibiotic. Antibiotics wipe out the good bacteria along with the bad, leaving you open to a pathogenic bacterial infection known as C. difficile. It is important to practice antibiotic stewardship not only to fight antibiotic resistance and preserve the antibiotics that we have for those who truly need them, but it also important to be an antibiotic steward for our own bodies. Each time an antibiotic is used gut flora is wiped out, it can take two years to repopulate and some species of gut flora may not be regained.