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Published on June 1, 2018

Top 10 Natural Probiotics for a Healthy Gut and Strong Immunity

Top 10 Natural Probiotics for a Healthy Gut and Strong Immunity

How often have you heard the expression “you are what you eat”?

This is partially true. However it goes deeper than this and I’d say that you are what you absorb. All the great food in the world doesn’t mean a lot if your body is not digesting and absorbing it properly. Today we’re looking at how important gut health is not only for digestion but your overall health and immunity, and what natural probiotics you can include in your diet to have a healthy gut.

Probiotics and your gut health

Your gut or microbiome, is a collection of bacteria that are critically important for how your body functions. The majority of the DNA in your body is actually taken up by these gut bugs and by definition, you are technically more bacteria than you are human. These gut bugs are keeping you alive along with protecting you against germs, breaking down food to release energy, making vitamins and even controlling your mood.

When the balance of good to bad bacteria gets out of whack, then you can be looking at issues like:

  • Constipation
  • Excess internal gas
  • Chronic diahrhhea
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and cramping
  • Development of food intolerance

Your immune system will also be suppressed leading to easier sickness. Your gut balance can be thrown off by things like sugar, antibiotics, alcohol, lack of physical activity, smoking and not getting enough sleep among a bunch of other things.

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So, how to improve your gut health? Probiotics can help.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can improve your gut health when consumed in adequate amounts. There are a lot of different types and getting a wide range is very beneficial. They also promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

Top 10 Natural probiotics to include in your diet

Since you want as many good gut bacteria as possible, here are the best food sources to find them in:

1. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage that is filled with probiotics. It’s made from sweetened black or green tea. Many brands now include other healthy ingredients in it such as ginger, chai, or a greens extract.

Kombucha is extremely popular right now and easy to find. It’s best to start with 4 oz a day and can be consumed on an empty stomach in the morning or at any other points in the day.

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2. Kefir

Kefir is similar to kombucha in which it’s a fermented beverage but this time coming from milk. This does sound a bit weird but is very healthy. It’s made with ‘kefir grains’ which are strains of bacteria that give the milk its probiotic content and gives a light carbonation. It’s also full of a ton of nutrients, protein and looks to be a better probiotic source than yogurt.

You can use it as a marinade, salad dressing and even in baking.

3. Pickles

Yep, the Snooki favorite! You’re looking at cucumbers that get pickled in salt and water and left to ferment using their own lactic acid bacteria. Pickles made with vinegar don’t contain probiotics but traditional pickles do. They will also give you Vitamin K and are low in calories. Remember not to go with the deep fried variety though.

4. Miso

The Japanese sesasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It’s turned into a paste and is popular for use in soups. Besides probiotics, miso is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

5. Yogurt

This is probably the main go-to food choice for probiotics but you want to be sure of a few things first.

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Many commercial varieties of yogurt are more deserts than a health food especially the ‘fruit on the bottom’ types. Most of these colorfully packaged yogurts contain so much sugar that you’re probably taking a few steps backward.

Go for natural, unflavored and make sure that it says on the package what it contains. If the package doesn’t indicate clearly its nutrients and ingredients, there’s a good chance that a lot of the good bacteria was destroyed during processing.

6. Sauerkraut

Don’t wait for Oktoberfest and a beer stein the size of a Buick, sauerkraut is good all the time! Similar to pickles, sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that is fermented by lactic acid and bacteria. It’s easy to make and can last for months in the fridge.

Along with probiotics, it contains vitamin C, vitamin B and antioxidants. It’s easy to use on said sausages or hot dogs, can be a side dish, in sandwiches and even in stews. (And no a hot dog is NOT a sandwich.)

7. Kimchi

Kimchi is like the Korean sauerkraut. It’s made from cabbage but can also include other vegetables and is seasoned with things like garlic, red chili flakes, ginger and salt etc. The lactic acid bacteria in kimchi helps make it great for digestion and contains vitamins, minerals and iron.

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8. Dark chocolate

Yes, this is actually a probiotic source. Dark chocolate contains fiber and your gut bacteria is able to break down and ferment this and other compounds and also creates anti-inflammatory effects that boost your health.

You want to make sure that you’re consuming dark chocolate that has at least 70% cacao in it and not a Toblerone that’s the size of your head. A square or two a day can provide you with some great health benefits.

9. Green olives

Salt water brined olives undergo a natural fermentation. Since olives contain lactic acid bacteria, this helps give them a good probiotic content. There are two different strains of live cultures associated with olives that are helpful to combat bloating and helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome. (And no it’s doesn’t count if you get your olive content from happy hour martinis!)

10. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is made with a yeast starter which gives it a bit more of a meaty, tender bite to it. It’s why you find vegan meat and bacon alternatives made from it. It’s a great probiotic source that is very versatile to use but also contains a lot of protein. In a 3-ounce serving, you’ll get around 16 grams of protein.

Wrapping it up

We are learning more and more about how important it is to keep our microbiome as healthy as possible. Luckily it’s not hard to include great sources of probiotics that can help boost your gut health and with that your overall health with it.

Try the above suggested natural probiotics, include them in your daily meals and you’ll gradually see improvement in your gut health!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Jamie Logie

Personal Trainer

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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