Chapter 9: Probiotics and the Gut
Prebiotics are key to good gut health, but probiotics are equally important. There are some misunderstandings about the difference between prebiotics and probiotics. Some people even think that they are the same thing. However, this isn’t the case at all. Probiotics are very different from prebiotics, but they are no less vital to good gut health and a strong immune system.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live yeasts and bacteria that offer many health benefits, especially for the digestive system. Usually, we think of bacteria as being bad for you and causing diseases. However, the human body is actually full of different bacteria. While some bacteria are bad, others are good and can help to keep the gut healthy and functioning properly.
Probiotics can be found in certain foods such as yogurt as well as in certain supplements. They are often recommended by doctors to aid in the relief of digestive disturbances.
Probiotics work to keep us healthy by:
· Replacing the good bacteria inside the body that are lost through taking antibiotics.
· Balancing the bad and good bacteria levels so your body can continue to function in the way that it should.
Many bacterial types are kinds of probiotic. All offer different benefits. However, the majority are covered by two main groups:
· Lactobacillus – this probiotic is the most common. You find it in fermented foods and yogurt. Different strains help to treat diarrhea and may be helpful for people who are unable to digest the sugar in milk known as lactose.
· Bifidobacterium – this probiotic can also be found in some types of dairy product. It helps to reduce the symptoms associated with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and some other conditions.
Saccharomyces Boulardii is a yeast that can be found in probiotics. It helps combat digestive problems and diarrhea.
How can Probiotics Improve Immunity?
It’s known that probiotics can boost your immune system, inhibiting harmful gut bacterial growth in your body. Not only that, but some probiotics promote your body’s natural antibody production. They may even boost the immune cells such as T lymphocytes, natural killer cells and IgA-producing cells.
Reviews have found that if you take probiotics, you’re less likely to suffer from respiratory infections, and any you do develop will last for less time. The probiotic known as Lactobacillus Crispatus has also been proven to reduce the chances of developing a urinary tract infection by as much as 50 percent.
How can I Include More Probiotics in my Diet?
Although there are a number of different types and classes of probiotics, some common ones include:
· Saccharomyces Boulardii
Sometimes, food manufacturers call probiotics “active cultures” or “live cultures”. They are all the same thing. Many fermented foods contain probiotics. This essentially means that the bacteria inside those foods are still alive. Often, the process of producing food destroys any living bacteria in them. When products are left on a store shelf without being refrigerated, it may be unable to contain active and live probiotics.
Some dairy products that are known to contain probiotics include:
· Kefir (a probiotic milk drink)
· Aged cheeses like mozzarella, gouda, and cheddar
· Traditional uncultured buttermilk
However, there are some foods that aren’t dairy but still contain probiotics. These include:
· Non-dairy yogurt
· Sour, fresh dill pickles
· Kombucha (a fermented tea)
· Natto (made from fermented soybean)
· Water or brine-cured olives
Many different probiotic foods are available, and this means that you have plenty of options when it comes to including them in your daily diet. There is sure to be something to suit your individual tastes, whether you prefer sweet or savory foods.
Some ways of adding probiotics to your healthy diet include:
· Having a breakfast made up of probiotic yogurt along with nuts, flax seeds and berries.
· Making a stir fry that uses tempeh instead of meat. Make sure to add tempeh right at the end of the cooking process since excessive heat may destroy its active cultures.
· Adding miso into soup.
· Drinking beverages that are rich in probiotics like kombucha or kefir as a snack in the mid-morning.
· Serving sauerkraut alongside your main meal as a side dish.
Remember though that certain foods like yogurt often contain extra sugars, so try to choose ones that contain minimal sugars, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavorings to ensure the best possible health.
Bear in mind too, that there are some misconceptions about probiotics. Just because certain types of food contain probiotics, that doesn’t mean that other similar food types do. As an example, not every yogurt will contain active and live cultures, and those that do will usually be clearly marked.
Also, not every type of fermented food contains live cultures. Some fermented foods that don’t contain probiotics include:
· Soya sauce
· Sourdough bread
That is because these foods have undergone additional processing that causes the live cultures to be made inactive. Processes like filtering, pasteurization and baking kill the live cultures so they offer no health benefits.
Chapter 10: Top 10 Immunity Boosting Foods to add to Your Diet
Are you ready to experience the benefits that come along with adding immunity boosting foods to your everyday diet? As you’ve already seen, there are many different ways to increase your immunity simply by changing what you eat each day. So, whether you’re ready to add more prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants or polysaccharides into your eating regime, here are ten of the top foods you should consider eating more of. This will improve your resistance to illnesses and diseases.
1. Citrus Fruits
You’ve almost certainly been told at some point that vitamin C should be your first port of call if you’ve caught a cold, and there’s a good reason for this. Vitamin C is known to help boost your immune system. It does this by increasing the number of white blood cells that your body produces, and this holds the key to combating infections. Virtually all citrus fruits have a high vitamin C content, and since there are so many different ones to pick from, you can easily add this vitamin into any meal. Some popular citrus fruits are:
Since the human body can’t store or produce vitamin C you have to eat it every day to continue in good health. Adults are recommended to eat 75 mg each day if they are female or 90 mg each day if they are male.
2. Red Bell Peppers
Citrus fruits contain plenty of vitamin C, but amazingly red bell peppers contain around three times more vitamin C than a Florida orange together with plenty of beta carotene. Vitamin C doesn’t just boost your immunity, it also improves the condition of your skin, while beta carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A to promote healthy skin and eyes.
Supercharged with minerals and vitamins, broccoli contains lots of vitamins E, C and A together with antioxidants and fiber. This makes it an especially healthy vegetable. To keep it as potent as possible it should be eaten raw or only lightly cooked. Steaming is one of the best ways to preserve its beneficial nutrients.
Found in virtually every world cuisine, garlic adds zing to your food and also improves your health and well-being. Its value in combating infections has been recognized for generations, and it may also slow down the hardening of the arteries as well as lowering blood pressure. The immune boosting properties of garlic are due to its high concentration of allicin and other sulfur containing compounds.
You may have heard about people using ginger if they are sick, and this is due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It can help reduce inflammatory illnesses and sore throats while also helping to combat nausea. When it’s incorporated into sweet desserts, it packs heat in the shape of gingerol, which is related to capsaicin. Ginger has also been shown to decrease chronic pain while also possessing cholesterol-lowering properties.
Not only does spinach have a high vitamin C content, it’s also packed with beta carotene and other antioxidants. Both of these can boost your immune system’s infection-fighting capabilities. Like broccoli, spinach should be minimally cooked to preserve its nutrients, but if it’s cooked lightly, its vitamin A content can be more easily absorbed, and other nutrients can be more easily released from an antinutrient known as oxalic acid.
You should look out for yogurt that is marked with a phrase saying that it contains active and live cultures. Greek yogurt is one such type. These cultures are believed to stimulate the immune system to fight disease. Whenever possible, choose plain yogurts instead of flavored ones that are packed with sugar.
It’s possible to sweeten a plain yogurt yourself using a little honey and some healthy fruit like berries. Yogurt is also a good vitamin D source, so try choosing brands that have been fortified with that vitamin. Vitamin D regulates your immune system, boosting your natural defense against disease.
When you want to prevent or fight off a cold, you probably choose vitamin C over vitamin E, yet vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can hold the key to a well-functioning and healthy immune system. Vitamin E is fat-soluble, so it requires fat to be present in order to be properly absorbed.
Nuts like almonds are filled with this vitamin and they also contain healthy fats. An adult only requires around 15 mg of vitamin E daily. Forty-six shelled whole almonds (or a half cup serving) will provide all of your recommended daily intake.
9. Sunflower Seeds
These seeds are packed with nutrients like magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins E and B6. Vitamin E has a key role to play in maintaining and regulating the function of your immune system. Some other foods that contain a lot of vitamin E include dark leafy greens and avocados. Not only are sunflower Page | 80 seeds high in these nutrients, they also have a high selenium content. Only 1 oz contains 50 percent of the selenium the average adult requires each day.
Turmeric is often used in curry and this bitter, bright yellow spice has historically been used as an anti-inflammatory to treat both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. A high concentration of curcumin (that gives turmeric its yellow coloring) helps to reduce the damage to the muscles caused by exercise. It also helps to boost the immune system to protect you from illnesses and diseases.
Maintaining a healthy immune system couldn’t be more important if you want to live a long and healthy life. Without a well-functioning immune system, you are at a high risk of developing an illness or disease.
Once you have become sick, you will struggle to combat it and fight it off to return to full health. From struggling to overcome the common cold to finding it difficult for wounds to heal after an injury, an impaired immune system brings a host of issues that would be better avoided.
It’s also important to understand the importance of a strong immune system when it comes to preventing serious health conditions like cancer. Cancer has been linked to a poorly functioning immune system, and if you already have cancer, the treatments that are given to help can reduce the function of the immune system still further.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both impact your immunity negatively, putting you at even greater risk of suffering from other illnesses. Therefore, ensuring that you take every step to keep your immunity at optimal level is essential.
As you’ve seen in this book, one of the best ways to improve your immune system is through a healthy diet. We all know that eating well, with well-balanced meals on a daily basis, can keep us at an appropriate bodyweight. That will ensure that we stay as well as possible. However, we don’t always realize the effect that nutrition can have on our immune systems.
If we suffer from malnutrition, our immune system suffers. A lack of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals can lead, in the end, to illnesses, diseases and ongoing medical problems. Therefore, ensuring that you avoid the dangers of malnutrition is imperative to protect your overall well-being.
Not only is it possible to protect your immunity by avoiding malnutrition through eating a well-balanced, healthy diet every day, but you can actively give your immune system a boost by adding certain foods into your dietary regime. There are a number of different food items that have been shown in scientific research to offer a host of benefits for the immune system. These give it a little additional support when it comes to combating diseases and illnesses and eradicating the invaders that it encounters on a daily basis.
Some of the foods that you should be including in your daily diet to improve your immunity include:
· Superfoods such as berries, garlic, kale and chia seeds that are known to contain beneficial compounds and nutrients that promote good immune health.
· Phytochemicals – plant-derived chemicals that have antiinflammatory properties to boost the immune system and help it to combat the invaders that it encounters.
· Antioxidants – there are many foods that contain antioxidants and that are known to reduce inflammation in the body and combat the free radicals that are responsible for the oxidative stress that causes illnesses of many kinds.
· Polysaccharides – these compounds support the body’s natural immunity by boosting the effectiveness of the cells’ destroying properties.
· Plant-based foods – foods that are derived from plants have been shown to help protect you from cancer and other diseases related to the immune system.
· Prebiotics – these foods can help to protect the gut through the fiber that they contain and this, in turn, boosts your body’s natural immunity.
· Probiotics – these foods are known to boost good gut health, reducing the number of bad bacteria and increasing the number of good bacteria. So, you can have a better balance of the essential gut flora that are required to ensure optimal protection against disease and optimal immunity for your body.
The overall message is that eating healthy foods like whole grains, legumes, healthy oils, fruits, vegetables and fermented foods is the best way to boost your body’s own natural immune system. Therefore, you can have the best possible chance of a long and happy life with minimal chance of serious diseases. With a strong immune system, you’re less likely to get sick, and if you do, you’ll have a good chance of being able to fight off the disease before it causes any serious harm.