No, I have not gone off the deep end. Nor am I talking about an imaginary playmate (even though Jenny is always there for me when I need her)! (Just kidding.) Seriously, I have tiny friends that are not visible to the naked eye, but that nonetheless play a critical role in my health and vitality. They do the same in yours, as well. Here's the skinny on...probiotics!
Friends for life - These invisible, beneficial bacteria are our friends FOR LIFE. Yup, the word "probiotic" actually means "for life." They do the opposite of what antibiotics do, obvi. Antibiotics have a scorched-earth policy---killing bad bacteria and good bacteria alike. Probiotics fight sickness and infection by strengthening the "good guys" and providing them with reinforcements.
It takes guts - Probiotics promote the healthy gut flora that we need for proper digestion, absorption of nutrients, and to promote health and well-being. If you struggle with constipation, headaches, bloating, gas or irritability, listen to your gut! It's trying to tell you something. These symptoms could be a sign of an imbalance on the inside.
An inside job - Have you ever met someone who was just glowing with health? As much as Madison Avenue tries to persuade us to buy all of the right wrinkle-fighting and hydrating face creams, the real answer to outward beauty and vitality lies on what is happening inside our bodies. Probiotics help maintain the right balance of good and bad bacteria in our digestive tract, so that we can be healthy from the inside out.
So how do we introduce these popular little guys into our diets? You will see MANY foods touting them as ingredients. They are trendy. But a little sprinkling of probiotics is not the same as a product chock-full of them. Try any of the following to get the most bang for your bacteria buck:
1. yogurt - This is a delicious source of probiotics, but, pay attention! Not all yogurt has probiotics. Make sure the yogurt you buy has "live active cultures" on the label. (And, sorry, guys, even though it's fun to have a sweet treat now and then, frozen yogurt often does not meet this standard!)
2. kefir - fermented grains have many more strains of beneficial bacteria than just yogurt. Kefir is like yogurt on steroids. I get mine from the farm. It's a potent immune-system booster and has been shown to promote longevity.
3. kombucha - this fermented tea is one of my favorite ways to get healthy bacteria into my gut. It's tangy, fizzy, and yummy.
4. pickles or kimchi or carrots or beets or... - just about any fermented/pickled food is a good source of probiotics. I like to buy some of these products at the farmers market. They have zing and are so fresh. Our family likes to put these on our salads or in our tacos.