We already researched which are the best probiotics, but here’s how to stick to your probiotic health habit!
Probiotics help support the billions of good bacteria living in and helping to run your body, collectively called your “flora.” In our chemically altered, too-clean world, we need to support our own flora by consuming real probiotics on a regular basis.
Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to find a way to get probiotics at every meal.
Maybe it will be for one day this week, just to see if you can do it. Maybe you try to go three days in a row. Maybe you’re ready to do a full week, or a lifestyle change!
Either way, let’s brainstorm the many different ways one can incorporate healthy probiotics into their daily routine.
Where Should Probiotics Come From?
Using a supplement, whether in pill, powder, or chocolate form, may be the easiest way to get probiotics, but it’s not necessarily the best.
As one who ascribes to a traditional foods philosophy, naturally I’d prefer to find the way in which humankind consumed probiotics before the advent of the gelatin capsule.
It wasn’t “eat dirt,” if you were going there.
Of course, people discovered fermented foods and the value they added to health many moons ago:
Captain Cook’s sailors were fed fermented cabbage on their voyages, since it was well known at that time as an effective way to prevent scurvy. We now know that this is due to the action of live lactic bacteria, which facilitate the synthesis of vitamin C.
Source: Wise Choice Market; “Maximize Your Nutrients”
Beyond the already-awesome value of fermentation, raw fermented vegetables have the added bonus of enzymes, which are vital to good digestion. We Americans eat so much cooked or pasteurized food devoid of enzymes that it’s no wonder many people suffer from digestive upset.
Raw and fermented food is packed with enzymes – there are more created through the fermentation process – and they are even easier to digest already because fermentation begins to break down the vegetables so your system doesn’t have to do as much work. It’s a win-win…win-some-more kind of situation, and if you’re the eater, you win!
Read more about digestive enzymes at this article: How do Food Enzymes Help Digestion?
The bottom line is that food should be one of your sources of probiotics, every day.
RELATED: Seed Synbiotic Probiotic Review
Why Probiotics Every Day?
As I mentioned in the soil-based organisms post, it’s likely that lactic acid bacteria that we take in doesn’t take up residence in our guts but rather is passed through within a few days or less. For that reason, it’s important to consume fermented foods frequently.
Many recommend having a bit of fermented food at the beginning of each meal. The enzymes found in fermented veggies prepare and assist the system in digesting whatever comes next. I imagine the probiotic food, whatever it is, running through the tubes like a Zamboni, sealing things off so everything goes smoothly. Whether that’s an accurate image at all, I don’t know, but how often does a food blogger get to type the word “Zamboni” and mean it? I’m sticking with that one.
Probiotics really are important for sealing and healing the gut, as evidenced by their prime real estate in the GAPS Diet. Those on GAPS are generally trying to heal the gut after years of abuse by eating the wrong foods. Taking a good probiotic supplement and eating fermented foods, starting with sauerkraut juice typically, is a first step toward recovery.
Why a Variety of Probiotics?
Just as everybody’s system is different, from our tastebuds to our skin tone, various bacteria (remember that “probiotics” is the term for the healthy bacteria that coexist with us) have different roles in the body. Many people find they benefit from switching up their probiotic supplement every few months, but I also encourage you to eat fermented foods from a variety of sources.
One clear example of the need for multiple kinds of ferments is found in this article on how kefir is more diverse than yogurt. The article explains that while the probiotics in yogurt do pass through the gut within a few days, those in kefir actually “help colonize the intestinal tract,” sticking around for a while. (Wow, I should really get around to trying some dairy kefir…)
Where to Get Probiotics at Every Meal
The best way to incorporate probiotics throughout the day isn’t to take a pill once (although that’s still probably a good idea). It’s to have a variety of food that’s fermented available.
Here are some of the ways I get my probiotics as often as I can:
- Homemade yogurt nearly daily, of course
- Water kefir and kombucha – these are great options in the summer to keep us hydrated, as well – you can order all sorts of starters for cultured things from Cultures for Health
- Traditional fermented sauerkraut and kimchi – I learned how to make these using the helpful video tutorials in the Traditional Cooking School ecourse – it’s worth exploring the “fermentation” class.
- Other fermented foods – I’ve tried a few of the chutneys from the TCS eCourse and menu planners, and they’re good. A chutney is sweeter, something you can put on yogurt or oatmeal, and it’s nothing like the tang of eating sauerkraut. And they make more sense for breakfast, see above.
- Buy traditionally fermented food – Wise Choice Market sells honest-to-goodness, WAPF approved organic cultured raw vegetables. I got to try some samples, and they’re really good. I particularly like the sliced carrots, perhaps as much because they’re easy to grab without a fork as because I really like the spices. They taste quite a bit like a mildly spicy pickle – with a twist of mustard seed, I think – and I love pickles and mustard!
- Traditional food preparation takes a long time and a lot space, so it does come to you at a price. I value the ability and the intimacy of making my own fermented foods…but if one doesn’t have time or energy, it’s a blessing to be able to purchase the very things that may help you get healthier, perhaps increase your energy. I remember reading about someone starting the GAPS intro diet and paying a close friend to make the sauerkraut and bone broth for her, because she knew she would be down and out and not able to keep up with kitchen tasks. Had she known about Wise Choice Market, she could have gotten the vegetables there.
- Ferment condiments – homemade lacto-fermented mayo and Caesar dressing are just one simple step beyond just making them homemade without fermenting – you practically have no excuse!
- Use raw apple cider vinegar in your salad dressings instead of lemon juice or wine vinegar.
- Add yogurt to cold salads like potato salad in place of some of the dressing or mayo.
- Use yogurt cheese – in your sandwiches, in dips, or even in the perfect summertime dessert, healthy fruit pizza. Probiotic fruit pizza!!!
- Add frozen whey cubes to your smoothies (we make green smoothies)
- Try probiotic chocolate as a way to really, really enjoy this Monday Mission!
- Take a probiotic supplement – I used to take this one from Garden of Life, but I’ve learned some very interesting info about soil-based organism probiotics vs. the lactic acid kind… This one was recommended by my naturopath, but many brands that include L. acidophilus along with others complementing it, like B. Bifidum, would be good. She mentioned L. casei is pretty strong and often overtakes others, so I personally looked for a brand on the shelf at my local health food store that didn’t include that one. Lately, we like the Miessence brand powdered probiotic, or the liquid for kids because it’s easy to take and has a great balance of probiotics. The powder takes a little getting used to, but I figured out the best way to take it.
If you have a baby or very young children, I have a whole post about how to get probiotics into babies and children and why it’s so important.
Some Quality ProbioticsSome of these I’ve used, some I’m planning to use, and some have been recommended by friends and professionals alike. It’s good to remember a few things about probiotics: 1. People should get different colonies of probiotics, so switching brands/strains every so often (6 weeks?) is good practice. 2. What works great for one person’s needs doesn’t always work for another. I’ve personally tried:
- Just Thrive Probiotics – this one can be taken during antibiotics and not be rendered ineffective, which almost all other probiotics are! It’s the top-recommended probiotic overall by Paleo Mom Sarah Ballantyne. 😮 (Be sure to use the code Katie15 for 15% off; also found on Amazon and from Perfect Supplements where you can use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!)
- Seed Daily Synbiotic – the new player in the field but recommended by superstars like Chris Kresser for its unique probiotic/prebiotic synergy. Here’s my full review including a number of surprises for my thinking and a 15% off code!
- Note: If you’re struggling with digestion, especially constipation, or you feel like you really need to populate your gut with healthy probiotics, I would recommend Saccharomyces Boulardii in addition to any other you choose (except any above which include this strain). Saccharomyces Boulardii is research-proven to get through the digestive tract without being killed, which is rare.
- Balance One probiotics with a unique time-release formula (use the code KITCHENS15 at either Balance One’s site or even Amazon to save 15% either place! Wow! Use the code at checkout on Amazon btw.)
For Little Ones (we use all of these):
- Mary Ruth’s liquid probiotic is a liquid probiotic that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and tastes like…nothing! It’s my new favorite for administering to kids! (Use code KCRF15 for 15% off!)
- WellBelly by WellFuture (9 strains of probiotics in apple and banana carrier – it’s a powder)
- Buddies in my Belly probiotic powder (2 strains of probiotics + potato starch carrier and prebiotics) or chewable tablets
- Biokult – highly recommended by many, including the GAPS diet
- Klaire Labs Pro-biotic complex V-caps or Ther-Biotic Complete (25 billion CFU)
- Probiophage DF (7 dairy-free strains)
- Transformation Enzymes (5 billion CFUs that may get through digestive tract…)
- Primal Blueprint (6 strains, 10 billion CFUs)
- Pharmax high potency (4 strains + FOS) or long-term HLC maintenance (2 strains)
- Pro-Bio from Enzymedica (8 strains)
- Syntol from Arthur Andrew Medical (13.6 billion CFUs with prebiotic, spore germinating blend, yeast cleanse)
How to Make Sure You Get Probiotics at Every Meal
Just do it.
You pretty much have three philosophical choices when it comes to probiotics:
- Eat them as part of a meal or snack – think yogurt, kefir, raw milk
- Sneak them into things – like lacto-fermented mayo on potato salad (above), fermented garlic flowers in your dressings or just sprinkled on your salad or scrambled eggs (no garlic breath!), or cultured butter on toast
- Take them as medicine.
For that last one, I’ll tend to open the fridge to begin preparing a meal, and I’ll grab a container of homemade kimchi or Caldwell’s fermented carrots and grab a big bite with my fingers or a fork and just eat it, paving the way for good digestion for that meal. If it’s one I don’t care for, it’s just “taking my medicine” and no big deal.
As we’ve opened each bag of Caldwell’s fermented vegetables, every member of the family gets a spoonful on their plate, and after the meal blessing but before eating, we count to three and all take that bite at once.
So far, my husband doesn’t like any of it (expected, he’s really a wimp when it comes to strong fermented flavors), my 4yo daughter has turned up her nose most of the time, but my 7yo son liked the carrots, and the baby likes it all! I like the vegetables I would eat in their normal state – so I enjoy the carrots but don’t love the radishes, probably because I don’t like regular radishes.
My sauerkraut-loving grandfather took a taste and thought they were pretty good, and my mom concurred.
If you’ve recently taken a round of antibiotics (or ever have…or ever will), you should read this post on how to rebuild your gut health.
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.
15 thoughts on “Monday Mission: Get Your Probiotics”
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I’m allergic to dairy, so I thought I was out of luck. I don’t make my own saurkraut, but I do use cider vinegar, Miso and fermented soy sauce. Tamari, that’s what I meant. LOL I’d like to do better, but at least I do some quality things.
Now one thing I’d like to learn how to do is fermented pickles. we love pickles.
My husband likes kimchi, I will eat some from time to time. I’ve been making lots of milk kefir – we use it in smoothies and also make cold soups with it – so refreshing on these hot days. Also making coconut kefir – great in fruity smoothies. Hubby will not consider green smoothies but will eat them if I tell him they are a cold soup ! I’ve made some water kefir – crysatallized ginger added a lot of flavor – but have not yet developed a good routine for it – hubby is not into it, at least not yet. Need to work up some different recipes.
I have two year old twins and a husband who can’t stand pickles and sour stuff. My goal has been to have something fermented at every meal, and we’re working up to it. These are the things you didn’t mention that have worked well so far. Just a note to anyone thinking of trying the mayo, it doesn’t taste any different than regular home-made to me.
Ketchup- I used the directions from NT to make a batch of home-made fermented ketchup and just did it yesterday. It tastes great un-fermented (I would use about half the salt she recommends and I used honey instead of maple syrup, and I left out the garlic, so the girls would like it more), so I should soon know how it tastes fermented. I would just as some soy sauce, garlic powder, molasses to make BBQ sauce)
Ginger carrots- also from NT. I stir this into soup after it is done, or at the end of stir-fry, in egg rolls, salad etc.
Pickled Beets- sliced thin and served as a side to lunch (I’m planning on making cucumber pickles this way as soon as I get some from the garden)
“Tea”- which is Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar and honey with warm water served with breakfast
Sour Cream (the Daisy brand is good if you are buying and not making it, though it isn’t organic, look for one that says something like “cream, culture” on the label)
Beet Kavass- I can get them to take a few sips. I used GNOWFGLINS directions
Cultured Butter- I can buy the Organic Valley brand at my Wal-Mart, if yours doesn’t carry it you might ask to talk with a manager to see it they will. Wal-Mart is very market sensitive)
Beeyoutiful’s (beeyoutiful.com) Tummy Tune-up. It’s safe even for a new born with colic, and the girls like the taste. One of my girls will have spells (if she’s had too much sugar, or a cold) where she wets the bed. If I bulk up on pro-biotics, including this, it will go away in a day.
Wow! I never thought about how much we are doing…of course it isn’t all at once. I’m looking forward to trying the water kefer, chutney, and caesar dressing too! And as soon as it’s in the budget I plan on getting some Miso and some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, to add in dressings and at the end of cooking or dipping sauces.
Wow, I didn’t even know some of these things were probiotic – Bragg’s aminos, really? And I never thought about ACV, either, but that would be easy enough to use in salad dressings instead of lemon juice or other vinegars, you know? Hmmmm…you’ve got me thinking about other ways to incorporate. Next Monday’s Mission is again about probiotics…do you mind if I include some of your ideas if they fit? They’re so helpful!!!
That is so interesting about the bedwetting; I noticed a similar phenomenon in my son after eating a lot of sugar and grandma’s house. It happened so many
I’m not very far along on getting a lot of probiotics into our diet, but I started because a friend in my birthing class who is a master herbalist told me I could test negative for group strep b by consistently taking probiotics. Of course you would consistently take them at least through the time of birth. After testing positive with my first 2 babies taking probiotics helped me with my third to test negative for gbs and eliminate having to make the choice of whether or not to get antibiotics during labor.
I appreciate the reminder! I’ve had the same problem with getting out of routines now that school is out (and after my kids got a nasty flu in _June_ after barely having colds all winter). I’ve been drinking a lot of kombucha, and my kids have started joining me. I also made my 7-year-old his favorite–lemon verbena soda from a ginger bug starter. It should be ready soon. And now that both kids are eating normally again, I will have to start serving the saurkraut more regularly. And, I’m thinking about making some probiotic mayonnaise for the first time. We’ve made the non-fermented kind before and it went over well with everyone, so I’m ready to try it.
You just inspired me to go make a pitcher of kombucha… if my mushroom is still alive, that is. I’ve sort of neglected it…
I’m doing the GAPS intro right now, and I’m having sauerkraut, yogurt, and a supplement. I’m only having one capsul a day so far, and I need to get up to six! Throughout the day I’ll have a bite of sauerkraut whenever I feel like it-I just keep it on the counter in a jar-as well as in soups. Its so good! I also just recently tried fermenting pickles, and the man of the house even likes them, and he doesn’t even like yogurt!
We have no problem with this one! I’m on full GAPS right now (starting the into soon, I’m terrified!), so I put sauerkraut in everything from eggs, to salad and lots of different soups. I also make the fruit chutney from NT with apples; we love that in a couple different lentil soup/curry type dishes. My husband and daughter eat lots of home made yogurt (thanks to you!), and I recently started brewing both water kefir and kombucha. It’s just the cutest thing when my 2 year old runs around with her empty cup saying” ‘Bucha, ‘bucha!”
I am excited to hear your adventures in Kimchee. I was just going to put mine up after a week fermenting and it had mold on it:( Not sure what went wrong. Day 2 of fermentation blew the top off of the container I was fermenting it in. I always seal it and have never had an issue with it in the past. So, for the rest of the time, I left it on loosly. Maybe because it was sitting next to my Kombucha perpetual fermentation batch? Hmmm. I hate not knowing the root of a problem!
Ooo…bummer. Different ferments ARE supposed to be at least 4 feet apart, so maybe it cross-contaminated your kombucha. Or it just got sticking up out of the liquid…?
Good luck next time!
I always feed better when I get my probiotic foods in, though I’m not the best at doing it. I need to eat up the kimchi that I have in my fridge (I have 5 different kinds!)
I have a question about water kefir. I have tried two commercial brands based off of kefir, and didnt like either of them. Have you tried any commercial brands, and how they compare with home fermented and bottled water kefir?
I’ve never even seen commercial bottled water kefir…sorry! 🙂 Katie