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.
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:
Fermented cabbage was already known in China some six thousand years ago, and served as a staple food for those who built the Great Wall of China.
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.
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.
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 Probiotics
Some 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. These can be very different! A one-day trial to Probiotic Advisor might help you get up on current research quickly if you’re really digging in; otherwise, here are some to narrow down the thousands of brands out there:
- 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. 😮
- RightBioticsRX – the top recommended probiotic of all soil-based options by an expert I’ve been working with. Read more here. Use Subscribe and Save to save more!
- 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 the 2 above which include this strain). Saccharomyces Boulardii is research-proven to get through the digestive tract without being killed, which is rare.
- Biokult – highly recommended by many, including the GAPS diet
- Klaire Labs Pro-biotic complex V-caps or Ther-Biotic Complete (25 billion CFU)
- Balance One probiotics with a unique time-release formula (watch for discounts on the site; there’s almost always one there!)
- Miessence Liquid Probiotic – notes: this is the easiest for kids to take because it’s liquid on a spoon, no powder to hide in smoothies and no capsules to swallow. If you’re on a no-sweetener diet of any kind, it does have agave so could be a no-no. Gluten-free.
- Miessence Powder Probiotic – notes: must be hidden in a smoothie but is less expensive than the above. Not gluten-free. Helped me beat a candida rash when nothing else could.
- Probiophage DF (7 dairy-free strains)
- Transformation Enzymes (5 billion CFUs by 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)
- ProBio 5 from Plexus has been recommended many times, but it’s also, I think, an MLM so it’s possible the recs weren’t so authentic…?
- Dr. Mercola’s probiotics
- Nature’s Way Primadophilus Bifidus (the one I happened upon that I took for a while)
For Little Ones:
- Mary Ruth’s liquid probiotic is a soil-based, liquid probiotic that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and tastes like…nothing! It’s my new favorite for administering to kids!
- 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
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 made a printable checklist so you can track your progress.
Sign up to get the checklist and 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.