Friday, August 24, 2012

Review of Probiotic Foods: Bubbies Sauerkraut, Pickles & Kombucha!

Eating probiotic foods is a great way to improve digestive function. You know that your digestion is impaired if you experience any of the following: belching, bloating, gas, diarrhea, gurgling, or even constipation. Impaired digestion can also manifest itself in skin issues like eczema and acne: in fact, as early as 1909 researchers found that disruption of the digestive system and gut flora through worry, anxiety and depression could manifest itself in skin problems.

The Gut-Brain-Skin Axis: Back to the Future?

Probiotics are microorganisms that every human being has living in their intestinal tract. During delivery a mother sort of inoculates her child with beneficial bacteria as it passes through the vagina. Traditional cultures would eat fermented foods that were full of these good bacteria to get a dose through diet.

The microorganisms in our gut are essential to healthy digestion: they break down our food to help our bodies absorb vitamins and nutrients more effectively, help our gut and immune system to function properly, and even fight on our behalf against harmful bacteria that we might ingest (i.e. Salmonella). They might even improve asthma symptoms.

Research suggests that the relationship between gut flora and humans is not merely commensal (a non-harmful coexistence), but rather a mutualistic relationship.[3] Though people can survive without gut flora,[4] the microorganisms perform a host of useful functions, such as fermenting unused energy substrates, training the immune system, preventing growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria,[2] regulating the development of the gut, producing vitamins for the host (such as biotin and vitamin K), and producing hormones to direct the host to store fats. However, in certain conditions, some species are thought to be capable of causing disease by producing infection or increasing cancerrisk for the host.[2][7]
         - Wikipedia

Check out Chris Kresser's article: Heal Your Gut
Diane Sanfillipo's Article: Bites I Love: Fresh, Raw Sauerkraut

Because most of us use or have used antibiotics, I believe that it's important to replenish our gut flora by eating probiotic rich foods or supplementing. There are many types of probiotic foods including: Kefir, Yogurt, Kombucha, Sauerkraut and Pickles. I set out to try out a few that have been popular in the paleo world:

- A fermented sweet tea with roots in China. I tried GT's Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha Bilberry No 9 and Hibiscus No 7

Cost: $3.19 per bottle
Claims: 60 Calories per bottle, 14 grams sugar
              50% RDA Folic Acid
              40% Vitamin B2,  B6, B1, B3, B12
              * Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086: 1 billion
              * S. Boulardi: 1 billion
              Antioxidants: EGCG, Glucuronic Acid, Lactic Acid, Acetic Acid

Thoughts: Kombucha basically tastes like watered down juice with a little fizz. After a couple tastes my kids started fighting to drink the rest. But, they never have juice. I think that if your kids are drinking juice on the regular, they won't be interested in this. I thought it was ok. Not unpleasant. The folic acid content is pretty attractive to women of childbearing age that are constantly being told to eat their horse pills (I mean prenatal vitamins).

These pickles must be found in the refrigerator section. Truly fermented pickles aren't just mixed with vinegar. The stuff you see on the shelves next to the ketchup is pasteurized (i.e. beneficial bacteria is killed). Great reason to eat pickles: Cleopatra believed that they contributed to health and beauty. I chose to go with Bubbie's. They are naturally fermented and have no vinegar.

Cost: $5.99 per bottle
Thoughts: These pickles had a bit of a spicy flavor. The boys didn't care for them. They took a few bites here and there, but otherwise didn't ask for them often.

Again, the stuff you find on shelves is pasteurized - you need to go to the refrigerator and check that they are naturally fermented. It is made out of finely shredded cabbage and lactic acid bacteria. I chose Bubbie's brand again.

Cost: $4.99 per bottle
Thoughts: I LOVED this sauerkraut. I generally do not like sauerkraut, blech. It had a pickle-y sort of flavor. The kids didn't care for it. I will probably buy it again or try to make my own!!

How much should a person eat?

The kombucha bottle claims you should have an entire bottle a day. I have read that a 1/4 cup of fermented vegetables a day is ideal. Up to you! I'll probably have 1/4 cup of sauerkraut a day, but the kombucha is too expensive to drink an entire bottle a day.. I may try to make my own and blog about it someday.

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