You probably have heard many people to tell you to take probiotics. This month we are going to be looking more closely at probiotics, what they are, and how you can make them at home to support your digestion and other areas of wellness.
Lets start with ‘what are probiotics?’
Probiotics are the little tiny bacteria that live in your digestive system. They are what make up your gut flora, the many different species that live in your gut/gastrointestinal tract. Some of these bacteria are good and some of them are bad. Bad bacteria tend to ferment our food in a way that will cause inflammation in our digetive tract. This can lead to any number of other problems including arthritis and fatigue.
So how do we get rid of the bad bacteria and keep the good bacteria?
Bacteria colonize our digestive tract through competition with each other. To get more good bacteria we need to do one of two things: 1. eat foods that are prebiotics (the food that strengthens our good bacteria) or 2. eat probiotic foods and supplements, to increase the numbers of good bacteria in our digestive tract. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at different ways to make probiotic foods yourself but we can start by eating prebiotics with out much preparation.
Inulin: A Prebiotic
When I think of prebiotics the first thing I think of is the molecule inulin. This molecule is found in a number of different starchy herbs including dandelion root, burdock root, chickory root, and garlic bulbs. The molecule inulin even gives the herb elecampane it’s scientific name of Inula helenium. This fibrous molecule is also found in bananas, onions, artichokes, asparagus, and leeks.
Being so fibrous molecule, inulin is helpful in increasing your bowel movement frequency. This will aid in removal of the bad bacteria from your colon as you defecate to make room for the good bacteria species you will begin to take in your probiotic foods. I personally always like to reach for inulin containing foods that are in the allium family, the onions. This is because they also contain alicin, an antibacterial molecule which will help fight and kill excessive bacteria colonies in your digestive system.
What should I eat for prebiotic foods?
I always like to say ‘An onion a day keeps the doctor away.’ I think this is a great estimate of how much you should eat on a daily basis to support your healthy gut flora when it comes to prebiotics. Having one to two cups of tea that are made with 2-3 g total of dandelion, burdock, and chickory should also get you there. For your other foods, eat them as you normally would per serving, just make sure you are including 1-2 inulin contain foods a day for their prebiotic effect.
Get started with eating those delicious onions every day and Ill see you next week as we start to talk about how you can make probiotic foods at home.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or to work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultationsvisit The Dancing Herbalist.com.