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Probiotics: Boost Your Immunity
Your digestive system or GI tract is home to many microorganisms that support immune function. These microorganisms are acquired naturally at birth; however, through our life-span they may change. There are several factors contributing to this change including what we eat, antibiotic use and possibly stress. Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that fortify or alter the microorganisms in your GI tract thereby boosting your immunity.
Fuel Your GI Tract to Boost Immunity
The GI tract is the largest component of your immune system. Introducing friendly bacteria (probiotics) into your digestive system helps keep a healthy balance and may boost immunity. Probiotics are found in foods that have been fermented. These are typically dairy products, cabbage, cucumbers and vegetables. Beware of added sugar, calories and salt in these foods. Common fermented foods include:
- Yogurt, Greek Yogurt & Kefir - excellent sources of protein & calcium. It is best to choose plain low-fat varieties and add your own fruit. The label must state “active or live cultures”.
- Acidophilus Milk & Buttermilk - select nonfat or low fat, watch the sodium content in buttermilk.
- Sourdough Bread - this also has a lower glycemic index.
- Pickles & Sauerkraut - only refrigerated products contain live probiotics and these are high in sodium. To reduce the sodium, rinse off and keep the portion small.
- Kimchi– fermented vegetables. Check the nutrition label, may be high in sodium. Keep total sodium to 1500 mg. or less a day.
In addition to foods rich in probiotics, focus on fiber rich foods including: whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. These foods supply greater volume and diversity of microorganisms to your digestive system.
Prebiotic vs Probiotic
- Probiotic foods contain live friendly bacteria.
- Prebiotic foods are ones that feed the good bacteria in your GI tract. Foods considered to be prebiotic include:
Asparagus • Artichoke • Legumes • Banana • Oatmeal • Red Wine • Honey
To enhance the probiotic you may want to include a prebiotic food with it.
Probiotic supplements do not provide the nutrition whole food can offer and may be costly. You should check with your physician prior to use. There are many different types depending on the health concern, Check the label and choose only those that are clinically tested. If you are ill or have a compromised immune system it is best to avoid.
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