Ferments and Probiotics for Digestive Health
RNM’s Lindsay Kluge M.Sc., CNS, LDN, offers her tips on incorporating extra probiotics into our every day diets!
To give some perspective: We have trillions of probiotics in our guts. Upwards of 3 pounds or more! We can supplement with probiotics in capsule form which can give us anywhere from 1 billion to 100+ billion for very acute issues or support with recolonizing probiotics after a hefty dose of antibiotics or major surgeries.
In food sources, we can usually get a few hundred million and up to about 1 billion for a serving. A cup of yogurt ranges greatly in their quantity of probiotics, with, on average, about 500 million per serving. A hefty dose of sauerkraut can be about 300 million or more. And an 8 ounce glass of kombucha can be about 1 billion. Comparatively with supplementation, this may not seem like a lot, but when we’re eating these foods consistently, it’s an incredibly effective way to help support our probiotic population for the long term.
Fermented foods versus probiotic supplements
I always urge people to get what they can from foods before moving to supplements in most cases. When folks need some digestive support and probiotic enhancement for general wellness, I often recommend some of the fermented powerhouses: Sauerkraut, yogurt and kombucha being my favorite, and others like pickles, tempeh, kefir, miso, kimchi and anything “pickled” or fermented will offer some kind of probiotic cultures. Usually, fermented foods are made from a raw food source (either from fresh raw vegetables or a “mother” or ‘scoby”) and then fermented in a brine or vinegar. Energetically, this leads to a very cold and damp food source which is ideal for some people, but not maybe for others.
What works best for you?
Our probiotic makeup is just as individual as our unique fingerprints, and the way that we each digest food is very unique to the person as well. In Ayurveda, how we choose to eat must be balanced with our dosha (our unique constitutional makeup), and this can range quite dramatically. Some people have a fiery furnace of a digestive tract, able to tolerate a massive range of foods, spices, and temperatures, while others have a more sensitive digestive tract that may be sluggish, weak or even explosive.
Choosing the rights foods for your digestive system is a personal choice, and probiotic rich foods are no exception. Fermented foods are classically cold and damp, therefore they make an excellent addition to the diet of someone who may have a lot of heat or dryness in their digestive tract (i.e burns through foods moderately or quickly with rapid digestion). They’re also excellent to incorporate during the spring and summer months, when the weather becomes hot and dry outdoors. Cold and damp foods are a perfect balance to external conditions that are hot and dry. Balancing your foods for your individual dosha and also with the seasons is a major pillar of optimal health.
When you first start to incorporate fermented foods into your diet, start with a small portion (maybe a few bites or tablespoons) to see how well you tolerate them. You can always increase your serving size to your liking. Begin adding them to all kinds of things like salads, burgers, even soups and your breakfast omelets! Some of my favorite local brands include Farmstead Ferments and Barefoot Bucha.
About the Author:
Lindsay Kluge is a Clinical Herbalist & Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and received her Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health in 2012. She has been with Richmond Natural Medicine since 2013, and specializes in therapeutic holistic nutrition, circadian rhythm balance and sleep physiology, digestion, and Ayurvedic nutrition. She offers individualized nutrition and herbal medicine consultations that include meal planning support, custom compounded herbal formulas, nutrition guidance and general wellness support. Learn more about services that Lindsay offers at Richmond Natural Medicine by clicking HERE.