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Probiotic-Rich Foods to Support Digestion

Optimization of the gut microbiome is a popular topic in the wellness arena currently. Far from a health fad, the gut microbiome is an integral part of the functioning of many physiologic processes. While the most obvious role pertains to the digestive organs, research is continually unearthing new information on how vast the workings of the gut microbiome are. In fact, medical literature shows that a healthy gut microbiome fuels good hormonal, cardiovascular, mood, and cognitive health.

To take a step back, let’s define the gut microbiome precisely.

The gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms residing within the gastrointestinal tract. The vast majority of the gut microbiome is comprised of bacteria. While bacteria might sound bad, they are normal and important residents of the body.

In fact, the inoculation of your body with bacteria started at birth. The blueprint that the gut microbiome continues to develop from starts very early in life.

Just like any other living thing, bacteria require certain things to thrive. The balance of the gut microbiome can tip in an unfavorable direction, often leading to signs of poor digestion. Gas, bloating, reflux, constipation, loose stool, etc. can all be signs that the gut microbiome could use support.

By extension, these signs can also signal that brain health, cognitive health, cardiovascular health, and hormonal health is less protected as the microbiome shifts.

Changes to the Gut Microbiome with Age

The robustness of the gut microbiome tends to decline with age. An abundant diversity of bacterial species is good in a well-balanced gut. With age, this bacterial diversity tends to gradually dissipate.

This can lead to difficulties in breaking down carbohydrates and creating amino acids from the gut, which are the building blocks of proteins. In simpler words, older adults are more prone to digestive and nutrient deficiencies.

A staggering 70-80% of the body’s immune cells reside in the gut and are influenced by the gut microbiome. The immune system protects the body from infection. Therefore, the gut and immune system have an important interdependent relationship that is greatly supported by the health of the gut microbiome.

Now that we understand more about the importance of nurturing the gut microbiome in middle age and beyond, you are probably itching to know what can be done. The answer involves the healing power of food.

Fermented Foods To The Rescue

All over the world, nearly every traditional cuisine dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years in origin involves fermented foods.

Fermented foods are rich in natural probiotic bacteria and yeasts. When consumed, these probiotics reach the digestive tract and enhance the activity of the gut microbiome.

When consumed regularly, probiotic-rich food can support digestive wellness and ward off signs of digestive imbalance. Consistent addition of probiotic-rich foods into your diet can also maintain the integrity of many other body systems since the gut microbiome is crucial in overall health.

The good news is there are many options in terms of probiotic-rich foods. Regardless of your palate or individual tastes, there is something for everyone when it comes to fermented foods.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a probiotic-rich food that suits many people due to the very low potential of cabbage to trigger allergies.

Sauerkraut traveled from China to Europe, reaching high popularity in Germany. Sauerkraut was used on ships to prevent scurvy during long voyages, which is a disease of too little vitamin C.

With a tangy flavor and crunchy texture, sauerkraut is a wonderful option for supporting the gut microbiome. Unfortunately, not all sauerkraut contains live probiotics, as many brands are pasteurized. Look out for labels that say “raw” sauerkraut to ensure what you are purchasing will benefit your gut.

Lastly, sauerkraut contains dietary fiber which is a main food source for bacteria in the gut. In addition to containing probiotics, the fiber in sauerkraut will boost the health of your microbiome.

Seeking inspiration for how to incorporate sauerkraut into your diet? Consider a zesty avocado toast with sauerkraut. This recipe also utilizes sourdough bread, another fantastic fermented food.

Avocado Toast with Kraut

  • 1 piece sourdough bread
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • ¼ cup raw sauerkraut
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Dash of paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a nonstick pan, cook an egg to your preferred level of firmness on both sides. A poached egg is another excellent option, however a large piece of toast should be used for a poached egg since they are runnier. While the egg is cooking, toast a piece of sourdough bread to your preferred level of darkness. Immediately butter while the toast is hot. Layer the egg on top of the toast when done. Layer ¼ a cup of sauerkraut on top of the egg. Lastly, layer your avocado slices and then garnish with salt, pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes.

Yogurt

References to the health-promoting effects of yogurt date back to Indian scripts from 6000 BC. Yogurt was most likely created to extend the shelf life of dairy products before refrigeration existed.

Yogurt contains high levels of a beneficial bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus. This strain of bacteria survives the acidic environment of the stomach to reach the intestines intact, where it enhances the balance of the gut microbiome.

Some individuals can be sensitive to dairy. Goat or sheep milk yogurt is an excellent second or third choice, and if these are not tolerated, nut milk-based yogurts are a delicious non-dairy option.

There are many ways to consume yogurt. Aside from simply being a breakfast item, yogurt is a wonderful thickening agent. Yogurt can be used in baking, sauces, curries, marinades, and dressings. Looking for inspiration? Here is an example of a probiotic-rich salad dressing.

Greek Yogurt Salad Dressing

Modestly Adapted from Jenn Segal at Once Upon A Chef

  • ½ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tablespooon honey
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill

Combine all ingredients and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.

Consider Supplementing with Probio-Lite by Golden After 50

Looking for extra microbiome support? If your time in the kitchen is sparse, probiotic supplements can be an efficient way to boost your healthy bacteria.

Consider Golden After 50’s Probio-Lite which contains not only Lactobacillus acidophilus, but also 7 other strains of healthy probiotics to support the gastrointestinal tract. Our formula is research-based to provide you with effective probiotic strains for optimizing your digestive wellness.

Dr. Laurel Ash ND, MS

Dr Laurel Ash, ND, MS is an Oregon and Washington board-certified Naturopathic Physician. With a passion for nutritional health, Dr Ash earned her doctorate in Naturopathy from the National University of Natural Medicine while receiving her masters in Integrative Mental Health. Her unique combination of evidence-based research and skilled knowledge in holistic medicine has allowed Dr. Ash to successfully treat many with a wide-range of issues.