What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria that line your gut and are responsible for nutrient absorption and supporting your immune system. If you can increase the amount of good bacteria and balance microorganisms in your body, it can have tremendous health benefits, including boosting your immunity, balancing hormones, detoxifying your liver, helping clear up your skin, and decreasing inflammation, to name a few. This “friendly” bacteria makes up 70-85% of our immune systems.
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that are responsible for a number of things in the body. Probiotics help break down food as well as extract minerals from those foods. Probiotics assist our bodies in producing essential fatty acids and vitamins. These helpful bacteria are also known to eat excess sugar in the body, reducing health risks associated with sugar intake such as inflammation.
If you don’t have enough good bacteria in your gut, the side effects can include: digestive disorders, skin issues, candida, autoimmune disease, and frequent colds and flus.
Every time you take a round of antibiotics, it throws off your gut flora and can affect digestion and many aspects of your health for many months. This is why it is important to limit the number of antibiotics you take to only when completely necessary. You should instead try to boost your immune system to fight off illnesses. Many people go to their doctor every time they are sick and receive antibiotics for viral infections or minor illnesses, when in fact, antibiotics do not help rid viruses.
In addition to excessive antibiotic use, other reasons that the microflora in our systems become unbalanced are eating foods with added hormones and preservatives, exposure to fertilizers and pesticides, carbonated beverages, steroids and even stress. For this reason, it is very important to sustain a healthy amount of good bacteria in your system by eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
How to incorporate probiotics
The best way to ensure you are getting a healthy amount of probiotics in your system is to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your daily diet as well as taking a daily probiotic supplement. The following foods are high in probiotics; sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kombucha, and apple cider vinegar (as salad dressing). Getting good, high-quality fiber in your diet can also enhance the development of good bacteria in your body.
When choosing a daily probiotic supplement, you should purchase a high quality, reputable brand that has at least 15 billion CFU (colony forming units) per serving. It should have multiple strains and some high quality brands require refrigeration (once the probiotics touch the air or are heated, they lose their potency). It is however, important to choose a probiotic that is shelf stable as refrigeration may be compromised during transport. The Not Just Weight by Dr. Parkes brand offers a superior probiotic product that is individually packaged to encourage freshness and preserve quality.
Tip: Probiotic-rich food recipes
1 medium head of cabbage (about 3 pounds)
1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt
- Clean everything: When fermenting anything, it’s best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Make sure your mason jar (2 qt wide mouth) and jelly jar (smaller jar that fits inside of the 2 qt jar) are washed and rinsed of all soap residue. Make sure to wash your hands, too.
- Thinly slice and chop cabbage.
- Combine the cabbage and salt: Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes (there should be a significant amount of liquid formed).
- Pack the cabbage into the large mason jar. Every so often, push down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage into the jar.
- Once all the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, slip the smaller jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down (the cabbage needs to be fully submerged in the liquid).
- Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevents anything from getting into the jar.
- Over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often with the jelly jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
- If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.
- Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature. Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is not fully submerged by liquid.
- Start tasting your sauerkraut after 3 days, when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, screw on the cap, and refrigerate.
- While it’s fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white scum. These are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The scum can be skimmed off the top either during fermentation or before refrigerating. If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don’t eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.
- This sauerkraut will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated.