The Best Probiotic Foods for Digestive Relief

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Fermented Foods, Digestive Health, Probiotics
Last Reviewed 04/17/2014

Everyone is talking about probiotics these days. Discussing stomach bacteria isn’t something most of us talked about around the dinner table years ago—probably because we were naturally getting more of it in our diets. But it appears to be a hot topic recently and that’s a good thing.

More people seem to know the difference between the “bad” bacteria in our bowels that can lead to ugly and embarrassing gas, bloating and diarrhea, and the “good” bowel-balancing bacteria known as probiotics.  Now that everyone is talking openly about this issue, here’s my take on the best ways to get more probiotics in your diet.

Traditional fermented foods like yogurt or a good probiotic supplement are two of the best routes to a more balanced intestinal tract. Consider a supplement if you can’t get enough fermented foods in your diet. Look for one with controlled-release technology, which is formulated to survive stomach acid and offer the best release of live bacteria throughout the digestive tract. My favorite of these supplements are ones that use the BIO-tract delivery system.

But there are plenty of foods, dairy and non-dairy, that can help maintain good digestive health, too. When adding these to your diet, the key is to eat small amounts on a regular basis, particularly once or twice a day with meals.

  • Yogurt: It’s been used for centuries to cure unhappy bowels. But the type of yogurt matters. Unfortunately, most of the yogurt products available here in America are laden with too much sugar and artificial ingredients. Plus, even if a yogurt package says the product contains “live and active cultures,” the probiotic benefits are often lost during manufacturing, delivery, and storage of the yogurts on your grocer’s shelves. For this reason, I like to make my own yogurt.

But if you don’t want to make your own, there are two brands that I recommend that are likely to contain beneficial bacteria that are still alive and kicking. These are Stoneyfield Farm Organic Yogurt (widely available in grocery stores and health food stores) and White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt, which is sold mostly throughout the Midwest and East Coast regions.

  • Cottage cheese: This traditional fermented food is an excellent source of protein, calcium and friendly bacteria. Look for low-salt options.
  • Whey: Goldilocks may have been on to something, eating her curds and whey. The liquid left over from clabbered milk can be used in soups, added to vegetables or blended with fruit juice.
  • Kefir: This beverage is created by combining kefir grains, colonies of yeast and bacteria that look like clumps of rice, with milk.
  • Non-Dairy Fermented Foods: If you need to avoid dairy, try some unpasteurized sauerkraut, pickled beets, Korean kimchi, miso or even naturally fermented and unpasteurized beer with your meal from time to time.

Not only do probiotics cure foul bowels, they help you better absorb vitamins B and K, important in boosting immunity.

Now, it’s your turn: How have you added probiotics to your diet?

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