Scientists have started to call our gut “the second brain”1<https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/>
According to Michael Gershon, author of the book “The Second
Brain,” this is because our gut has about 100 million neurons, more
than the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.
Your brain and gut are connected by a visceral nerve called the vagus
It is a one-way information highway where information only flows from
your gut to the brain and not vice-versa.2<https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29593576>
Roughly 70% of our immune system is located within the gut in the form of gut-associated lymphoid tissue [GALT]3<https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/>
Literally there are more immune cells in your gut than anywhere in your body.
Another amazing fact is that more than 90% of the ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin is produced in your gut.
The right balance of serotonin is important to regulate mood, appetite
and overall well-being.4<https://www.caltech.edu/about/news/microbes-help-produce-serotonin-gut-46495>
A collection of bacteria, fungi and viruses are housed in your gut. Of
these microbes, bacteria are the most studied, outnumbering other
microbes two to three times.
Now, whenever the word bacteria is used, it means germs and
That’s just part of the story.
Quite simply, bacteria in your gut is divided into good and bad
bacteria, just like there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol.
Bad bacteria are the kind that multiply and mean harm. Some
examples are e-coli and salmonella.
Good bacteria, famously known as “probiotics,” exist to protect their
host body—us! They play various important roles.
In this article, we’ll discuss the following:
- What are Probiotics?
- Health Benefits of Probiotics: Evidence-Based
- 9 Foods High in Probiotics
- Conclusion and My Recommendations
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are simply the good bacteria in your gut, including some
yeast that can act as probiotics.
The Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] of the United Nations
and the World Health Organization [WHO] provide a more scientific
Live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host
There are different types and strains of probiotics offering unique health benefits.
The most common variety of bacteria in our gut are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
#Helps us digest and absorb our food
Most good bacteria are found in your large intestine with varying levels
in other parts and organs of your body.
These good bacteria help digest whatever food particles your stomach
and small intestine are not able to digest.
They also help in synthesis of Vitamin K25<https:// www.dropbox.com/s/ygyr0jsdsdpxdmx/ Screenshot%202019-04-30%2007.15.10.png?dl=0>, folate6<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257725/>short chain fatty acids like butyrate (SCFA)7<https://www.dropbox.com/s/3ip6a9p68y9w77s/ Screenshot%202019-04-30%2007.16.21.png?dl=0> and some B vitamins8<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9406136/>
# Stimulates the Immune System
About 70 percent of the immune system is located in our gut.
This makes a lot of sense since the foods we eat and drink are loaded
with pathogens, viruses and bacteria.
Having our immune system in the gut allows it to fight off these unwanted invaders more effectively.
# Modulates the neurotransmitters responsible for one’s appetite and mood
There is also enough evidence to suggest that gut microbiota
modulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and even
dopamine.9<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/25078296> 10<https://bodyecology.com/articles/your-gut- can-influence-how-you-feel-it-all-starts-with-serotonin>
The gut is the largest site for serotonin as gut microbes and gut cells
produce it.11<https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/ 10.1096/fj.14-259598>
Literally, 90% of the serotonin in the body is produced in the gut.12<https://bodyecology.com/articles/your-gut-can-influence-how-you- feel-it-all-starts-with-serotonin>
# Lowers the oxidative stress and inflammation
Our gut microbiome plays a key role in controlling oxidative stress and
inflammatory responses as well as improving metabolism and energy
expenditure during intense exercise according to this systematic
#Fend off bad bacteria
Probiotics help fend off bad bacteria that try to harm you.
Similar to how the ideal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 should be 1:2,
the ideal ratio of good to bad bacteria should be 85:15.
If this ratio is disrupted due to changes in diet and lifestyle like less
sleep, more stress, high intake of alcohol, smoking, antibiotic use,
consumption of fast and junk food, consumption of conventional dairy,
etc., then symptoms like headaches, mood swings, weight gain, acne,
gas, bloating, and stomach pain start to crop up.
Over time these symptoms, which are a sign there is something wrong
in your body, may become full-blown diseases like IBS, Crohn’s
disease, autism, cancer, and so forth.
# Helps you lose weight
A condition called gut dysbiosis can occur when bad bacteria in your gut greatly outnumber good bacteria.
This condition can disrupt normal metabolic functioning and can cause insulin resistance.
All this can ultimately result in unwanted weight gain.14<https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912499>
Remember the ratio between good vs bad bacteria? Yes, 85:15.
9 Most Powerful Probiotic Foods on the Planet
Let’s list some of the most powerful probiotic foods on the planet.
Lassi or Buttermilk is also a good source of high-quality protein, Vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus.
It helps people who are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.15<https://ijsrm.in/index.php/ijsrm/article/view/892>
You can have buttermilk either with your Indian meal or as a
Just ensure it is made at home from raw milk because pasteurization
destroys beneficial bacteria!
You can find a lot of YouTube videos on how to make your own
buttermilk or yogurt (the next probiotic food) at home.
Please note that even if you are lactose intolerant, you can still have
I have two lactose intolerant family members, my dad, and my sister,
but they do well with yogurt and lassi as lactose (the sugar in milk) is
fermented by the bacteria.
Another powerful probiotic food is yogurt.
The same logic applies here.
It should be made from fresh raw milk, because most
commercially available yogurts are loaded with added sugar and
made from pasteurized milk, which as mentioned, destroys the good
Some studies of yogurt showed promising health benefits for certain
gastrointestinal conditions, including lactose intolerance, constipation,
diarrheal diseases, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.16<https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/ 80/2/245/4690304>
Some prominent bacteria cultures that ferment milk to form yogurt
are streptococcus thermophilus and lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Just like buttermilk, yogurt is loaded with protein (good for muscle
growth), calcium (excellent for bone health), magnesium, and vitamin
In most households in India, an ancient tradition helps increase the
the shelf life of seasonal vegetables.
One such vegetable is cabbage. When you ferment cabbage by salting it and putting it in a steel/glass container, the cabbage starts to release its own brine.
Over time, cabbage immersed in brine, starts to ferment into a
crunchy sour thing called sauerkraut.
This can be used with meals and extends the cabbage’s shelf life for months.
Sauerkraut is high in vitamin C, promotes digestive health, can help
prevent colon cancer and even promotes bone health.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish. In fact, it is Korea’s national
Just like sauerkraut, kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables like
Napa cabbage, radish, cucumber, red chili, and garlic.
The benefits of any probiotic food is to strengthen one’s immune
system, help strengthen the gut lining, and provide antioxidants.
Probiotic dishes like kimchi and sauerkraut with cabbage as its main
ingredients are generally consumed as a side dish or an appetizer but
can also be consumed as a standalone snack.
Miso is a Japanese food made by fermenting soybeans. It is often
consumed in the form of miso soup.
Most soybeans available worldwide are genetically modified, so it’s
best to opt for organic soy. Miso is a good source of zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin K, and protein.
One thing to be careful about is that miso is high in salt. If you have a
a medical condition that can be worsened by high salt intake, it’s best to
Tempeh is a soy-based product from Indonesia.
It’s fermented and loaded with a variety of nutrients too! The nutrients include potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Tempeh is more compact than tofu and therefore has more protein per
gram. It’s ideal for vegetarians who need more protein for muscle
Studies support the notion that tempeh may help lower cholesterol, boost bone health because of its calcium content, and provide cancer-fighting properties.
Kanji is often called the Indian kombucha! It’s a traditional North Indianwinter drink made with carrots.
One can also add beetroot to kanji for variety and added nutrients.
You can also add mustard seed to kickstart the fermenting process.
One pro tip is not peeling the carrots as there is yeast in the peel that
can help the fermentation process.
The other ingredients in kanji are 2 teaspoons of chili powder and 3 –
4 cups of water.
Mix all the ingredients in a glass jar, cover it with a muslin cloth and
keep it out in the sun for a week or so. Make sure to stir it once or
Kanji is loaded with iron, calcium, and manganese. It’s great for your
eyes, aids in digestion, provides antioxidants and relieves symptoms
Natto, another fermented soy superfood, originated in Japan.
It is usually consumed with rice and miso soup. It has a bitter and
nutty flavor. Even though I have never tried it, I have heard people
either love it or hate it!
Natto has an impressive list of nutrients including iron, vitamin C,
vitamin K1, calcium, manganese, potassium, selenium, and some
Any food like natto, which is rich in probiotics, is excellent for
digestion, strengthening your immune system, strengthening your gut
lining, providing antioxidants, and mitigating free radical damage.
In addition, because it contains calcium, natto helps with bone health.
Kombucha is an ancient Chinese beverage that is made from black tea and sugar. The fermentation process is started by SCOBY.
SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.
The bacteria and yeasts convert sugar into ethanol and acetic acid.
The acetic acid is what gives kombucha its distinctive sour taste.
Kombucha boasts a long list of nutrients which include folic acid,
vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and vitamin B12.
Because of its probiotic content, it helps with gut healing and
strengthening. It helps improve cholesterol, is antibacterial and
antimicrobial, and helps with diabetes.
Conclusion and My Recommendations
You are as healthy as your gut.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said,
“All diseases begin in the gut.”
The gut is also touted as the second brain. If you want to stay healthy,
optimal gut health should be your prime focus.
Your gut microbiome is heavily affected by your lifestyle, including
your eating habits.
If a large portion of your calories come from junk and fast foods, your
gut will likely be impaired.
As a result, you may start to experience frequent bloating, gas and
If you keep ignoring these gastrointestinal symptoms, they will soon
start to manifest as full-blown diseases such as IBS and others.
If you are suffering from these symptoms now, it’s best to connect with
a functional medicine doctor or perhaps a holistic nutritionist to help
you with your gut related issues.
I strongly urge you to include at least a few foods listed above in your
diet every day.
Most of the foods high in probiotics are snacks or sides which can
easily be part of your main meal.
What do you think about this article? Have any questions? Let me
know in the comments below!
Sources & References
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