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Probiotics – The Bacteria You Want!

Probiotics – The Bacteria You Want!

Your gut is full of helpful bacteria, (more than 40 trillion) that helps in keeping our health in balance and defending our body from disease. But sometimes, these good intestinal bacteria go out of balance due to the wrong food choices we make and can result in indigestion, constipation, acidity, bloating and diarrhoea. Probiotics are live microorganisms that offer health benefits when you ingest them in sufficient quantities.

Although, billions of these health-promoting bacteria are a part of your gut, but in recent times the quality of food, soil, water and air have all deteriorated. The beneficial bacteria we used to get from our food isn’t available anymore and our diet, lifestyle choices, stress, use of certain drugs and overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the easy growth of harmful bacteria and further deplete our stock of good bacteria.

Probiotics work by counterbalancing bad intestinal bacteria that produce toxins. If harmful bacteria dominate the intestines, digestion suffers, candida yeast grows out of control, and the body is unable to produce essential vitamins and enzymes in sufficient amounts.

The two most common strains of probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus, which works in the small intestine, and Bifidobacterium bifidum, which works in the large intestine. It is interesting to note that the food that you eat, greatly affects the ratio of good and bad bacteria that live inside of you. The good news is that probiotics supplements, can help your gut and your body get back on track.

Health benefits of probiotics

  • Probiotics boost the immune system and protect you against harmful bacteria, viruses, allergens by forming a barrier along the intestinal lining.
  • Probiotics help in decreasing the ‘bad’ gut flora that can cause infections or inflammation.
  • Sometimes infections or the use of any antibiotics disturbs the bacterial balance in the gut. These probiotics help to restore the ‘good’ bacterial balance.
  • Use probiotics to prevent diarrhoea, gas, and cramping caused by antibiotics.
  • Probiotics help to solve some digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • They help the body in making B-Vitamins, improve energy, decrease bloat, cramping, constipation and contribute greatly to immunity.
  • It is important to note that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fibre prevents the growth of the disease-carrying bad bacteria and promotes good bacteria.

Food sources of probiotics

You can find probiotics in fermented foods like buttermilk, curd, sauerkraut, kimchi, cheese, dhokla, idlis, dosa, uttapam, vadas, kadhi and kanji. Each fermented food is associated with a unique group of microorganisms (probiotics). They increase absorption of minerals, proteins, vitamins from the GI tract. These foods also improve immunity, improve the absorption of calcium and help prevent allergies. Plus, they help in treating diarrhoea.

Foods like idlis, dosas, dhoklas, vadas, kadhi contain lactobacillus. Certain vegetables like radish, onions and carrot are fermented in rai (black mustard seeds). You can consume them to improve ‘good bacteria’ in the body.

For eg., gajar kanji, shlagam (turnips) Kanji etc. The water in which these foods are fermented can be had to correct stomach pain, gas, & it significantly improves digestion. You can have carrots/Beetroot/onion/turnips as a side dish or like a salad. This very low caloric traditional Indian recipe is popular. It’s good for the growth of good bacteria in the body.

Homemade Probiotic drink

Carrot Kanji:

  • Wash and peel the carrot (3-4) into thick long slices and place them in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add salt (to taste), chilli powder (2 tsp) and Mustard power (Black Rai 2 tsp) and combine well.
  • Add 12 cups of water to this mixture, mix well.
  • Transfer to a glass jar. Cover the jar mouth with a muslin cloth tied tightly around the mouth of the jar.
  • Place in the sun for 3-4 days and bring it back in the night.
  • Before putting it out in the sun again next day shake it upside down with the lid on.
  • After 3-4 days the kanji will get fermented and once it becomes sour, you know it is fermented.
  • You can strain and drink a cup with your meals daily.
  • This is your homemade probiotic drink for better gut health and overall wellbeing. You can use beetroot/onions/turnips/radish also instead of carrots to make kanji if you do desire.

(As published in Hindustan Times dated June 10, 2019)

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