For your gut to be in tip-top condition it needs to be teeming with good bacteria. You can accomplish this through a plant-rich diet that provides plenty of healthy fibre.
If your gut is healthy and balanced it will have a huge impact on both your physical and mental health.
Probiotics are the bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestive system, keep your gut healthy and are often referred to as "good" or "friendly" bacteria.
By populating your digestive tract, probiotics help your body to fight infections and inflammation whilst playing a major role in the absorption of nutrients from the food you've eaten.
The good news is that it's relatively easy to increase your levels of probiotics through diet or supplements.
Some foods are naturally rich in probiotics, whilst others provide the prebiotics that they feed on in your gut. These provide the environment for your probiotics to flourish - a bit like soil does for seeds.
These foods are readily available instore and online. So here are a few you can add to your next shopping list:
Yoghurt and Kefir
Look for the plant-based versions of these, such as soya or coconut yoghurts and kefir.
Kefir is a milk drink found in the same shop section as yoghurts. However, this is a drink made from plant-based milk that has been cultured and fermented to produce a slightly fizzy, sour and tart taste.
Sauerkraut and Fermented Vegetables
Sauerkraut, Kimchi and other naturally fermented vegetables provide a healthy dose of probiotics when you eat them.
The important words in that sentence are "naturally fermented". It's the fermentation process that leads to the production of good bacteria.
Products that are just pickled in vinegar don't contain probiotics.
Miso is fermented beans, rice or barley that can be used as a condiment or as a base for a delicious soup in a similar way to how you'd use a bouillon powder or stock cube.
Whilst getting probiotics from the foods you eat is the best way to support your gut health, they are also available in supplement form.
However, this can be a bit of a minefield and is a more expensive option.
Currently, manufacturers seem to be in a competition to fit the most probiotics into a capsule. Though getting a high number of probiotics is beneficial, it's more important to be sure that they are the correct strain for you.
So do your research first and find a company who specialises in probiotics (such as Optibac or Symprove) and who have supplements that are targetted to specific problems such as bloating, candida or IBS.
By adding fermented foods to your diet or supplementing with a good quality probiotic supplement, you can improve the health of your microbiome significantly. And you'll see the benefits in your overall health, mood, energy levels and, additionally, better skin, hair and nail condition too.