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Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that feed the good bacteria (probiotics) in the digestive system to promote good intestinal health. A prebiotic should increase the number and/or activity of certain groups of probiotics that improve digestion and strengthen the immune system. They beneficially affect calcium and other mineral absorption, bowel pH, inflammatory bowel disorders (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), hypertension and intestinal regularity. And studies have shown they reduce the risk of both colorectal and colon cancer. Recommended daily servings of prebiotics range from 4 to 8 grams, or up to 15 grams for people with digestive disorders.

Prebiotics are found in raw chicory root, raw jerusalem artichokes, raw dandelion greens, raw garlic, raw leeks, raw and cooked onions, raw asparagus, raw wheat bran, whole wheat flour, and bananas. However, prebiotic fiber supplements are a better source. To obtain just 6 grams of prebiotics from bananas, for example, you would need to consume 1.3 pounds, which would give you more calories and sugars than you probably would want. And you would need more than a slice of onion on your hamburger to give you sufficient prebiotics. Using our products, Fré® and Vim® will give you the prebiotics you need on a daily basis.

Our forebears consumed whole grains, fruits, vegetables and seeds, which the human digestive system is equipped to handle. But today’s low-fiber, high-fat diet has resulted in an increase in digestive ailments. Unless you’re willing to completely change your eating lifestyle and give up that bacon cheeseburger in favor of a big, fiber-rich salad (with a low-fat dressing), supplementation is your answer. Our products are designed to boost fiber intake and get your digestive tract bacteria on track to optimum intestinal health.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, millions of Americans visit their doctors every year for digestive problems. People just aren’t getting the right amounts of the right fibers in their diets to counteract the unhealthy eating patterns of the 21st Century.  
We’ve been suggesting that you use our prebiotic products for optimum gut health. The prebiotic fibers are needed to feed the good bacteria (the probiotics) in your gut. So what are probiotics? Where do they come from? How do we ensure we have enough?

Probiotics are live microbials which beneficially affect the digestive system by improving its intestinal microbial balance. The human digestive system cannot sustain proper functions without them. Clinical trials have shown these beneficial bacteria can stimulate the immune system, reduce gas problems, improve absorption of essential nutrients and vitamins and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Probiotics are most easily obtained from yogurts and/or kefirs which contain live and active cultures.

Probiotics are good bacteria that help maintain the balance of organisms in the intestines. They reduce the number of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. If you have a really healthy digestive system, there are probably lots of these good bacteria already there in your gut. But how many of us have truly healthy digestive systems? It doesn’t hurt to add a few more of those beneficial bacteria.

One of the best sources for added probiotics is yogurt. Not just any yogurt, mind you. It has to be yogurt with active, live cultures. Yogurt is formed when Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles are added to milk during the fermentation process, converting the milk sugar (lactose) to lactic acid, which curdles the milk and gives it that tangy flavor. Collectively, these cultures are known as acidophilus. These are important bacteria for our systems and consuming yogurts that contain these cultures can be very beneficial. 

However, some yogurt manufacturers want to give their products a longer shelf-life, so they heat-treat the yogurt after fermentation. This kills off the live cultures. To be sure you are purchasing yogurt with live and active cultures, look for the Live & Active Cultures seal, which was established by the National Yogurt Association (NYA). The seal is the industry validation of the presence and activity of significant levels of live cultures. The seal program is a voluntary one, so there may some yogurt products on the market that contain live cultures, but do not have the seal. So be sure to read the label. Some yogurts may say “made with active cultures.” All yogurts are made with active cultures, but if they’re then heat-treated, the cultures are no longer living. For you to be consuming the beneficial probiotics to keep your digestive system healthy, the yogurt must still contain live and active cultures.

Since heating the yogurt kills off the live cultures, if you use yogurt in baking, this will also kill these cultures. However, the probiotics are not the only benefit of yogurt. Low or non-fat yogurt can help reduce the calories in baked goods if used to replace sour cream or other fats. Heating yogurt does not destroy the protein, calcium, potassium and vitamin D. So don’t give up cooking with yogurt. You’ll still have some benefit.
Remember that “use by” dates are there for a purpose. Although your yogurt might not be bad after that date, your live cultures may have started to die off. If it gets a little moldy, definitely throw it out.

Another probiotic that may be even more beneficial than yogurt is kefir. Kefir is a cultured, fermented milk product like yogurt, and is similar to a drinkable yogurt, but contains some additional beneficial bacteria. It also contains active beneficial yeasts, which can destroy the harmful, destructive yeasts in your gut, such as candida.

Kefir is more easily digested than yogurt and actually cleanses the intestines and promotes healthy bowel movements. In addition to its probiotics, kefir contains essential amino acids, calcium, magnesium, and is an excellent source of several of the B vitamins. Results from a study published in 2006 in Immunobiology show kefir may control inflammation in the digestive system. Another study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2010, “The Antiallergic Effect of Kefir Lactobacilli,” confirmed that kefir can calm down an overactive immune system and reduce allergies. As with yogurt, when purchasing kefir, be sure to read the labels. You want one with live, active cultures.

Fermented vegetables also contain probiotics. In fact, some people have called sauerkraut “the original probiotic superfood.” Fresh cabbage already contains the bacteria needed to ferment itself, so our ancestors that first discovered sauerkraut made an easy discovery. The fermentation process actually makes cabbage healthier and easier to digest. However, most canned and jarred sauerkrauts on the market have been pasteurized and heat treated, so the beneficial live cultures have been destroyed. You can make your own sauerkraut, of course, but if you do want to buy it at the store, be sure to look for the fresh raw or unpasteurized versions.

If you’re making your own sauerkraut at home, you can also add other vegetables, such as carrots, celery, beets, sweet potatoes, or herbs. You can make your kraut just using just the vegetables and a little salt, or you can add a culture starter (and leave out the salt), which decreases the fermentation time and increases the amount of probiotic in your sauerkraut. You can find culture starters online, but you might also check your local health food stores.

Making sauerkraut is easy. Just shred a head of cabbage and whatever other vegetables you wish to put in, add a little salt (or culture starter), pack it into quart jars, and let it sit at room temperature until it’s done (anywhere from 4 or 5 days to a couple of weeks, depending on the temperature and whether or not you have used a culture starter). How hard can that be? Celery has a lot of natural salt in it, so if you are using celery and not adding a culture starter, use less salt. Here’s a step by step procedure for you:

Grate or shred your veggies (cabbage plus whatever else you want to add).
Mix in a bowl with a little salt (maybe a tablespoon or so) OR culture starter. Do not use both.
Pack tightly into clean, sterile quart jars (sterilize the jars by pouring boiling water into them—then dumping the water out before adding your kraut mixture).
Leave a couple of inches at the top of the jar and maybe fold over a cabbage leaf on top for ease in pushing down the kraut mixture.
Push down the mixture with your fist so it is packed tightly. This will help force the water out of the vegetables. You want the mixture to be covered with the brine that will develop.
Screw the lids on the jars.
Set it on your kitchen counter where you won’t forget about it, as you will want to push the mixture down often.
Let nature do its job. After a few days, you will notice the change in the texture of the kraut mixture as it ferments. 
When the kraut is done (check it for taste after a week or so), it may be stored in the refrigerator for months.

For a beautifully colored sauerkraut, use part green and part purple cabbage. Adding carrots or beets will also add color to your kraut.
You can also buy probiotic capsules, if the taste of fermented things is not to your liking. Be sure to read labels carefully, however, to make sure you are getting the maximum benefit. There are online consumer guide sites that rate these products, so check one of them out. A word of warning: the best probiotic capsules are very expensive.

Once you have filled your gut with all these wonderful probiotics, these beneficial bacteria that will aid in digestion and keep your body working properly, don’t forget to feed these good bacteria with prebiotics such as Frē® or Vim®.