The best natural probiotics for a healthy gut and improved wellbeing
12 August 2020
The health of your gut is linked to your entire physical and mental wellbeing - many things can upset it. Here are some natural foods you can eat to make your gut healthier.
Your gut is incredibly important to your overall health and wellbeing. From supporting healthy brain, heart and immune function to enhancing mental wellbeing, balancing hormone levels and even helping to keep your skin flawless, science is increasingly showing the vital role your gut microbes play in keeping you fit. Here’s a look at how natural probiotics can support a healthy digestive system.
Signs of an unhealthy gut
Many lifestyle factors can cause an unhealthy gut, including high stress levels, poor sleep, eating sugary and processed foods and taking antibiotics. These can lead to chronic syndromes such as IBS, a workplace hidden enemy. Some common symptoms to watch out for are regular bloating and constipation, heartburn, constant fatigue, skin irritation, an upset tummy, sleep disruption and increased sugar cravings.
What do probiotics do?
Your gut contains bacteria that helps you digest food and release nutrients your body can use. But sometimes the balance of bacteria in your gut can be disturbed. This is where probiotics can help. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast which are thought to help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut. You can consume them in your food or as supplements.
Natural probiotic foods
Probiotic supplements can support good gut health, but there's lots you can do just by making a few changes to your diet. Here are some natural probiotics to help restore your gut.
- Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish you can enjoy alongside many different meals. You can either buy Sauerkraut or make it yourself.
- Natural yoghurt. Many natural yoghurts contain good bacteria. Avoid flavoured varieties: instead, add honey and fresh fruit to flavour it yourself and get an extra boost of fibre, which is also essential for your gut.
- Miso, or fermented soybeans. A staple in the Japanese diet, you can buy jars of miso in lots of supermarkets and it's very versatile. You can simply add it to soup and stir-fries, or meat and fish. And in fact, studies show that residents of Okinawa, a group of islands south of mainland Japan, have one of the longest life spans in the world, with two-thirds of people reaching 100. It's been thought to be linked to their healthy, low-calorie, high-carbohydrate diet.
- Kimchi. This is a Korean dish that's made by fermenting vegetables such as cabbage and carrots in a tangy, spicy sauce. It makes for a delicious accompaniment to meat, fish and rice.
- Pickles or gherkins. Gherkins are an easy natural probiotic to incorporate into meals, such as with meat or fish dishes or in salads and stir-fries.
- Kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink, similar to a thin yoghurt, that's becoming increasingly popular. You can find it in many supermarkets.
- Kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweetened tea and a culture of bacteria and yeast. It has a distinctive sour taste and you can buy it from supermarkets and health food stores.
- Some cheeses. Some cheeses including mozzarella, cheddar, Gouda and cottage cheese can sometimes contain natural probiotics. Just be sure to check the label for live and active cultures.
In addition to natural probiotic foods, there are also foods known as prebiotics. These are high-fibre foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut and they include garlic, onions, leeks, legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, nuts, fennel and whole grains such as cereals. The best thing to do is to combine plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables with fermented foods like natural yoghurt and pickles, to ensure a healthy, well-balanced gut. To improve your gut health and save up money, you might want to explore our eco-friendly diet tips.
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