Getting sick is the worst. Also having sick kids is the worst. The worst of the worst is being sick while your kids are sick. Instead of hunkering down to take care of yourself, you still have to rally and give them what they need plus a little extra. And forget about snuggling up together for a movie marathon, you’re still running around to the doctor’s office, to the pharmacy, still need groceries too. Ugh. So you go through all that and everyone is starting to pull through and feel better, now what? Maybe you’ve all been taking antibiotics, what can you do to replenish your system? You may be aware that your gut (i.e. your gastrointestinal tract/GI tract/intestines) is responsible for digesting food and absorbing nutrients so they can be applied to various needs throughout your body. But did you know its function goes waaaaay beyond that? Yes, your gut plays a large role in the immune system AND the nervous system. But your gut is more than your intestines, so much more. It is, more than anything, a huge community of beneficial bacteria called the MICROBIOME. Whoa. I’m telling you this because this is the key to getting yourself and your family back in the game after you’ve been ill.

If you or your kids have taken antibiotics, they’ve helped to wipe out the nasty bacteria that were making you sick, but unfortunately they don’t discriminate between the good and the bad. So that can leave your microbiome a little unbalanced. You’ll need to build up those good bacteria again and probiotics and prebiotics are here to help!

Probiotics are live bacteria in fermented foods that will help you repopulate your diminished microbiome. Yogurt and kefir are fermented dairy products that are usually enjoyed on their own or in smoothies. Sauerkraut, kimchi and curtido are fermented cabbage dishes harkening from Germany, Korea and El Salvador, respectively. They’re usually side dishes but don’t let that stop you from just digging in with a fork! Natto, tempeh and miso are fermented soy products. Natto is not on my favorite food list, it must be an acquired taste. Tempeh is wonderful and versatile, try it in a stir fry or on a sandwich. Miso is a paste used to make a wonderful broth that might be just the ticket while you’re on the road to recovery!

Fermented beverages are another great way to get probiotics in your system. Probiotic beverages, like probiotic foods, were traditionally fermented in personal batches at home. Now there are a variety of choices available in stores. Effervescent and chilled, fermented beverages are refreshing tonics to feed your gut. Kombucha, a Chinese fermented tea, is the most prevalent. Its flavor varies among brands, ranging from vinegary to sweet. Jun is similar to kombucha, fermented from honey and green tea. Water kefir or Tibicos is like a probiotic soda. Kvass, from Russia and Eastern Europe, is fermented from bread and sourdough starter. I love fermenting at home and will be sharing my adventures with you as we move forward.
What about probiotic supplements? Here’s where I confess that I’m a fan of food over supplements. I believe in the magic of nature and its ability to create the perfect combination of the good stuff our bodies need. We humans have not even discovered every health-giving substance that exists in food, let alone how it works symbiotically. Thus, we cannot reproduce it. There’s nothing wrong with probiotic supplements. They will serve to populate your gut with beneficial bacteria, but I’m going to focus on food, okay?

Next—prebiotics. Prebiotics are like food for the good bacteria. They are certain fibers found in foods. You’ll find them in fruits and vegetables, like bananas, mango, apples, onions, garlic, carrots and tomatoes. They’re in grains, like wheat and quinoa, in legumes, and in seeds like flax and chia. To really boost your gut health and to restore and maintain a healthy population of bacteria, try to eat sources of both probiotics and prebiotics every day.

Last, variety is important. Probiotic foods will contain various strains of bacteria and other microorganisms, so to really optimize the health of your microbiome, try to eat a variety of foods containing probiotics. In the same way, prebiotic foods will each contain different fibers beneficial to sustaining your microbiome, so try to eat a variety or prebiotic foods as well.

What are your favorite probiotic foods? Have you tried anything new lately? Share with us in the comments below, we always love to hear from you!

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