In Everyday Life, Food, Nutrition
1600-x-900_Probitoics
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ith cold and flu season well underway for the year, do yourself (and your loved ones) a favor and strengthen your immune system! If these little buggers haven’t hit you yet, it is possible to get ahead of the game!

This flu season, manufacturers of the flu vaccine will provide between 171 to 179 million doses of vaccine for the U.S. market, but this number is liable to rise if the demand is there. Our family prefers to do all it can to build our immune systems up beforehand so as not to be susceptible to the gut damaging vaccines doled out by doctors and pharmacies this time of year.

Probiotics are your body’s very best bet at beating seasonal allergies, colds and flu’s. Probiotics are the good guys who live in your gut (called your microbiome) and fight the battles your body faces on a daily basis. But these guys can wear out or starve without proper nutrition. Our gut needs continual replenishment of the “good guys” to be sure the ratio of good:bad bacteria stays in check. (Be sure to read up on prebiotics and why they’re just as important!)

My family aims to consume probiotics with every meal, and it’s easier to do than you might think! I’ll add a tablespoon of traditionally fermented sauerkraut or fermented ketchup with our morning eggs. We often have a morning smoothie-snack, made with a combination of homemade yogurt and kefir (made from raw milk, which is important). With lunch I’ll add a tablespoons of fermented relish or a dill pickle, and we’ll enjoy some water kefir or kombucha with dinner. There ya go! Probiotics at every meal!


Done and done! Simple enough, right?


We opt for a variety of fermented foods (instead of sticking with yogurt and calling it good) because each fermented food is comprised of different strains of beneficial bacteria, and the more strains present in your gut, the better equipped you’ll be to fight off those nasty bacteria and viruses.

Beyond adding probiotics to your diet, fermented foods also help you absorb food by balancing gut bacteria and increasing digestive enzymes. This will allow you to absorb many more nutrients and lessen the need for added supplements and vitamins as you’ll be able to get them from the food you eat (assuming the food you’re eating is providing these nutrients!).

It may not be necessary to take an additional probiotic supplement if you’re in overall good health and already follow a healthy diet. But we like to keep this brand on hand to help our “good guys” out when they’re feeling the stress from cold and flu viruses. When this happens, I’ll empty a few capsules into our morning smoothie (my kids don’t swallow pills yet). The probiotics are a tad spendy, but, as I mentioned, we only use them in times of need (not daily) so they last quite a while (and it surely beats getting hit with the flu or needing a doctor visit!).

Showing 31 comments
  • Rhianon
    Reply

    Great post! I’m pretty good about adding probiotic foods into my diet (I love fermented things like pickles and sauerkraut) but I really need to read up on prebiotic foods too, as I don’t really know of any and so am not taking steps to add them into my diet. I’d like to add more of both!

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Thanks for commenting Rhianon! You might be surprised to find out where prebiotics can be found. They’re in a lot more foods than people think! Check out this post we wrote on prebiotics here.

  • Rhianon
    Reply

    I love Bubbies! They have the best sauerkraut and pickles out of any brand I’ve ever tried. And I love that they’re fermented rather than vinegar pickled.

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Yes! We love that they’re fermented, too! The sauerkraut is my very favorite!

  • Heather Gardner
    Reply

    I NEED THE CRANBERRY RELISH LACTO FERMENT RECIPE! These comments have been a great follow up to the very informative article! Love this site! ♡

  • Missy
    Reply

    After reading this I looked up several lists of prebiotics. Many of the foods on the list we already consume frequently. While I use garlic and onion in pretty much everything I cook, I thought to myself “How in the world am I going to get my kids to eat RAW garlic and onions?!” Suddenly it came to me: Fresh Homemade Salsa! We Pinkerton’s are known for our salsa. I make a huge bowl and it is gone in just a day or two. We eat it plain, with chips, with egg dishes, with cottage cheese & avocado and on top of Mexican dishes. I am pretty sure that the following recipe would qualify as a probiotic one. Begin by dicing equal parts of tomatoes and onion and put in a glass bowl. Liberally season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Pour apple cider vinegar (with the Mother) in the bowl until the tomatoes/onions are just about covered. Add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil , fresh crushed garlic-a lot of it and freshly chopped cilantro. Optional add ins: freshly squeezed lime juice, cumin and jalapenos. (In the summer after harvesting our jalapenos I finely dice them, put them in a glass jar, cover them with vinegar and put in the fridge. They will stay crispy in the refrigerator for up to a year.)

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      This recipe sounds delicious Missy! Fresh salsa is one of my favorite foods, and the Apple Cider Vinegar is great for your gut too, I’ll have to start adding it to my salsa! Never thought to store my jalapenos in vinegar (ACV or white vinegar?), I usually toss mine in the freezer to pull out for each batch of salsa. I’ll definitely be doing the vinegar next year.

  • Beth
    Reply

    How much is a daily serving of probiotics and prebiotics? And are the probiotics capsules (I have the ones from Plexus) as good as getting it from food?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Servings for probiotics are going to vary between each person’s dietary needs (and remember, I’m not a doctor!). This is where you’ll have to listen to your own body’s response. If you’re adding in fermented foods, I recommend taking it slow. Start with a teaspoon or two, then see how your body responds (do you get gassy, upset stomach, cramping or bloating, etc.). If you feel great, then you can eat more next time. I try to get 1-2 tablespoons of fermented foods at each meal (like sauerkraut, relish or pickles), 1/2-1 cup of yogurt or dairy kefir, or 8-16 ounces of kombucha or water kefir. If we’re fighting illness, I’ll add in the probiotic capsules mentioned in this post, one tablet for each kid, two tablets for each adult. Hope this is helpful in getting your started!

      • Beth
        Reply

        I saw Bubbies at Super 1 yesterday….do the bread and butter pickles count??? Say yes! Oh please say yes!!! LOL I love B&B’s!!! Picked up the sauerkraut….and you can see that I am REALLY REALLY REALLY trying here.I REALLY DON’T LIKE SAUERKRAUT!! But I’m willing to try it to get healthier!

        • Kelsey Steffen
          Kelsey Steffen
          Reply

          Way to go Beth! Sadly, no…the Bread and Butter pickles are the exception to the Bubbies fermented goodness (but some bread and butter pickles now and then certainly won’t do you any harm!). I like to top my burger patties with sauerkraut (tastes a lot like pickles), but I also love it straight out of the jar. In fact, I save my sauerkraut juice and take a swig every once in a while straight from the jar! I’ve also used it in place of vinegar in salad dressing, making a delicious probiotic dressing! You can also save the juice to make your own sauerkraut once next years garden yields are ready! So many benefits, I’m glad you’re trying! You might be surprised at how your taste buds adjust. I used to not like sauerkraut (but that was the non-fermented canned type), now I actually crave it!

          • Beth

            Me being facetious: Geez, I never get my way! Ok well, dill pickles it is! And I think they help with an acid stomach anyway. And sauerkraut…gulp. 🙂

          • Jason Steffen
            Jason Steffen

            “I save my sauerkraut juice and take a swig every once in a while straight from the jar!”…so checking the fridge before I kiss my wife…GRRROOOOOOSS! =)

          • Kelsey Steffen
            Kelsey Steffen

            Ha ha! You never even notice! Do it all the time! 😉

          • Beth

            LOL Jason!!!

  • Beth
    Reply

    So…would my homemade pickles, relish, and sauerkraut work as well as Bubbies?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Do you ferment them or can them? If they’re fermented then that would be perfect! Canned, unfortunately, don’t contain probiotics.

      • Beth
        Reply

        Ok, so I can mine…what is fermenting then? I thought it was using vinegar to pickle things

        • Kelsey Steffen
          Kelsey Steffen
          Reply

          I’ll see if I can bump up my fermenting post so everyone can benefit from getting these yummy foods into their diet (and know what it’s all about)!

      • Beth
        Reply

        So I read up on fermenting pickles and it says that after they’re done fermenting I may can them…do you agree with that? I’m wondering if the canning process would kill the probiotics… Canning would be great so I can keep them all year without buying 5 more fridges to handle all the pickles crock..heehee

        • Kelsey Steffen
          Kelsey Steffen
          Reply

          No, I would not recommend canning them. Lacto-fermenting your veggies converts the starch or sugars in the food into lactic acid which is a natural food preservative. The lactic acid inhibits putrefying bacteria growth, keeping your food safe to eat! Once the fermentation takes place (usually 2-3 weeks depending on the food), you can move to cold storage and it will be shelf stable for many months (even further enhancing the flavor). Meanwhile, fermenting enhances enzymes that help you digest food and absorb nutrients (which is why I like to have some with each meal).

          • Beth

            Ok…so I’m not trying to be contrary but Bubbies cans theirs….just sayin! LOL Would cold storage be considered 40 degrees?

          • Kelsey Steffen
            Kelsey Steffen

            I’m starting to wondering if we’re talking about the same product? 🙂 Bubbies is found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store (usually in the specialty/organic sections). It’s true it has been “flash heated” which kills about 10% of the beneficial bacteria, but it’s not “canned” in the way we hot water bath can, which would kill off all beneficial bacteria. The flash heating is necessary to prevent further fermentation and possible breakage of the jars. So, for this reason, a homemade ferment would have more beneficial bacteria and be better for you (not to mention less expensive). But, proper ferments take upwards of a month! So in the meantime, you can still feel good about buying Bubbies!

          • Beth

            Ok…Didn’t know the differences in the flash and canning!! I’m learning so much..thanks!!

          • Kelsey Steffen
            Kelsey Steffen

            You’re asking some great questions! And keeping me on my toes! 😉 Keep them coming! Glad you’re learning so much…it’s a never ending journey, but one I happen to love!

      • Tammy
        Reply

        Clarifying question:
        When I make my dill pickles every year, I just boil the brine and poor over the cucumber, then invert jar and let it stand on the counter this way for 5 to 10 minutes, turn jar over and let the jar seal. Is this “canning” or would this be considered letting it ferment? Thank you !

        • Kelsey Steffen
          Kelsey Steffen
          Reply

          Great question Tammy! What you do with cucumbers (which is exactly how I pickle, too) is canning. Canning uses a hot brine which destroys food-born microorganisms that can spoil food, as well as seals the jar and flavors the food, thus preserving and making it shelf stable. However, lacto-fermentation is taking the starches and sugars naturally present in the food and converting them into lactic acid, this happens by the presence of lactic-acid producing bacteria that are naturally present on foods (and the process usually takes 2-6 weeks). Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria (which would cause food spoilage). The process is different depending on what food you’re preserving, but the practice dates back to the ancient Greeks! I’ll be sure to have a post about lacto-fermentation soon. Which recipe would you want to see first? Pickles? Sauerkraut? Yummy cranberry relish? Let me know!

          • Tammy

            CRANBERRY RELISH! My hubby and 5 year old LOVE cranberries…. mmmmmm what a great way to get them probiotics! My mom used to ferment cabbage into sauerkraut… wish I would have watched her closer. Thank you for the detailed answer! I am learning so much!

          • Kelsey Steffen
            Kelsey Steffen

            I’m on it! My mom has a killer cranberry relish recipe and I still have fresh cranberries in the freezer!

  • Lauren
    Reply

    Waiting for your post on the importance of raw milk and why it makes a difference in yogurt 😉

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      It’s coming! In short, raw milk still contains lactase, an enzyme needed to digest lactose. When you pasteurize milk the lactase is killed (often why people have a lactose intolerance). But I’ll get into that soon…I promise!

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