We’ve heard about probiotics and how they are beneficial to our digestive system. Yogurt brands fall all over themselves with labelling, letting you know they’ve got ’em. (All yogurt, because it is fermented, contains billions of probiotics–whether it says so in big letters or not.)
But those tiny bacteria do much more for us, as we are discovering.
Probiotic means “for life”
“Probiotic” is the name given to microorganisms that live in our bodies—primarily in the intestines—keeping balance, cleaning the liver, and fighting infection. Some of those we get from food are created as the result of fermentation.
Food has been fermented across different cultures for millennia. In ancient times, it was probably initially employed to keep food from spoiling. As time went on, people noticed other health benefits to eating these foods.
Fermentation is the slow process of allowing natural microorganisms (yeast, molds, and bacteria) to break down carbohydrates (glucose) without oxygen into either ethanol (a kind of alcohol) or lactic acid. The alcohol has one effect (think beer and wine), lactic acid quite another.
Our bodies are constantly full of bacteria, some hazardous, some benign, but mostly they are good for us. It’s bacteria in our digestive systems that help break down food so we can use it for energy. What’s come to light in a recent study is that fermented foods not only help our digestion but they support our immune systems as well.