Benevolent bacteria

1 min read
Published:
12 Jun 2017
Duration:
1 min read
Words:
907 words
Segment:
Miscellanous
Why you need to start including probiotics in your diet

We know how antibiotics work. They help kill bacteria. However, did you know that while they rid us of the ‘bad bacteria’ in our bodies, they also kill off the ‘good bacteria’? And this can subsequently lead to problems associated with digestion, immunity and energy, among others. But we cannot avoid antibiotics all the time. Is there a way to counter the unwanted effects of antibiotics? Yes. We can use probiotics. 

Probiotics refer to live bacteria and yeast that keep us healthy by replenishing the ‘good bacteria’ that are lost to a course of antibiotics. They restore the balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria to keep our bodies functioning in good health. Probiotics are found naturally in our bodies, but it is advised that we consume foods that are rich in probiotics too. Some of them are listed below:

Fermented foods

If your palate loves everything sour, then this is good news. Research shows that sour foods like fermented vegetables contain some amount of probiotics, and the acidic content of such food itself encourages growth of probiotics as well.

TRY: Indulge in Nepali delicacies like gundruk and/or kinema. Another good option is the Korean side dish kimchi. You can also include apple cider vinegar in your diet (check out my article on apple cider vinegar for more ideas).

Yogurt

Made from the bacterial fermentation of milk, yogurt is another great source of probiotics. Just make sure that you opt for the unsweetened variety.

Kefir

Touted to be more nutritional than yogurt, as it is fermented with yeast and higher quantities of bacteria, kefir is a probiotic cultured milk made with ‘kefir grains’—a combination of about 40 lactic acid bacteria in a matrix of proteins, lipids and sugars. This is something most of us are unfamiliar with, but guess what? You can actually buy milk kefir in Kathmandu. Siru Thapa of Vita Kefir has been selling kefir for quite some time now, and I recently caught up with her to find out more about it.

Milk kefir in Nepal

Compared to other fermented dairy products, kefir is a much better source of probiotics since it contains about 30 different microorganisms along with minerals like folic acid, calcium, and Vitamins A and D. 

Why kefir?

Before Thapa moved back to Kathmandu, about seven years ago, she used to live in Sydney, where she learned of the benefits of kefir. “Kefir was a product commonly found in markets of Sydney; after I came back to Kathmandu, I realised it was unavailable here. I then decided to make my own kefir and sell them,” says Thapa. “There is definitely a market for it here too, especially because of its numerous healthful advantages. Kefir is a calcium powerhouse, which contributes to improved bone density and better bone health. It helps regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and keeps the gut free of toxic contents, healthy and clean. It also helps improve our mental health (kefir has been proven to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and sleeping disorders). Thus, this is something I always recommend to my family and friends.”
And for those who are lactose-intolerant, milk kefir makes for a viable option since the kefir starter breaks down the lactose present in milk during the fermentation process. 

Thapa also adds that there’s a particular bacterial strain that results in a benefit specific to milk kefir alone—it strengthens your body’s defences against harmful bacteria like E Coli and prevents growth of other predatory bacteria too. This all works to improve one’s overall immunity. 

Kefir for the novice

“It basically tastes like yogurt, just more tangy and sour,” says Thapa. “It is a drink, but if you don’t like the taste, you can choose to make it more palatable by adding a drop of vanilla essence or by simply mixing it with some fruits.”
“Since kefir is meant to improve digestion, first timers may experience more toilet trips than usual,” she says. “But that is not something to worry about, for it is a natural reaction.”

Expert tips  

  • Have a glass of kefir drink at least twice a day: a glass on an empty stomach after waking up and another right before you go to sleep.
  • For first timers: Start off with half a glass per day and slowly increase the dosage.
  • Once you start having it regularly, do take a day’s break from consuming it after every 10 days.

(You can contact Thapa through her official Facebook page, Vita Kefir, and order your dose of healthy kefir)