Everyone from an infant to a grown man can benefit from probiotics. It seems, however, women may get the most benefit from them. Have you heard the words “flora” or “microbiota?” These describe the bacteria living in your intestinal tract. These are healthy bacteria which prevent women from getting sick, help break down food and even keep reproductive organs functioning properly. Sometimes one’s flora gets overrun with harmful bacteria. When this occurs, one may experience gas, bloating, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis. Taking antibiotics is a huge reason why a woman’s flora may be unbalanced. It may also come as no surprise that by avoiding certain foods, and incorporating others into your diet, you can help keep your intestinal tract happy.
Here are the ABCs for what foods to avoid for a healthy flora, and some alternatives:
- A. Cranberry Juice Cocktails: Due to cranberry’s antibacterial properties, almost all women are familiar with drinking cranberry juice for a healthy bacteria count. Cranberry makes a women’s body more resistant to bacteria such as E. Coli, protecting the good probiotics. This fruit drink is also very beneficial for a women’s urinary tract. The problem with most cranberry drinks is that they are loaded with added sugar. Instead of a cranberry cocktail, opt for a cranberry concentrate. Cranberry concentrates are 100% pure cranberry and should be diluted with water or club soda due to the extremely tart flavor. A serving is usually two tablespoons, but may vary depending on brand. Dilute into eight to 10 ounces of water. Another option is to take a high quality cranberry supplement.
- B. French Fries: Fried foods can have a negative impact on a women’s health by increasing the harmful bacteria. Bad bacteria feed off of fried foods. This causes the bad bacteria to grow and flourish and outnumber the good bacteria. It is a wise idea to cut french fries out of your daily diet and instead enjoy them once in a while, as a treat. A great french fry alternative (that I love) are baked breaded zucchini fries. Here is a quick recipe you can try: Cut two medium zucchini into fry shape. Get two large bowls and fill one with ¾ cup grated parmesan, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. In the second bowl, whisk one to two large eggs. Take each zucchini stick and soak for a couple of seconds in the egg, then roll around in the parmesan mixture. Place all fries on a nonstick baking pan so they are not touching and bake for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees. Dip in marinara sauce if desired.
- C. Alcohol: Sipping on a beer or glass of wine is okay every once in a while but is not advised regularly. Alcohol can increase the production of yeast in a women’s body, which can lead to negative side effects such as fatigue, headache, sinus infections, skin breakouts and more. Try introducing a chilled kombucha drink. They are carbonated, come in tons of different flavors, and will keep the yeast and harmful bacteria in check, while providing many health benefits for the good bacteria to feed off. If you are a woman who loves her red and white wines, that’s fine, but be mindful of the sugar. Try mixing four ounces of wine with seltzer. This way you can enjoy your wine and also cut down significantly on the sugar and calories.
There is a lot of information on the market now about probiotics and sifting through it all can become tiresome. It is important to do some research about which probiotic (strain, bacteria count, brand) is right for you so you experience the most benefits from the bacteria and not the negative side effects. By simply using the alternatives listed above, you can get some great health benefits.
By Bess Berger, RDN
Bess Berger is a registered dietitian and started ABC Nutrition and Wellness to provide exceptional nutritional coaching tailored to each individual. Located in Teaneck, Berger has daytime and evening hours and weekends upon request. She can be reached at 201-281-0787 or [email protected] Major insurances accepted.