Probiotics and Gut Health
The Foundation of Wellness
What’s so important about gut health, anyway? It’s a trendy topic that you may have heard mentioned, but are you actually familiar with what it means?
Here’s a deep dive.
When we hear the word “gut”, many of us think only of our hungry, growling, or upset stomachs. “Gut” actually refers to the entire digestive system, including your esophagus, stomach, and intestines — organs that take in food, break it down to extract nutrients, and then eliminate the waste. The digestive tract is vital to our overall health and wellness, and it plays host to 40 trillion bacteria.
That’s a staggering number to read, right? All put together, this complex system of organisms is known as the human microbiome.
A Brief Biology Lesson
The microbiome is composed of microscopic organisms (like bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that, for the most part, live harmoniously in our small and large intestines. The “good” bacteria keep our bodily systems operating smoothly and are a vital component of our overall health.
The not-so-good gut bacteria, like e.coli, staph, and salmonella, can be potentially harmful. When the “bad guys” overwhelm the “good guys,” either through poor food choices, environmental toxins, infection, or contamination, the peaceful balance is upset and we may develop health issues like allergies, chronic inflammation, skin irritations, weight gain, asthma, and arthritis.
Did you realize that your gut has such a starring role in your body’s performance?
Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut
Our bodies give us clues when gut health is unbalanced, and symptoms can include gas, bloating, indigestion, abdominal pain, poor sleep, and chronic fatigue. Before adjusting your diet and lifestyle, it’s always best to check with your doctor to rule out serious conditions that may require medical intervention.
4 Steps to a Healthy Microbiome
Fostering a robust microbiome may involve a few changes in your lifestyle. Here are 4 essential habits for you to consider adding to your daily routine.
- Change what you eat. Try your best to eliminate sugar from your diet (such as sugar, flour, and pasta) and, instead, opt for fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, fermented foods (like yogurt) and food rich in polyphenols (dark chocolate, green tea, almonds, blueberries, and broccoli). A diverse diet with lots of plant-based food offers required nutrients essential for gut health.
- Get enough sleep. Easier said than done, we know. Sufficient sleep allows your body’s cells to regenerate and recharge, helps your brain stay alert and focused, and lowers your risk for certain chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Get enough exercise. One way to improve your chances for restful slumber is to keep your body moving. Exercise, like a walk on the treadmill, working with free weights, or a group exercise class, can reduce inflammation and promote growth of the “good guys.”
- Try probiotics. Composed of the good bacteria that live in our bodies, probiotics can either be taken as supplements or found in fermented food such as yogurt, buttermilk, or kimchi. When shopping, check the label for “live and active cultures.” Probiotics will help the good bacteria flourish, eliminate the bad bacteria, and help you maintain a healthy balance in your gut. And when your gut’s healthy, so are you!