Happy Monday Friends! This week we are going to get started right away with Healthy Habit for Week 23 in the 52 Weeks to 52 Healthy Habits Series! The next 4 weeks will be all about improving and/or nurturing your gastro- intestinal tract!
Does it seem weird I’m making an entire mini series in the 52 Weeks to 52 Healthy Habits series about digestIon? When I started this series 6 months ago, it was about promoting lifestyle change instead of going on another diet. Whether your goal is weight loss or to feel your best, healthy digestion is absolutely a vital component. Did you know that up to 80% of your immunity is located in the GI tract? The GI tract is the main barrier to pathogens and is the first to decide what is friend and what is foe. Up to 50% of the immune system response originates in the digestive system. This system is filled with billions of bacteria which aid our bodies in digestion, although the most common groups are lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. It has been well documented that these bacteria influence not only digestive health by aiding nutrient breakdown and producing nutrients, but the immune system as well.
The Importance Of Bacteria In The Gut
Recent research is beginning to determine exactly how important the amount and types of bacteria we carry are directly related with health outcomes. Most of the research is new and exciting but also continually demonstrates how little we know about how important these vital microscopic organisms are. For instance, what might be the ideal microbiome make up for one person might be another persons poison. The post I wrote on how I personally improved my digestion with the right probiotic and finally got off my chronic use of beano continues to be one of my top viewed posts on Hungry Hobby. The thing is, I had tried other probiotics before, but maybe they weren’t right for my body. I’ve been moving more and more toward specializing in gastro intestinal disorders/symptoms as part of my private practice. As I delve farther into the research, the more I am convinced there is no catch all method for everyone.
The amount and type of bacteria you have may also affect your bodies ability to absorb calories and nutrients. Some types may be more efficient than others at breaking down nutrients leaving you with more calories and nutrients to absorb. They also seem to respond to different nutrients or substances differently. Some research has shown that artificial sweeteners may elicit effects on the gut microbiome such as favoring bacteria that induce insulin resistance or glucose intolerance (1,2). In other words, artificial sweeteners don’t have caloric sugar in them, but they change the microbiome to handle sugar less efficiently in the body. It has also been repeatedly reviewed that healthy lean individuals have vastly different bacterial make ups from those with metabolic syndrome (obesity, blood pressure, blood lipids and/or blood sugar concerns) (3,4).
What Are Probiotics?
Our natural colonization of bacteria take a hit with illness (diarrhea and antibiotics) and it takes effort on our part to restore levels to optimal, that is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are the actual bacteria (on rare occasions beneficial yeast) that we ingest. Probiotics are found as supplements or in food sources such as yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, saurkraut and more.
Potential Benefits Of Probiotic Supplements
Although it is unclear which strains and what amount is required probiotic supplements have been associated with:
- Combating antibiotic associated diarrhea (6,7)
- Combating symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome such as diarrhea, gas and bloating. (7,8)
- Combating H.Pylori Infections – known causes of ulcers and stomach cancers. (9)
- Decreasing inflammation and supporting immune function (10, 11).
- Improving cholesterol and blood pressure (12, 13).
- Improving skin irritation (acne, eczema) through the gut-brain-skin axis (15)
- many more studies currently in progress!
How To Get Enough Probiotics
I generally recommend all my clients, friends and family take a probiotic especially if they have recently been ill, taken antibiotics, are having GI discomfort, are trying to lose weight or generally want to improve their health. So I recommend them really frequently. My general rule of thumb is too look for something with at least 3 strains of bacteria in it and 5-15 billion active cultures. In addition to taking your probiotic I also recommend aiming to get 3-7 servings of bacterial fermented foods per week which include:
- low sugar yogurt —> all kinds greek, icelandic, etc —> non dairy options available such as coconut yogurt are fine!
- low sugar kefir —> drinkable yogurt
The rest of this series will focus on feeding the probiotic or good bacteria to get them to colonize and stick around! So start by getting a steady supply then next week check out the blog for tips on feeding them with pre-biotics (different from probiotics.) Here are a few links to my favorite probiotic supplements but they are by no means the only good ones out there!
*** Recently there has been some discussion about Amazon supplement products not being authentic. I cannot guarantee the links below are coming from the manufacturer. With my clients I use a service called full script to make recommendations about pharmaceutical grade supplements with my one on one nutrition counseling clients, when appropriate and offer them a discount. If this is a service you might be interested feel free to contact me and we can set something up.
Thorne Research Floramend —-> What I personally take and recommend most often for general health.
VSL #3 – Recommended for those with long standing history of gastrointestinal discomfort, heavy antibiotic use or other indications. (Also available at Costco.)
Douglas Probiotics – for those that need to take probiotics multiple times per day to re-establish gut flora.
52 Healthy Habits in 52 Weeks Series:
(1) Payne, A. N., C. Chassard, and C. Lacroix. “Gut microbial adaptation to dietary consumption of fructose, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols: implications for host–microbe interactions contributing to obesity.” obesity reviews 13.9 (2012): 799-809.
(2) Suez, Jotham, et al. “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.” Nature 514.7521 (2014): 181-186.
(3) Delzenne, Nathalie M., et al. “Targeting gut microbiota in obesity: effects of prebiotics and probiotics.” Nature Reviews Endocrinology 7.11 (2011): 639-646.
(4) Duncan, Sylvia H., et al. “Human colonic microbiota associated with diet, obesity and weight loss.” International journal of obesity 32.11 (2008): 1720-1724.
(5) Park, Sunmin, and Ji-Hyun Bae. “Probiotics for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrition Research 35.7 (2015): 566-575.
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