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 of what we ingest, what is a friend and what is a 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 to 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 person’s 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 most viewed posts on Hungry Hobby. The thing is, I had tried other probiotics before, but maybe they weren’t right for my body. As a LEAP therapist providing food sensitivity testing, it is my goal to help my clients figure out what is right for their bodies. As I delve further into the research, the more I am convinced there is no catch all method for everyone. (So don’t believe those infomercials! Don’t get frustrated when something works for your friend but not you! You are unique and so is your gut microbiome, but you need to take care of it!)
The amount and type of bacteria you have may also affect your 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. 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. Click To Tweet 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. The ultimate goal here is to either rebuild or support a healthy population in the gut microbiome. 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 to see benefits in different areas of GI Health, 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)
- There are so many studies in progress as researchers dive deeper into this fascinating topic. They are looking at things like mood regulation, weight loss, and medications.
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 basically recommend them to everyone, they are part of what I call my core three (multi-vitamin, fish oil, probiotics). My general rule of thumb is to 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 5-7 servings of bacterially fermented foods per week which include:
- low sugar yogurt —> all kinds are great as long as they have active cultures
- low sugar kefir —> drinkable yogurt
- kombucha (look for low sugar versions)
- other fermented foods
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 work together.
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:
The 52 Healthy Habits Series is about ditching the diet mindset and making small changes to improve health overall naturally leading to a healthy body composition, increased energy and improved health. Please follow along and check out the past weeks!
- Week 52: Healthy Habits Wrap Up
- Week 51: Nightly Reflection
- Week 50: Limit Harmful Chemicals
- Week 49: Find Your Tribe
- Week 48: Cultivating Positivity
- Week 47: Healthy Thanksgiving Tips
- Week 46: Check In
- Week 45: Mobility – Foam Rolling
- Week 44: HIIT Training
- Week 43: LISS or Steady State Cardio
- Week 42: Limit Alcohol
- Week 41: Eat White, Wait What?
- Week 40: Eat Blue & Purple
- Week 39: Eat Green
- Week 38: Eat Yellow/Orange
- Week 37: Eat Red
- Week 36: Learn Which Foods to Purchase Organic
- Week 35: Read the Ingredient List!
- Week 34: Focus.
- Week 33: Chew Your Food!
- Week 32: Meditation
- Week 31: Gratitude Journaling
- Week 30: Plan & Revamp Dessert- 20 Healthy Ideas
- Week 29: Two fistfuls of veggies per meal
- Week 28: Get In Veggies At Breakfast
- Week 27: Healthy Veggie Snacks
- Week 26: Nourishing Fats for the Gut (Healthy Digestion Part 4)
- Week 25: Keeping Regular – The Other Fiber (Healthy Digestion Part 3)
- Week 24: Feed The Probiotics With Prebiotic Fiber (Healthy Digestion Part 2)
- Week 23: Amazing Health Benefits of Probiotics (Healthy Digestion Part 1)
- Week 22: Check In
- Week 21: What You Will Learn From Recording Your Meals (Intuitive Eating Series Part 4)
- Week 20: Eat Until 80% Full (Hara Hachi Bu) (Intuitive Eating Series Part 3)
- Week 19: Limit Distractions While Eating (Intuitive Eating Series Part 2)
- Week 18: Gaging Your Hunger Cues (Intuitive Eating Series Part 1)
- Week 17: 10,000 Steps Per Day
- Week 16: Assess Your Caffeine Intake
- Week 15: Decrease Sugar Intake
- Week 14: Healthy Coffee Creamers (upgrade yours)
- Week 13: 3 Month Check In
- Week 12: Sleep Enough & Sleep Better
- Week 11: Schedule Your Workouts
- Week 10: Pack A Healthy Lunch (5 Ways to Create Endless Combinations)
- Week 9: Prioritizing Protein
- Week 8: How and What to Meal Prep
- Week 7: Create & Stick To Your Healthy Meal Plan
- Week 6: Get Enough Omega-3’s (Fight Inflammation)
- Week 5: What Is A Healthy Fat & How To Get Enough (Include Healthy Fats)
- Week 4: How to Spot A Healthy Carbohydrate (Upgrade Your Carbs)
- Week 3: Tips to Increase Veggie Intake (Eat Veggies)
- Week 2: 15 Healthy On the Go Breakfast Ideas (Eat BF Challenge)
- Week 1: Tips to Drink More Water