As part 2 of our gut health series, we're talking pre/probiotics. All the nutrients the body uses to repair and rebuild are absorbed in the intestines. So naturally, intestinal health is the foundation for nourishing all bodily systems! The microbiome inside the body has the power to impact almost every area of our health, from immunity and stress response to sleep, mood, behavior, metabolism, weight, and more! It's not all about the gut, however. All of our body parts are connected. One of the most recently studied connections in the body that I think is FASCINATING is the relationship between the gut and the brain.
The Brain-Gut Connection
The brain and gut share a special connection where one impacts the other. Examples of this:
- Stress or inflammation in the gut will change how you feel emotionally. A leaky gut will literally make you cranky!
- Head trauma or depression is also linked to a leaky gut.
The microbes in the brain and gut talk to each other! Sometimes the gut is even called "the second brain" because of all that goes on down there. Unfortunately, reduced biodiversity of intestinal bacteria is a common ailment today due to a high usage of antibiotics. Low microbe count in the gut is linked to lower immune systems and higher anxiety.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Enter pre and probiotics! Probiotics are friendly bacteria that help support better use of bioavailability (the degree and rate something is absorbed in the body) of several nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and carbs. Probiotics also increase healthy flora (microorganisms) in the intestines. Prebiotics are plant fibers that feed that good bacteria, and are just as important as probiotics are! It's crucial to get a healthy serving of prebiotic and fermented foods on your plate every day to feed your probiotics and keep them strong. They can't survive without that food!
It's recommended to take a probiotic that has at least 20,000 CFU (colonty forming unit) count. The bacteria in a probiotic should include one or more of the lactobacillus family, which are about the only "friendly bacteria" strong enough to make it into the large intestines where they need to be!
Common Probiotic Mistakes
- Selecting the wrong probiotic for your lifestyle. If you're constantly on the go, you shouldn't choose a probiotic that only needs refrigeration. A capsule version would be better because you can take it everywhere. You can also get a powder to add to smoothies, etc.
- Overlooking the instructions. If the bottle tells you to take your probiotic with a meal, it probably needs food to buffer the harsh stomach environment.
- Not getting enough fiber. Probiotics are only part of the gut-health puzzle! You need to supplement with fiber, as this will nurture beneficial bacteria and give them energy to optimize your digestive balance. Just make sure to add it slowly. Too much at once can overwhelm your gut and cause gas and bloating.
- Not being consistent. The best way to ensure the probiotics will work is to take them at the same time each and every day. They can't work if you don't routinely take them.
- Letting your wellness habits slide. In order for probiotics to work at their best, aim to be consistent in your other health habits as well, such as managing stress, clean eating, etc. Factors that will hurt probiotic numbers in your gut are a poor diet, stress, disease, and antibiotics.
Which Probiotics To Take
What's tricky about probiotics is that there's not a one-size-fits-all formula for everyone's needs. The best way to determine which to take is by turning to your body for clues. Do you have digestion problems? Are you getting sick often? Have you been feeling depressed? Also, just buying a probiotic with the most bacteria strains and CFUs doesn't always mean better. What's more important is looking for specific strains that will benefit your body. Different strains will deliver different health benefits. For more help on which strains may be best for you, visit USprobioticguide.com.
Constipation, Diarrhea, IBS
- lactobacillus plantarum
-bifidobacterium longum BB536
- lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- lactobacillus acidophilus L-92
- lactobacillus paracasei LP 33
- bifidobacterium longum BB536
* How immunity probiotics help is by reducing the levels of antibodies, as well as strengthening your disease-fighting T-cells.
- lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1
- lactobacillus reuteri RC-14
- lactobacillus acidophilus KS400
- lactobacillus casei rhamnosus Lcr35
* Since yeast infections are caused by out of whack bacteria levels, it makes sense to take a probiotic if you're prone to them.
Depression and Anxiety
- lactobacillus plantarum PS128
- lactobacillus helveticus R0052
- bifidobacterium longum R0175
* These work best when taken with mood-boosting foods for full potency.
Eating foods to improve your gut is just as important as taking pre/probiotics. Looking to help your gut with food? Use the "Good Gut Rule of 5":
- Greens help fill you up and keep you regular. (kale, collards, arugula, spinach)
- Healthy fats are essential for proper absorption of most vitamins and minerals. (coconut/olive oil, nuts, avocados)
- Protein keeps you full and stabilizes your blood sugar, helping you avoid sugar cravings. (wild salmon, organic chicken, grass-fed beef, canned wild sardines)
- Fermented foods are packed with probiotics to promote a healthy microbiome and keep digestion running smoothly. (1-3 tbsp/meal; sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented carrots or beets)
- Cooked veggies make a meal more grounding and filling. (steamed/roasted)
- chicory root
- dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichoke
- konjac root
- burdock root
- yacon root
- jicama root
- wheat bran
- coconut kefir
- natto (fermented soybeans)
- kvass (European fermented beverage)
- kombucha (my favorite!!)
- raw dairy
- grain bread
- red meat
- green tea
- dark chocolate