The word “PROBIOTIC” is derived from both Latin and Greek, meaning “bacteria for life”.
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in our gut, also known as the microbiome. These bacteria feast on the foods and fiber that we eat (known as prebiotics), and help maintain out gut integrity, our gut health, and have MANY many other benefits.
There is evidence now that the microbiome of our gut may be a determinant of many diseases, and health, as well as inflammation, obesity, and cancer.
The normal human body has > 100 Trillion bacteria in its intestines. These bacteria modulate our immune system, both the one in our bloodstream, and the one in our guts.
Did you know that our guts have an immune system? Did you know that our guts impact our health as much as they do?
Our guts are the gateway between the outside world and our bloodstream. The gut is where food is broken down into its component pieces, and absorbed into our bodies. Where the micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and other factors that we ingest become one with our body.
Our guts regulate our health in so many ways, and now there is evidence that our guts may determine our body weight, our stress response, and even how likely we are to get certain diseases.
This is why so many functional foods are being developed that contain probiotics!
You’ve seen the commercials, and the front-of-package labels stating “good for gut health,” or “promotes healthy gut functioning.”
While many of these products may be an overstatement, or are laden with sugar, fat, and other nutrients that are less beneficial; it is true, that the right strains, the right amounts, and the proper diet can go a long way to keeping us trim and healthy.
During the past year or two, a story came out that transplanting feces from a thin rat, to a fat rat, made the fat rat thinner. Conversely, transplanting the feces from a fat rat, to a thin rat, made the thin rat fatter.
There have been numerous other peer-review articles also out in the past few years to demonstrate the importance of healthy guts and the microbes that live inside of it. In fact, there are now human fecal-transplantations being done for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) or to heal patients from the bacteria c.diff. And, while it sounds absolutely “disgusting,” these treatments dramatically improve the health of these patients.
So, what can we do to help our body’s microbiome? Our probiotic status? Our GI health? Our intestinal microflora?
We can take probiotics.
Sure, you can buy designer probiotics, or the yogurt-like probiotic beverages. But, I think one of the best things we can do is try to get them from a natural source, or get ones that are naturally found in our body.
Lactobacillus GG (lactobacillus rhamnosus) is the best probiotic studied. So, if you buy a probiotic supplement, make sure it has Lactobacillus in it.
Breastmilk has a number of probiotics on it naturally, so in many ways, buying a probiotic that has the same strains as breastmilk might not be a bad way to go. I buy “Flora Baby” for my son and take it myself. But, this brand also makes dozens of other probiotics with similar strains at more potent doses.
Other ways of helping your gut are to eat highly-fermented foods such as kim-chee, kefir, or similar non-dairy sources. Or, again, taking a probiotic pill or powder.
The other way of stimulating and helping the probiotics are to eat foods that are high in prebiotics; non-digestible fibers that the probiotics can feast on. Good sources of prebiotics include “less-ripe” bananas, onions, asparagus, beans, almost any “roughage” food.
So…to keep your gut and regular health in tip-top shape, or to improve your current status, it might be a good idea to look into taking probiotics, and eating more fiber. BUT…make sure to drink sufficient water!!