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 Intro to Probiotics

Within the human gut, there are millions of microscopic creatures called microbiota. We live side by side with these tiny bacteria in a symbiotic relationship, which means that we both benefit from the partnership we’ve developed. While we feed these bacteria food to survive, they help break down that same food and release beneficial byproducts.

Now, having gut bacteria in the first place is essential. However, it’s just as important to note what they’re being fed. The bacteria can do their jobs as expected as good food goes in. Yet, if we constantly provide them with foreign things like processed foods, they may have a more challenging time doing things right. This can lead to disturbances in gut health and much more.

While gut bacteria must help us break down food, they also help with multiple functions in the body. Plus, as research goes further and further, there are new findings around what all these guys are helping us with.

The gut has been linked to many things such as mood, immune health, energy levels, focus, vibrancy, and just overall well-being. With such a vast level of influence, your gut health should be taken seriously. When it is, you create such a high level of fitness that will keep things running smoothly for years.

With all of this being said, you’re probably wondering how to improve gut health there may be. There are multiple, and we will cover that in the rest of this article. We’ll be looking at the importance of gut health, what probiotics are, what prebiotics are, the benefits of fermented foods, and probiotics supplementation.

 

Importance of Gut Health

Your gut plays roles in brain health, mood regularity, focus, immune function, digestion, and digestive tract health. In this section, we will dive into how these roles are filled.

The gut is referred to as your second brain in some literature. As research develops, there seems to be a massive link between your stomach and the Vagus Nerve. This is a nerve that carries signals from the gut and organs to the brain, and your gut has a direct link to those signals. Some of these signals can be related to mood through serotonin or even things like your nervous system state (parasympathetic or sympathetic). That being said, gut health is essential for things like digestion and your mental and physical health.

There is also a link to your immune system through the health of your gut. This is due to the balance of bacteria that your gut actually works to keep. When things are going smoothly, there is a perfect balance of good and bad bacteria. During times when this balance is present the body can fight off opportunistic pathogens through a series of mucus excretions and antimicrobial compounds. The more effective your gut is at doing this, technically the less you would be sick. Your body becomes good at fighting back when the gut is healthy. Thus, it’s essential to take care of the gut so that it can operate at its best.

While referring to the gut, it’s only fitting that we talk about the health and function of the digestive tract. Without healthy gut microbiota, you can’t properly process your food. When this begins, you can see bowel disease or colon disease instances. These can manifest in the form of cancers or inflammatory diseases, and over time these can cause some severe health issues. Therefore, you must practice good gut health to have a healthy digestive system.

Gut health matters, and it plays an integral role in your overall quality of life. In medicine and health prevention, the gut deserves more attention as the originator of some medical struggles. As research progresses, more and more findings show the bacteria in your gut as a promising area of attention.

 

What are Probiotics and Prebiotics

So, when discussing gut health and gut bacteria, you have also to include the concepts of probiotics and prebiotics. The two are pretty different and play different roles, yet in the same arena of influence.

Probiotics are the bacteria themselves. If someone were to eat something that contained probiotics, they would add to the colony in the gut. Think of the probiotics as reinforcements for the army. If someone’s gut bacteria are out of balance, bringing in the things you’re missing can help with the gut’s health. As previously discussed, that balance is quite crucial for things like the immune system. So, where do you find them? Probiotics are found in foods that have been fermented. This means that they have been colonized by bacteria that break down the food particles. You see this in foods like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha. While the idea of eating these bacteria-containing foods may seem alarming, these bacteria are harmless. They can help to recolonize the gut or balance things out over time.

Prebiotics are a bit different. They don’t contain the bacteria that are present in the gut. Instead, you can think of prebiotics as the bacteria eat. As previously mentioned, gut bacteria have a preference for what they consume. When they don’t receive those items, they don’t function. Prebiotic foods are onions, garlic, carrots, asparagus, and some fruits. Plants make up most of this list because they contain fiber. Fiber is preferred as a food source for most gut bacteria, so it only makes sense that you should consume more of those foods.

It would be best if you had both probiotics and prebiotics in your diet. It’s also important that you utilize sources from foods and supplements. This is truly the best way of ensuring that you get everything you need for a happy, healthy gut microbiome.

 

Fermented Foods

Numerous foods come in a fermented state. It’s a popular culinary technique that is present in many different cuisines. You can find fermentation present in foods like pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, beer, wine, kombucha, and some cheeses. While these foods do contain probiotics, not all of them will be the perfect option for vibrant health. It’s best to look for sugar-free foods like some yogurts, low in calories like kimchi, and made with natural organic ingredients. For example, beer has some probiotics in it but can also come with a host of health problems on its own. Just keep these things in mind when choosing something fermented to add to your diet! All in all, it’s going to help improve your gut health tremendously.

It should also be noted that consuming fermented foods and probiotics can lead to better gut health. However, you do have to consume prebiotics as well. This is because prebiotics will influence how bacteria react. It doesn’t matter how many you have, and if they aren’t happy and functioning synergistically, it won’t benefit you as much.

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Supplementation

Supplementation is meant to add to an already solid foundation of health pursuits. One pill or powder won’t be the game-changer, but it could be the thing that makes you 5% better in the long run. There are various probiotic supplements on the market, and you want to make sure you get the one that’s right for you. When you step into the health food store or look online, you’ll notice that the probiotic supplements give a number. This represents the number of bacteria that are present in that particular product. While you may think that more is better, this isn’t always the case. The recommended amount for a healthy person is around 10-15 billion CFUs (colony forming units). Some supplements get as high as 50-100 billion! This amount is typically reserved for clinical settings where someone has extreme cases of gastric dysfunction. Stick with a normal range for your supplementation, and you will be just fine.

In addition, there are some probiotic supplements that are kept in the fridge and some that are shelf-stable. These supplements are technically alive, and if they aren’t kept in the right conditions, they can die. There would be nothing worse than spending your money and receiving your probiotics DOA (dead on arrival). In this case, they wouldn’t do anything for you anyway. Most of these shelf-stable products will still be viable, but this depends on the company. There are instances where the product doesn’t live up to the guarantee on the labels. So, discretion should be used when choosing between a shelf-stable and refrigerated supplement.

Conclusion

Looking at probiotics, prebiotics, and gut health, you can see that they are significant. Taking gut health into your hands will be highly beneficial to you in the long run. You could see changes in your mental health, energy levels, mood, immune function, and digestive health all by making a few changes. You can start incorporating more fermented foods and probiotic supplements into your diet to jumpstart this process. A lot of the outward changes you hope to see will begin inside. As the scientific world spends more time researching the gut’s roles, things only look more promising. Keep focusing on your gut health, and you may notice changes you didn’t even expect!

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