Gut health is one of the foundations of a healthy body. It is estimated that 70% – 80% of your immune system is situated in the digestive tract; the digestive tract contains numerous microorganisms. This community of microorganisms in the intestines is called the gut flora. The gut flora contains hundreds, possibly thousands of microorganisms consisting of bacteria, yeasts, and viruses, with the majority of these microorganisms being found in the colon and large intestine. For humans, the gut flora is usually established in babies one or two years after birth, and plays a key role in the assimilation and manufacturing of vitamins and minerals throughout the body.
Interesting enough, the emergence and prevalence of antibiotics are what alerted doctors and scientists to the existence and importance of gut flora. It was observed that antibiotics would cause patients to have numerous stomach issues including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers even after the patients had stopped taking antibiotics. Scientists theorized that the antibiotics must have changed something in the gut to cause such a reaction. We now empirically know that antibiotics can alter the level of gut flora. Here are just a few effects antibiotics have on the gut:
-Antibiotics disable the ability of the gut to ferment carbohydrates and metabolize bile acids
-Antibiotics can reduce the native gut bacteria and provide an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut
-As the body adapts to antibiotics, there can be an increase in the number of antibiotic-resistant gut bacteria, which in turn evade the body and can cause sickness
Once upon a time, fermented foods were a staple in the human diet. Sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, tempeh etc. were consumed nearly every day. These probiotic- rich foods contain the good bacteria that our guts need for optimal health. These foods also neutralize the negative effects of antibiotics. Nowadays with the prevalence of sterilization, pasteurization, GMOs etc. much of the good bacteria is eradicated in the food preparation process. To combat this and keep our gut balanced, it is recommended we take probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms believed to provide health benefits when consumed. According to the Journal of Family Practice, “There is reasonable evidence that taking probiotics containing Lactobacillus species may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea and that taking probiotics with Saccharomyces may help to prevent infection following systemic antibiotic treatment.” Moreover, Dr. Allan Walker from the Harvard Medical School states, “Evidence from clinical research demonstrates that adding ‘good’ bacteria to the diet promotes a healthy digestive and immune system.” Many more scientists and health advocates promote the practice of supplemental probiotic use.
With this recommendation to take probiotics, many companies have jumped on the bandwagon have attempted to cash in on the new trend. Kombucha is now in most supermarkets, and pills containing probiotics are in many health stores. However, all probiotics are not the same. First of all, many ingested probiotics never make it into the digestive tract. They get absorbed long before making it to the gut. What’s the point of that? You need to make sure your probiotics are getting the job done. Check the bottle. It is recommended to ingest a probiotic with at least 10 unique strains, and 10 billion colony-forming units. Don’t know what that means? Me either. But this is the recommendation. Another benefit of probiotics is that they get rid of candida in the gut. Candida is one of the culprits linked to the inability to lose weight. Candida feeds on sugar and sweetener. Candida will actually trick your brain into consuming more sweets and sugars. When candida overgrows it spills through your digestive tract into the bloodstream, and hijacks other hormones, which creates cravings. Probiotics are one of the most recommended solutions for candida, and in turn help with management of cravings and weight loss.
So throw some sauerkraut and pickles on your sandwich. Drink some kombucha with your meal. Have some tempeh for dessert. And throw in some probiotics for good measure. Keep that gut happy and healthy.