Updated: Dec 2, 2020
What does your gut health say about your overall health? Your gut health affects the health of your entire system. If your normal gut environment is disrupted, research suggests it can be associated with allergies, immune function, inflammation, obesity, type 2 diabetes, eczema, acne, depression, digestive health, anxiety, joint pain, and even Alzheimer’s.
Your body is home to trillions of microorganisms, including good gut bacteria, yeast, and some potentially harmful bacteria as well. When your gut microbiome is strong, and there is a balance of microorganisms, it positively affects your overall health. When you have a good balance of healthy bacteria, your food is digested, nutrients are absorbed, and allergens, toxins and illnesses are kept at bay.
What causes your digestive ecosystem to become unbalanced?
Eating habits: excess sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods
Environmental exposures: toxins such as mercury and mold
Overuse of certain medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and antacids
Probiotics are widely available, but with so many brands and doses available, it can be confusing. Add in prebiotics, and it can seem overwhelming. If we break it down and start with definitions, it becomes simpler.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that line your digestive tract. When balanced, they help promote good health by helping your body absorb nutrients and fight infections. The best way to get probiotics is through your diet. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, fermented ketchup, kombucha and yogurt are great sources of probiotics. The typical American diet does not contain as many fermented foods as we need, but adding more in on a daily basis can help build a strong foundation in your gut.
Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics help the probiotics grow and thrive. The best food sources for prebiotics are typically high-fiber plants like root vegetables, artichokes, raw onions, raw asparagus, under ripe bananas, chicory root, raspberries, green peas, broccoli, beans, lentils, dandelion greens, and whole grains.
Because of the importance of our gut health, If you are not eating a lot of probiotics in your diet, a supplement is necessary. Keep in mind that all supplements are not created equal. Quality varies dramatically between brands.
Reputable brands will be quality control tested and available through a trained professional. Dosage is also important. Probiotics are measured in colony forming units, or CFU’s. There are many different strains of probiotics, some of which are more likely to make it to the gut where they are needed. Different strains are used for different symptoms or needs.
As you can see, probiotics are not a one size fits all supplement. Much like prescriptions, supplements should not be taken without appropriate knowledge of what you are taking them for, and how to take them appropriately so that they are beneficial and not harmful. I strongly encourage people to consult with a qualified practitioner prior to starting any new supplements. It is also important to keep your primary care provider in the loop, as many over the counter supplements can react with medications that you may be taking. Too often people purchase supplements and feel they are safe because they are easily accessible and a prescription is not needed.
By improving your gut health, you can improve your overall health and well being. An easy list to accomplish this is: 1. Eliminate sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed foods 2. Avoid overuse of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and antacids 3. Eat a wide variety of foods including whole grains, raw vegetables, beans and fruit 4. Eat fermented foods 5. Supplement with a good quality probiotic 6. Reduce stress by exercising, meditating, doing yoga and laughing more 7. Establish a normal sleep pattern and try to get 8 hours 8. Limit exposure to environmental toxins By establishing these habits, you will be one step closer to improving your physical and brain health, so that you can live your best life!
~Lynn M. Randall, D.C.