Topics I frequently get asked about include probiotics and gut health. Questions range from:
“What kind of probiotics should I take?”
“Will I ever have a healthy gut microflora again?”
and even, “What are probiotics?”.
These are excellent questions and the answers can get people moving toward balanced health. This gets me very excited.
Let’s deconstruct probiotics and why we might need them.
Gut: small and large intestines
Probiotic: means “pro-organism”
Microflora: bacteria and fungi that inhabit an area, in this case, the gut
There are over 400 different species of bacteria in our intestines and over 100 trillion bacteria that make up our gut microflora. We have ten times more of these organisms than we have cells in our body! Most are beneficial, or "friendly", while some are not beneficial.
These beneficial bacteria significantly contribute to overall wellness by aiding in digestion and the absorption of vital nutrients. They maintain a strong immune response by increasing numbers of certain T cells, and they keep intestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, yeast, and gas away. Copious amounts of healthy, beneficial organisms keep the unhealthy organisms and bacteria in check; called competitive exclusion. An 80% friendly bacteria to 20% unfriendly is the optimal ratio for our guts and our overall health.
Things that can cause an imbalance in this ratio unclude taking antibiotic medications, consuming non-organic meat (food animals get 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States), pesticides and GMO's, junk food, stress, alcohol consumption, constipation, illness, and aging. An imbalance allows the harmful organisms and bacterias to increase in number which can result in digestive issues, skin rashes, acne, allergies, cognitive issues, and even depression.
Maintaining and replenishing these beneficial bacteria is so important and we can do this with probiotics. Probiotics contain the same beneficial bacteria that we all posses in our intestines. We can get probiotics from supplements or food.
Five billion organisms a day or more is optimal. Food sources are yogurt with 7 grams of sugar per serving or less, kombucha; a fizzy tea beverage, sauerkraut, and kefir. All labels need to say “live organisms” on them.
Most quality probiotic supplements contain several strains of bacteria but look for Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria on the label. Lactbacillus acidopholus is utilized by the small intestine and Bifidobacteria by the large intestine.
If you need to take antibiotics, probiotic doses need to be much higher to replenish the beneficial bacteria killed off by the antibiotics and they need to be taken several hours away from antibiotics. If you know you will be starting antibiotics for an infection, taking probiotics ahead of time will bulk up your stores of beneficial organisms.
Probiotics contribute greatly to health and wellbeing and I hope you will consider adding them to your health regimen. Feel free to ask me questions or comment on your own experiences with probiotics.