Yes, your gut, or more specifically your intestines, is a garden! Instead of vegetables though, you have a healthy crop of bacteria and other microorganisms growing there.
It’s called your gut flora.
If having billions of microorganisms living in your gut sounds strange, I completely understand. The truth is is they’re your friends, and you really need them.
In fact, the critters living in your digestive tract are an exploding area of buzz and excitement in medicine right now.
We’re discovering that they have a massive influence on your overall health and affect your mood, weight, hormones, immune health AND longevity. That’s a lot for such little guys!
What are Probiotics? And Why is Everyone Talking About Them?
The good bacteria in your gut have so many important jobs.
They help break down carbohydrates, fat and protein to support absorption, are a key part of your gut’s immune system, and also manufacture vitamins like vitamin K and B vitamins among many others.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria (aka healthy gut flora) that come from certain fermented foods and probiotic supplements.
They’re making their way into the media and our fridges because so many of today’s common stressors create an imbalance in your gut flora. These include travel, stress, sugar, food sensitivities, low stomach acid, and most of all antibiotics.
Antibiotics – the Atomic Bomb
Antibiotics are incredible tools for saving lives and killing off deadly or harmful bacterial infections. Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t have completely targeted aim. Instead of killing off bacteria like a sniper, they’re more like a big atomic bomb.
This is helpful for clearing your infection, but also harmful when your protective bacteria is decimated.
Is Yogurt a Good Probiotic?
One of the most common questions I get is whether eating probiotic yogurt is enough. That depends. Once your digestion is healthy and balanced, a sugar-free, organic and unpasteurized yogurt is a great option for maintenance, even better if it’s home made. Other foods that are helpful are homemade fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut.
When the Weeds in your Gut Grow Wildly
If you have an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria or unfriendly yeast, you can have digestive issues like gas, bloating and constipation and other symptoms that go way beyond just your digestion.
Gut flora imbalances have been linked to autoimmune conditions, mood disorders like depression, eczema, psoriasis, most hormonal disorders, and inflammatory conditions like joint pain and arthritis.
How to Support Your Gut Flora
Choose a probiotic that has at least 10 billion live organisms per dose, and contains a variety of species, including bifido bacterium and lactobacillus acidophilus.
More is not always better! Too high of a dose can cause cramps, bloating, gas or loose stools.
2. Fermented Foods
Eat unpasteurized, organic unsweetened plain yogurt and/or unpasteurized sauerkraut as a natural source of healthy gut flora. You can make all of these at home and it’s a lot easier than you think! Note: if you’re pregnant do not eat unpasteurized foods.
3. Get Lots of Fiber in
Make sure you get plenty of soluble fibre in your diet since it’s the main food source your gut bacteria rely on. Some excellent sources are certain fruits and vegetables, oat bran, psyllium, chia seeds and ground flax seed. Some probiotic supplements also add this in, called “prebiotics”.
The caveat on adding in loads of prebiotics is that you don’t want to go out of our way to bring them in if your gut bacteria is really out of balance. You’ll want to clear out the bad bacteria (i.e. weed your garden) before bringing in supplements with this extra food source.
Want to Learn More?
When I work with my clients on digestive issues, one of the first things we do is uncover whether they have an imbalance in their gut flora that needs to be addressed first, and move them through a process to clear out the bad guys. I also help them choose the best probiotic for their bodies needs, teach them how to ferment foods at home, and choose specific herbs and nutrients to heal and restore their gut’s health.