What are Probiotics and Why You Should LOVE Them
Probiotics are the good little bugs that live in our gut. It might sound a bit gross that our gut is home to millions of bacteria, but these bacteria play a very important role in our digestion, immunity, and overall wellness. You can drastically improve the health of your whole body by improving the health of your gut.
Why You Should Love Probiotics
Research into the human microbiome (the collection of microorganisms found in our body) is a relatively new science, but one that shows promising findings. The New York Times reports that most biologists now believe that “much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity.”
If you are not familiar with the idea of gut heath, wellness advocate Kris Carr sums it up nicely here:
“Your gut holds trillions of bacteria that help process your food, produce nutrients, and fight disease. In fact, there are ten times more bacteria in your gut than cells in your entire body! These little guys are super important and they need your help. Since what you eat, drink and think affects the environment in your gut, your daily choices play a critical role in whether those trillion plus bacteria help or hinder your well-being.
It’s all about balance when it comes to gut health. When your gut is in tip-top shape, about 80-85 percent of bacteria are good guys and 15-20 percent are bad guys. You feel great, your body is strong and nimble, you rarely get sick, your energy is consistent, you poop like a champ, life is good. The healthy bacteria are free to do their job with ease. They assist with digestion, produce disease-fighting antibodies, crowd out bad bacteria and produce certain hormones, vitamins and nutrients.”
How can a healthy gut improve your overall wellness?
It’s well known that building or maintaining a healthy microbiome can help digestive issues like gas, bloating, and constipation, but recent studies show that a healthy gut does so much more for us.
Not only do bacteria in the gut help with vitamin production and assimilation, and assist in the breakdown of foods, researchers have found connections between the gut and our mood, immunity, and even anxiety levels. Scientific American shares that ongoing research makes it clear that our gut– our second brain– has a huge impact on our real brain. Research into the surprising connection between mental health and digestion continues to uncover exciting results.
SA reports, “The brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut’s microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that also act on the brain.” There is also a lot of work being done about the connection between gut health and autism. SA says that initial research in rodent studies show that autistic behavior might be rooted in the gut, rather than in the brain.
Huffington Post reports that when patients were given doses of prebiotics (food for the probiotics), they showed less negativity, less anxiety and paid more attention to positive information than a placebo group, and that those taking the prebiotics had lower levels of cortisol, the hormone linked with stress, anxiety, and depression. So healthy food leads to less stress and anxiety- a double win!
The New York Times writes that much of our mood begins in our gut, too! They report, “Our supply of neurochemicals — an estimated 50 percent of the dopamine, for example, and a vast majority of the serotonin — originate in the intestine, where these chemical signals regulate appetite, feelings of fullness and digestion. But only in recent years has mainstream psychiatric research given serious consideration to the role microbes might play in creating those chemicals.” Bacteria in our gut actually create these brain chemicals, proving they have a role in intestinal disorders and are correlated with depression and anxiety.
Dr. Mercola shares more research from UCLA that shows the connection between brain function and the gut. Patients with gastro-intestinal disorders felt new or increased depression and anxiety as digestive issues set in. In the research, Dr. Emeran Mayer says, “people with high-vegetable, fiber-based diets have a different composition of their microbiota, or gut environment, than people who eat the more typical Western diet that is high in fat and carbohydrates. [Now] we know that this has an effect not only on the metabolism but also affects brain function.”
And finally, it turns out that a healthy gut is the foundation for good immunity. On EcoWatch, Dr. Mark Hyman writes, “Your gut wall houses 70 percent of the cells that make up your immune system. You might not attribute digestive problems with allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases (irritable bowel syndrome, acne, chronic fatigue), mood disorders, autism, dementia and cancer [but] many diseases seemingly unrelated are actually caused by gut problems.”
The best thing about building your gut health is that it can be done easily, quickly and cheaply. The best way to improve your gut health is with a plant-based diet that includes probiotic-rich food.
Foods Full of Probiotics
Fermented foods: Most cultures around the world have some fermented foods in their diet: sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh are just some of the traditional foods that are bursting with probiotics! Life Foods uses a wide variety of fermented foods in our product line to make it easy (and mega delicious) to eat your way to a healthier gut.
Life Foods takes old-world methods of fermentation and includes them into our entire product line. Beyond the simple Sauerkraut and Kimchi ferments, we also feature fermented ingredients in our wholesome, organic condiments.
Fermented drinks: Kombucha, kefir and kvass are three traditional fermented beverages that offer a wealth of bubbly probiotics in drinkable form. Made from a variety of ingredients, these drinks are becoming more popular as people learn to love the slightly sour flavor and fizzy texture of fermented beverages.
Supplements: If you are rebuilding your gut after an illness or a round of antibiotics, probiotic supplements are a great additional booster. Though probiotics are generally safe, be sure to speak with a health care practitioner to get the best, most effective probiotics for your specific condition.
Vegetables and Fruits: While veggies and fruits are not fermented, they are necessary for a healthy and balanced gut. The fiber in fruits and veggies helps to sweep away toxins, and ensure that the good bacterias can thrive. Be sure to eat enough fiber each day, along with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies to make the most of your probiotic foods.
Image credit: alimentary canal from Deposit Photos