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Did you know that the health of your gut microbiome impacts almost every aspect of your health, including your immune system, hormones, digestion, mood, and even your skin?
You have an estimated 100 trillion bacteria living in your large intestines (which can weigh up to 2 pounds)! The key to a healthy gut is to maintain diversity and balance of your gut microbes. And maybe you have already guessed, but your diet and lifestyle have a huge impact on keeping the best bugs around!
In the next two articles, Eating for Healthy Gut Part 1 below and Eating for Healthy Gut Part 2, look at two dietary strategies that are the cornerstone to keeping your microbiome balanced- probiotics and fiber!
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast that have positive effects in the body, which is why they are often referred to as “good” bacteria. Healthy bacteria in the gut improve digestion and absorption, and can improve digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotics. In addition, probiotics can improve eczema, vaginal and urinary infections, allergies and colds, and even mood disorders. Probiotics are now understood to have a general anti-inflammatory effect in the body and newer research is focusing on the effect of probiotics on other inflammation-mediated conditions, such as depression, migraines, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
So, knowing that these healthy bacteria can help digestive, metabolic, and inflammatory conditions, let’s explore two ways to keep you gut bugs in check.
Probiotics in food
Consuming fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics is a great way to replenish your gut bacteria. Foods that are commonly fermented and contain probiotics include:
- Dairy (yogurt, kefir)
- Vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles)
- Soybeans (miso, tempeh, natto)
- Tea (kombucha)
But, be aware that some conventional brands of sauerkraut and pickles aren’t fermented at all, and may just be made with vinegar. Also, although yogurt and kombucha contains probiotic, both of these products can also contain high amounts of added sugar.
For store bought products, check the food labels for “live active cultures” and check the added sugar content. When in doubt, consider making your own fermented foods! Homemade sauerkraut, pickles, and other fermented vegetables are inexpensive and easy to make.
There are other foods that are fermented, such as cheese, sourdough bread, and alcohol for example, but the bacteria and yeast are destroyed due to heat exposure or other aspects of processing, which means they don’t actually contain probiotics. So, unfortunately a dinner of bread, cheese and wine is not good for your gut.
In addition to fermented foods, probiotic supplements can help support and replenish your digestive tract microbes. Probiotics are a supplement I recommend often, especially if you aren’t eating fermented foods on a regular basis. In addition to general gut health, depending on your history and symptoms, I can recommend higher doses and specific strains of probiotics. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, or Saccharomyces (a probiotic yeast) are some of the most common bacteria found in probiotic supplements and in some cases we now know which strains to treat various symptoms and conditions.
In addition to the amount and type of probiotics found in supplements, the quality of supplements vary among brands, since probiotics are live bacteria and are susceptible to damage. I recommend using professional grade supplements that obtain 3rd party testing to ensure the amount and type of probiotics survive processing and their shelf life.
If you have any of the symptoms or conditions mentioned and would like guidance on supporting a healthy microbiome, then I can help!
You can schedule a video appointment with me and I’ll take the time to uncover the root causes of your symptoms and help you heal using individualized natural solutions! I will assess whether your diet is helping or hurting your gut and will recommend individualized dietary, lifestyle, and supplement approaches to heal your gut and help you feel your best!
At WellnessScript, we focus on solving health problems others can’t. Our video appointments bring experts from across the country into your home or office and are great for everyone as they fit into our crazy and hectic schedules and ensure that you have the time you need to feel heard and get all of your questions answered.
Functional & Naturopathic Medicine
$200 Initial Consult - 1 hour
Dr. Julie Briley
Follow-up Appointment: $100 for 30 min/$200 for 60 min
Expertise: Food sensitivities, gut health, detoxification, nutrition.
Clinical Experience: 10 years practicing naturopathic and functional medicine, including advanced training in digestive disorders and food as medicine.