If you’re looking to achieve better gut health with probiotics, you’re part of a growing segment of health conscious consumers who have learned that the gut microbiome is a critical component to the body’s overall wellness. Let’s explore how just about anyone can make some small changes to achieve better gut health with probiotics.
So how are gut health and probiotics related? Scientists once believed the digestive system to be one of the simpler systems of the body. It was thought to be basically a long tube that was responsible for the processing of food, absorption of nutrients, and excretion of waste. But years of research to help treat and cure digestive illnesses and other diseases have revealed the gut to be much more important to overall wellbeing than once thought. Researchers have discovered that the important relationship between gut health and probiotics (the beneficial bacteria found in the digestive tract) affects not only digestive health, but other important functions throughout the body, as well.
A healthy bowel is populated with more than 100 trillion microorganisms that represent over 500 million species. All these organisms make up the microbiome of the gut which includes bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other organisms. The vast majority of these are probiotics–helpful bacteria– and most of these gut health probiotics are thought to live in the colon. So how do probiotics work in the gut?
These good gut probiotics help the body by fending off harmful bacteria, breaking down the food we eat, aiding in digestion, and supporting the immune system. Probiotics in the gut do this by making the gut wall stronger, boosting the immune system, producing B vitamins and vitamin K, and by producing short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to play critical roles in maintaining healthy metabolism and sugar control, circulatory health, and even a healthy inflammatory and immune response.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee the good gut probiotics that most of us develop naturally, by the age of about three, will stay this way. Our probiotic gut health changes as we age and is determined by many factors. Good gut probiotics are often destroyed by lifestyle factors and poor diet. Fortunately, this can be changed. But how?
If you want to know how to improve gut health naturally, the answer is to do what you can to live a healthy lifestyle. This means changing unhealthy behaviors. If you smoke and drink too much, limit or eliminate alcohol and stop smoking. Do what you can to reduce stress: exercise is a good remedy for stress and is also good for gut health. Meditation is another good way to reduce stress. Take good care of yourself to prevent catching illnesses that might require antibiotics. Be sure to get enough sleep: strive for 7-8 hours per night. Perhaps most important is to improve the quality of nutrition that you feed both yourself and your probiotic bacteria by focusing on consuming a varied diet rich in dietary fiber – otherwise known as “prebiotics.”
Research from the NIH defines prebiotics as “a nondigestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health.” In other words, prebiotics are foods that “feed” or nurture your probiotics and make it easy for them to be restored in the gut. Examples of prebiotic foods include asparagus, beans, chicory, garlic, honey, Jerusalem artichokes, microalgae, milk (human and cow), onions, peas, seaweed, soybeans, sugar beets, tomatoes, and whole grains (like barley, brown rice, and rye).
There are some downsides to a prebiotic diet. First of all, it may be difficult to eat enough prebiotics to restore gut health. Additionally, a high prebiotic diet can cause some digestive discomfort, which is not ideal for those who are already dealing with a digestive condition. A great option is to look at adding whole fermented foods to the diet. Fermented foods (like kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut) are great sources of both predigested fibers along with probiotic cultures and even postbiotics.
Therefore, the way to achieve optimal gut microbiome may be to eat a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables and to add a supplement that contains the best gut probiotics and prebiotics available.
Where do probiotics work in the gut?
The majority of probiotic microorganisms in the digestive system live in the colon where they help the body absorb nutrients from food, boost the immune system, and create certain vitamins and fatty acids.
When you begin taking probiotics, you may notice some temporary changes to your digestion such as some gas and bloating. These symptoms may cause some short-term discomfort, but this should not last too long – generally from only a day or so, at times up to a week. We recommend checking with your doctor before beginning any new medication or supplement.
Not necessarily. Probiotics are not laxatives. If your goal is to restore gut health, probiotics help to repopulate beneficial microorganisms in the gut that may have been lost due to poor diet, stress, antibiotic use, or other reasons. Many people who suffer with constipation find that probiotics alleviate this problem. Others who have digestive disturbances or loose stools during or following antibiotic usage may find that the restoration of beneficial bacteria to the gut brings their digestion back to normal.
So which probiotic is best for gut health? The best probiotics for gut health are those that provide a full matrix of the prebiotic foods, probiotic strains and postbiotic nutrients are all encapsulated together. Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic supplements combine the best of all of these important components for an extra daily boost for your immune and digestive health. Discover the Dr. Ohhira’s Advantage for yourself!