Gut Speak, Week 1
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help to repopulate the human gut flora with the “good guys” who promote overall good health. Daily consumption of probiotic foods has been linked to longevity, a sort of “fountain of youth”, if you will.
Viruses, poor lifestyle choices and antibiotics can kill off the beneficial bacteria in the gut that work to help break down the food that you eat. Probiotic foods and supplements can help restore the preferred balance in your colon (aka large intestine) that keep you looking and feeling your best.
Your gut flora are often referred to as the “forgotten organ”. For example, without them, you can’t manufacture vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting. Your gut flora also help to break down the fiber you consume into short chain fatty acids like butyrate and acetate that help to protect your gut wall from foreign invaders, like cancer cells. These fatty acids also help to make your gut wall less permeable. When the gut wall is more permeable, bacteria, toxins and partially digested food proteins can cross the gut wall barrier into your bloodstream, triggering an immune response and causing widespread inflammation. Many in the medical community believe this is how food allergies and intolerances form. Partially digested food proteins can enter the bloodstream through a permeable or “leaky gut” causing your immune system to recognize these normal food proteins as toxins or poisons. It, therefore, makes sense to strengthen your gut lining as much as possible to avoid that condition.
To increase probiotic consumption, choose a wide variety of probiotic foods from a wide variety of sources. Probiotic bacteria and yeasts are created by fermentation, notably lactic acid fermentation. Lactic acid fermentation occurs in an anaerobic environment, deprived of air. Yogurt, kefir (water or milk-based), kombucha, kim chee, sauerkraut, tempeh, apple cider vinegar and pickled vegetables are all examples of probiotic foods. Kombucha is rather unique in that it has both beneficial yeasts and beneficial bacteria that live together in the Scoby that is the source of the ferment. A common beneficial probiotic yeast strain found in kombucha is Saccharomyces boulardii.
Two common types of probiotic bacterial organisms are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There are multiple strains within each type of beneficial bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria Bifidum are two of the most common strains within their respective types. The best probiotics on the market have equal numbers of both Lactobacillus organisms and Bifidobacterium strains in order to stay balanced. Often the more strains that are present in a probiotic supplement, the better.
Research has shown that some probiotic strains perform different health functions – so getting the most variety of strains through diet and supplementation can get you the most bang for your health buck. For example, some strains may be more beneficial for treating the symptoms of IBS than others, while some may be better for weight loss or bolstering immunity. If you constantly favor one form of probiotic more than the other in your diet or via supplementation, the possibility does exist that you can cause an overgrowth of one type of good bacteria, often to your own detriment. In order to avoid throwing the delicate balance of your gut ecosystem into a tizzy, choose from a variety of probiotic foods and choose supplements with multiple strains.