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Probiotics, Prebiotics, Gut Health....oh my.....

October 24, 2017

It seems that everywhere you turn these days (including this blog), there are people talking about "gut health" or your "microbiome", not to mention pre- and probiotics.  You wander down the aisles of your drug store or target wondering what 30 BILLION could possible mean on the label of those probiotics.  And why on earth would you need so much of something.  It's really rather simple....... 


Recent nutrition research has been focusing on the gut, or rather the types of microorganisms that are present in the gut that have major effect on overall health, including everything from gastrointestinal disorders to cardiovascular disease to asthma.


The gut microbiome refers to the billions of live bacteria (and sometimes yeast) humans have in the digestive system, that also includes things like fungi and viruses. It's estimated that the gut contains approximately 35,000 different strains of bacteria and their combined weight of these live bacteria are approximately 3.5-4 lbs.  The majority are found in the large intestine, particularly the colon, but bacteria can also be found in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.


The gut is where the majority of our immune system lives (up to 70%), and our food is digested, metabolized and absorbed to be delivered into the cells for our body's energy needs. This breaking down of food creates bioactive compounds that either help support health or lead to inflammation, increasing the risk for disease.  Essentially going back to the basic principal of how every bite of food you consume makes you either more healthy or less healthy - there is no food "Switzerland."



Our gut health has implications and functions beyond simply healthy digestion; the state of our gut health may also regulate our mood (through serotonin production), make vitamins for us, regulate our immune system, and govern our predisposition to weight gain.


The total surface area of our gut is approximately the size of half a badminton court or the size of a small studio apartment – this is why diet has such a profound impact on health.  When it gets out of balance and its lining compromised through continually being exposed to irritants, it can result in chronic low-level inflammation that in turn can lead to a variety of disorders.


Because of all the amazing and important functions it performs, the gut is often referred to as our second brain.  So when you get a gut feeling, don't ignore it.



Probiotics help with food digestion and utilization, manufacture B-complex vitamins and Vitamin K, break down polyphenols, flavonoids, and glucosinolates for absorption, balance our body's pH, and increase absorption of minerals.


Probiotics - how to eat / supplement:

  • Try to eat live foods every day!

    • ​Kefir, tempeh, kimchi, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, fermented anything!!! 

    • Kombucha, sourdough, beer (and root beer), buttermilk

  • Polyphenols (the compound that gives fruits and vegetables their color) in certain foods promote the growth of probiotic microbes

    • green tea, red wine, apples, onions, dark chocolate (70% or more cacao)

  • If you need supplements, try one that contains both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

  • Lactobacillus 1-100 billion CFU live organisms daily - 1-10 B for maintenance.  After antibiotics raise to 50-100 B for 3-4 weeks

  • Bifidobacteria - 10-100 billion live organisms daily

  • S boulardii - 500 mg - 3 g daily - this is great for diarrhea and for CDiff infections


Particular fiber sources that ferment in the gut, and feed the good bacteria that you helped grow by eating probiotic foods.


Prebiotic Foods:

  • Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, chicory root, onions, quinoa, amaranth, garlic, leeks, bananas, fruit, soybeans,

  • legumes, peas, eggplant, honey, green tea, yogurt, cottage cheese, kefit

However, not all bacteria in the gut are beneficial.  Overpopulation of "bad" bacteria can take a toll on our immune system. A combination of probiotics and prebiotics as part of a whole foods diet can help achieve the right balance of gut bacteria to support health and reduce inflammation.

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