First, eating is putting things—including pathogens—right into your body. The vast majority of the time there’s no issue, but we’ve all felt that stomach rumble and the following cramps that means we screwed up, and are going to really feel it! A strong bacterial colony can help mitigate (and maybe even prevent) some of that food poisoning. While some strains might fight pathogens, the bigger benefit is having good bacteria already taking up space and crowding out invading bad ones.
Illness (fever), antibiotics, and more can weaken or completely destroy your good gut bacteria. Traditional fungus-based antibiotics can even really raise the risk of a stomach-fungal infection.
The other reason having a strong and varied probiotic colony is important is because it has wide-ranging effects on your health that science is only just exploring. Gut bacteria has a big impact on obesity, for example. Bacterial transfers from healthy people to people with bad stomach bugs that cause chronic illness has had the unexpected side-effect of helping them lose weight, too! (Although there was one case with the opposite effect, which I strongly suspect is a case of hospital-acquired infection, or extra bacteria—but that’s another issue!).
Gut bacteria even impact your brain. Research is exploring how they might dictate mood, from being upbeat, to having feelings of depression, to being quick to anger. (Kind of makes you re-examine yourself!).
Want to make sure you have a healthy bacterial gut colony? Follow these steps!
1) Get the bacteria in there! Whether you want to make sure you have the right kind, enough variety, or know you need to replenish after illness or medication, you can steer your gut bacteria by taking a good probiotic, or choosing a good fermented food.
A probiotic supplement is a great “cheat”! It doesn’t impact your calorie count for the day (some yogurts or other fermented foods can be high in sugar or fat) and you ensure you get probiotics regularly!
If you want to choose foods, look for the right kind. Some yogurts are really just candy—read labels, and make sure there’s a high probiotic count and several strains. Other foods like kefir and even pickles can provide probiotics. Look in the refrigerated section (not the longer-lasting warm shelf section) and again, read labels.
If you go the make-it-yourself route, be careful and follow direction closely. People have hospitalized themselves making fermented foods with the wrong strains accidentally!
2) Support your probiotic colony with prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods that help probiotics grow and thrive. Garlic, onion, and other prebiotic foods might already be in your diet, but again, you can “cheat” and take the easy route with a prebiotic supplement. You don’t have to learn new recipes, count added calories, or do any research!
Spirulina is a prebiotic that offers other benefits, as well! It has iron, essential fatty-acids, chlorophyll which supports your blood, and more!
3) Make sure you have a healthy diet. While diet is kind of covered in steps 1 & 2, keep in mind that not eating enough fruits and veggies, or eating too much processed foods can change the composition of the bacteria in your stomach (so not only does all that processed sugar add calories, it might also be changing your gut bacteria over to ones that favor you gaining weight!)
I listed diet third because it’s something a lot of people struggle with—and if you’re cheating with supplements, you can worry a little less. But it’s still important, and a critical step to good overall health. Supplements can help you improve your probiotic-health while making bigger dietary changes at your own pace.
What are your thoughts? Share in the comments!