I want to explore another interesting point around probiotics and fermented or cultured foods. I have become a strong advocate for the consumption of cultured foods such as kefir for their probiotic benefits. I have also been taking probiotics in pill form for a few years now to maintain good gut flora.
It has long been known that your gastrointestinal system is a major player in your body’s immune response. The easiest way for bacteria and viruses to enter the body is through your nose and mouth. This route for pathogens entering the body goes directly to your digestive tract. Your body is designed to have a very strong immune response to fight off these invaders. One of the crucial components that make up your gastrointestinal immune system is called gut-associated lymphoid tissue, which represents about 70 percent of your body’s immune system.
Since it is well understood that your gastrointestinal system and good gut flora support your immune system, what else is good bacteria supporting in your body? This is a question we should be asking and understanding for many reasons.
First, good bacteria improve digestion and breaks down foods allowing for efficient nutrient absorption. Having well balanced healthy gut bacteria also enhances your body’s ability to synthesize important vitamins, absorb minerals and reduce inflammation in your digestive tract.
There is another interesting aspect to gut bacteria. In the last few years, there has been a number of research studies that have found certain gut bacteria can promote weight management, help with insulin resistance and related issues around metabolic disorders.
Specifically, research done on mice found that mice which either ingested or had feces transplanted from obese mice into lean mice showed a 60 percent increase in body fat and became more insulin resistant. It was also discovered that gut bacteria from lean mice seemed to slow, even reverse the development of obesity and insulin resistance in obese mice. These tests showed a clear cause and effect between obese and lean mouse gut bacteria. Studies done with people have not been so black and white, but early findings do support a positive cause and effect around certain good gut bacteria in humans.
Most of these findings found that specific bacteria had a greater relationship to weight loss and improved insulin response then other good forms of bacteria. A recent study done last year found two specific probiotic strains helped reduce fat and mass in human test subjects. Both the Lactobacillus curvatus and Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria seemed to deliver positive results over test subjects that took a placebo. Another area that showed promise from these strains was a noted reduction in oxidized LDL levels. Yes it seems if you have the right gut bacteria, it can play a role in helping you reduce bad cholesterol.
The other superstar in the realm of gut bacteria is A. muciniphila. This species of bacteria sits in the gastrointestinal tract’s nutrient-dense mucus layer. Studies have shown that people with poor gut flora and reduced levels of A. mucinphila had a greater chance of inflammation leading to well understood conditions such as IBS and leaking gut syndrome. The A. muciniphila bacterium was also found to have a positive effect helping reduce symptoms caused by metabolic syndromes such as insulin resistance.
It would be great if I could close this write-up by telling you to start taking the correct probiotics and you will see your gut flora along with your health improve and maybe even lose weight. Unfortunately, it is never that easy. First we need to avoid poor nutrition and consuming substances such as high levels of sugar, grains and processed foods. A poor diet is a leading cause of gut bacterial imbalances. The other side of the same coin is eating healthy animal-based foods such as meats, dairy and eggs, which can also lead to gut bacterial imbalances since they do not effectively support your gut flora.
It should be no surprise that good bacterial gut flora need to be fed properly. Here is where four dietary aspects merge together for a great health footprint. Your gut’s microbiome, loaded with strains of health-benefiting bacteria, needs to be fed correctly with enzymes, fiber, fermented foods and raw uncooked foods to flourish. In fact, if you already buy expensive probiotics and do not include proper nourishment to your gut flora, it is likely you are literally flushing good money down the drain.
Here are the four key factors to encourage good digestive health and maintain healthy, happy gut flora:
1. Let’s start with eating foods packed with nourishing enzymes. Your body and gut get big benefits from eating foods which contain enzymes. Theses foods promote enzyme production and contain enzymes. To name a few, the food list includes pineapple, avocado, raw ginger root, cucumbers, garlic and onions.
2. Fiber is extremely important; two specific types do well in the digestion process and feeding your gut. Fructan encourages good bacteria growth and comes from fruits, onions and even artichokes for example. The other important fiber and one we hear a lot about is cellulose fiber, which is found in the stalks of broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage and kale.
3. Specific fermented or cultured foods deliver a fair amount of probiotic bacteria. Traditional fermented foods like Greek yogurt for example help your gastrointestinal system digest, absorb, and get better use of the other foods you’re eating. Fermented foods also help balance stomach acid by helping protect the stomach lining and intestinal lining, making for happy gut flora.
4. Humans evolved eating raw foods. We get the best absorption of nutrients from uncooked veggies, fruits and so forth. Eating at least 40 percent of your diet in the form of raw, uncooked veggies is another important aspect to consider in the care and feeding of your gut flora. Cooking foods break down fiber and removes essential enzymes your gut flora need.
The primary health and wellness of the human body is based on nutrition. If you look at the body’s make-up, we are more water and bacteria than any other body component. A healthy balanced gut microbiome is so important that scientists around the world have come together to work on “The Human Microbiome Project.” In 2008, work was started to catalog and understand the bacteria inside of us and its role across cultures as well as world regions. One interesting aspect they found was all of us around the world contain one of three communities of bacteria in our bodies. These communities consist of either Bacteriocides, Prevotella and Ruminococcus which science is delving into to better understand how each, along with specific bacteria, supports or adversely affects our health.
One thing is certain, good gut flora are a health essential and must be nurtured, fed and maintained to help us maximize our health and wellness. The other fact is not all bacteria or probiotic products effectively support our gut or our body, so be careful what you buy and put into your body. Research and understand any and all probiotics you buy as some have outlandish claims and do nothing for your health.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.