Learn about Probiotics and the Gut
Article by Dr Bruce Thomson – Registered Acupuncturist & Doctor of Homeopathy
Let’s delve into probiotics and the gut. A healthy alimentary tract (we will call it the ‘gut’ to appear less sophisticated) is a major contributor to health and it goes without saying that the converse is also true. To be healthy the gut requires the help of our little friends, the ‘good’ bacteria, and on average our gut will contain about 2kg of bacteria.
A little-discussed fact (possibly because no one really wants to know) is that the majority of one’s stool is actually bacteria – note your thin stools after an antibiotic… Get used to it, I may be talking about poo a lot.
And there may be a few lists…
So what are the benefits of the ‘Good Bacteria’?
The following is not an exhaustive list even if it is exhausting to read:
- Reduce pathogenic bacteria and fungi
- Helping to produce hormones, like serotonin
- Aiding in the extraction of energy (calories) and nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and antioxidants
- Managing our appetite and body weight
- Digesting fibre which helps form the stool
- Controlling our moods, motivation and cognitive health
- Preventing us from catching colds and viruses
- Helping repair damaged tissues and injuries
- Promote gut motility, defecation and thus reduce constipation
- Assist in lactose digestion for the lactose intolerant
- Aid digestion by altering the pH and improving the uptake of minerals.
- Assist in protein digestion.
- Help to clean the digestive tract.
- Produce natural antibiotics and antifungals such as hydrogen peroxide.
Benefits of Probiotics in the Gut
So, a healthy microbiome (gut ecosystem) helps us generate healthy poo which in turn leads to a better outcome in a multitude of ways that relate to our health.
A poor microbiome has been linked to the following:
- Food allergies (due to leaky gut)
- Eczema and psoriasis
- Poor recovery from seizures, spinal cord injuries or a stroke
- Metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
- Irritable Bowel syndrome/Crohns Disease
- Frequent digestive issues like bloating, gas, acid reflux, constipation and diarrhoea especially if stool ever appears bloody or causes unexplained weight loss
- Acne, mild skin rashes and other signs of skin inflammation
- Frequently getting colds, viruses and other “common” illnesses
- Stuffy nose, respiratory infections and trouble breathing
- Low energy levels and fatigue
- Achy joints and muscular pains
If you recognise any of these symptoms, it is worthwhile investing some time and energy in improving your gut microbiome which can be achieved in the following ways:
- Increase your fibre and water consumption – bacteria feast on fibre but it bungs you up so you need to hydrate more effectively
- Avoid common allergenic foods which can make poor gut health even worse: these include conventional dairy, shellfish, peanuts, soy and gluten products. Processed or packaged foods, fried foods and too much added sugar might also worsen gut health (not to mention cause other issues), so work on reducing these as well.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake to moderate levels.
- Avoid antibiotics and only take them when absolutely necessary: antibiotics wipe out both good and bad bacteria in the gut.
- Vary your protein intake: It’s been found that high consumption of animal products and very high-protein diets might contribute to carcinogenic metabolites that alter immunity. Rather than making meat, eggs or cheese the centre of all your meals, try to focus on variety and eating more plant foods for protein like soaked beans, nuts, seeds and legumes.
- Reduce toxin exposure in your home by using natural cleaning products. The same goes for beauty or skincare products; try switching to natural skin care ingredients (ask Bianca about our natural makeup and skin product ranges). Avoid antibacterial soaps, too.
- Exercise and manage stress to keep inflammation levels low.
- Introduce traditional gut-friendly foods into your diet like bone broth, a great source of collagen which helps rebuild the gut lining and prevent increased permeability (leaky gut).
- Consume probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kefir, cultured veggies and kombucha. Also consider taking a high quality probiotic supplement.
This is where Thrive and the Juice Kitchen will be a great resource for you and your Bowel. The fridge by the Loo (how apt) is stocked with some of the best freeze dried probiotics on the market (Metagenics) and hopefully soon the liquid probiotics by Rawbiotics. The Juice Kitchen stocks a range of Kombuchas and other prebiotic combinations – ask their highly trained staff for further information.
(Apologies again for all the lists – there really is just so much to highlight!)