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Probiotics for GI

Probiotics for GI

GI health is connected to the health in the rest of your body.

If the digestive tract is compromised, so will the health of other parts of your body.

Our gastrointestinal systems are filled with trillions of microorganisms…and that’s a good, normal thing.

Did you know that the types of microbes or microbial “mix” that live in the GI tract are key to digestion and health?

We are learning that the mix or diversity of microbes in many Americans is out of balance. Some of the beneficial bacteria — strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium — are getting crowded out.

What you eat changes the bacteria in the GI tract. Yes, our diets (how much meat, vegetables, sugar, grains, etc.) influence the composition of the gut flora. The microbes in our gut receive nourishment from the foods we eat, just as our bodies do. Case in point: Candida (yeast) love sugar…sugar feeds candida.

Taking probiotics (live “good” bacteria), either as a dietary supplement or in food such as yogurt, is one way to help the gut environment get back into balance.  Intake of probiotics increases the number of good bacteria that will colonize the intestines.

The Imbalance in the GI Microbiota Balance Plays a Large Role in Disease

More and more, scientists are becoming aware that dysbiosis (imbalance) may not only create uncomfortable GI symptoms, but it may play a role in:

  • modulating our immune responses
  • autoimmune disorders
  • allergies
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • neuropsychiatric conditions.

Some environmental factors that promote loss of microbial diversity and overpopulation of certain microrganisms include:

  • overuse of antibiotics
  • excessive alcohol use
  • diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and high in animal protein; and low in unprocessed foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

How the Gut Microbial Ecosystem Can Affect Health and Disease

The gut microbial biome is an active area of research and new information is becoming available. Here are some highlights of what we’ve learned:

  • Dysbiosis (microbial imbalances) can open the door for pathological microbes to take residence in our GI tracts. For example, C. diff (Clostridium difficile), a bacterium that can cause symptoms from diarrhea to life-threatening colon inflammation.
  • Overgrowth of candida, or yeast in the GI tract is a fairly common result of dysbiosis. (This is sometimes referred to as SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.) Candida can get into other parts of the body such as the blood, sinuses and vaginal tract.
  • The digestive tract’s immune system is often referred to as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). It works to protect the body from invasion of unwelcome foreign invaders. Dysbiosis can result in inflammation of the gut lining, loss of its integrity and it becoming”leaky,” which compromises our immune defenses.  (This is referred to as Leaky Gut Syndrome.) If the inflammation is chronic it can lead to inflammatory bowel diseases.
  • Symptoms of dysbiosis include GI discomfort, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation and less ability to digest food or absorb nutrients from food. The production of certain vitamins normally produced in the gut (e.g. B and K) may also be compromised.
  • An important part of our nervous system is located in our gut. There is research about how the microbial ecosystem can affect the gut-brain axis, mood, concentration, production of neurotransmitters, etc.
  • There is even research on the fascinating role of the GI microbiota on weight and metabolism and that dysbiosis may be related in some way to obesity and ability to lose weight. (Microbes may produce signalling chemicals related to satiety.)
  • The body’s systems for “waste removal” can be taxed by the waste byproducts from the overgrown microbes. And these waste byproducts also affect the pH (level of acidity/alkalinity) in the gut, which further affects which microbes will flourish.

Click for more information about Probiotics.

Probiotics and GI Support – How to Replenish Your “Good” Bacteria

Yogurt with live cultures is the most commonly eaten food source of probiotics in the American diet.

Yogurt with live cultures is the most commonly eaten food source of probiotics in the American diet.

Replenishing beneficial bacterial strains such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium is a healthy everyday practice, like brushing your teeth.

You can replenish beneficial bacteria through your diet, nutritional supplements or a combination of both.

In the U.S. most people think of yogurt (with live cultures) when considering food sources of healthy microbes.

You can also get probiotics in your diet through kefir (a fermented milk drink).

Other fermented foods with live cultures include sauerkraut and kimchi (a traditional fermented Korean side dish that usually includes napa cabbage, radish, scallion or cucumber).

 

Using Dietary Supplements to Bolster Your Probiotic Intake 

Taking a daily nutritional supplement with probiotics is a simple way to get large numbers of these beneficial microbes into your system.

What to consider when selecting a probiotic dietary supplement

Number of active cultures – The CFU’s or Colony Forming Units, is the number of viable microbes or live bacteria in a probiotic.  A probiotic nutritional supplement might contain millions or even billions of CFU’s. Depending on your situation (preventive vs. addressing a GI issue) you may select a probiotic supplement with greater or fewer CFU’s.

Diversity – It is hard to specifically compare products as many companies have their own proprietary strains and may list them on their label as a “proprietary blend of….”  However, look for probiotics that contain at least a few different strains of bacteria. They usually include forms of Lactobacillus such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium such as Bifidobacteria longum.

Delivery – Probiotics are fragile microbes that only have the potential to be beneficial if they reach the intestines alive and intact and ready to colonize the intestines. The dietary supplement needs to have an encapsulation that protects the probiotic so it can withstand stomach acids. In addition, the type of casing and packaging is key so there is no destruction or reduction of the count of these live organisms during storage, from heat, moisture or oxygen. (Some probiotic dietary supplements require refrigeration.)

Additives – Look to see that the supplement does not contain sugar, salt, artificial coloring, artificial flavoring or preservatives. According to your needs, you may want to check if it has yeast, wheat, gluten, or corn.

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