We're obsessed with all things health and wellness, constantly on the hunt for the newest discoveries in nutrition, and yes, we watch all of the food conspiracy documentaries on Netflix. We've tried every milk alternative, from nuts and coconut to hemp and oat. We eat gluten-free and organic foods as much as possible. And as cliché as this may sound, we still love kale!
Basically, we're always looking for ways to better ourselves, and lately, the talk is all about gut health and probiotics. So, for our latest Journal entry, we decided to dive in and explore all things GI (gastrointestinal). To learn more about what makes our gut happy, read on.
What exactly are probiotics?
Probiotics (from pro and biota, meaning "for life") are made of live microorganisms and yeasts, also known as "good" bacteria, that live in our lower intestines and are beneficial to our health, especially our digestive systems. When we typically think of bacteria, we tend to think of illness and disease, but there are actually many types of bacteria that are helpful to our body.1
How do probiotics work?
When we're born, we inherit probiotic gut bacteria from our mothers. But this good bacteria can be lost, often times due to taking antibiotics that don’t differentiate between good bacteria and bad bacteria making us sick. Probiotics replenish good bacteria that we've lost, and offer many other benefits that support our immune system and overall health.2
How can probiotics improve our health?
Probiotics help us move food through our gut and bring balance back to our GI tracts. While researchers are still discovering their full potential, probiotics are believed to relieve some of the most common gut issues such as: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), diarrhea and constipation, weight gain, as well as urinary and vaginal health.1 With 60-80% of our immune system located in our gut, imbalances can also be linked to autoimmune diseases, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema, rosacea, and other chronic health problems.5
What are the main types of probiotics?
Without getting too scientific, we have over 100 trillion favorable and unfavorable bacterias in our gut, but there are two that are the most common: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus is found in certain yogurts and other fermented foods (like kefir). Its different strains can help prevent or treat diarrhea, as well as help us digest lactose (sugars in milk) properly, which can be beneficial to those who are lactose intolerant2 Bifidobacterium can also be found in certain dairy products, and may help relieve IBS symptoms, but it can also be responsible for restoring "good" bacteria in the intestinal tract that has been killed or damaged due to antibiotics, radiation or chemotherapy.1
How can we heal ourselves?
Through the power of probiotics, clean eating, gut healing foods and supplements, we can rid ourselves of many ailments that affect our everyday lives. In order to replenish our flora, we can find probiotics through cultured foods, such as coconut or almond milk yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut or kimchee. In addition, we can gear our diets more towards foods high in antioxidants, minerals and fatty acids, such as vegetables, fruits, wild meats and sprouted seeds rich in omega-3s. We can also consider taking probiotic supplements (though we recommend asking our nutritionist or doctor for recommendations based on our specific needs). Lastly, if none of these seem to do the trick, there are gut-cleansing programs, where herbs like berberine or oregano are used to remove harmful microbes.4
In the words of Hippocrates, “All disease begins in the gut.” Our digestive system is the gateway to good health, and keeping it balanced is the key to unlocking long-lasting energy and vitality. So, next time you reach for a beverage or meal, listen to your gut, for if your gut is healthy, chances are the rest of your body will be healthy too. Here's to #beautyofchange!