One of the biggest trends to hit the nutrition world in recent years is the study of gut health. As a matter of fact, the microbiome and probiotics are definitely on trend to become two of the biggest nutrition topics of 2017 (you heard it here first). That’s why I’m filling you in on the basics about gut health, what you need to know and how to keep your gut healthy and happy.
This complicated-sounding term just refers to the collection of “good bacteria” within your body. I know what you’re thinking… “What’s a good bacteria?!” Although we tend to classify bacteria as harmful, our body actually needs several strains of bacteria to populate the gut and keep it functioning normally. The human body has about 1000 different strains of bacteria that make up the microbiome. These bacteria are mostly found in the gut, but they are also found on the skin and mouth.
What’s really fascinating is that everyone’s microbiome is unique (just like a snowflake). The Human Microbiome Project was established in 2008 by the National Institute for Health to characterize the strains in the human microbiome and understand their role in human health and disease.
To learn more, read my article on Food Network Healthy Eats: Why Should You Care About The Microbiome?
Probiotics are live bacteria that thrive in the microbiome and are thought to help the body maintain good digestive and immune health. We acquire probiotics through simple human contact, and the body does a good job of regulating its probiotic levels. But certain factors can put you at risk for probiotic imbalances, such as an unhealthy diet, stress, poor sleep habits or a harsh round of antibiotics. When these imbalances happen, probiotics can be reintroduced to your system with supplements.
First, it’s important to note that probiotics are supplements and are, therefore, not regulated by the FDA. That means that the FDA does not test probiotics to ensure that the supplements contain what they promise on the package. However, several brands have undergone third party testing and are thought to be more reputable than others. When choosing a probiotic, try to go with the one that has the most live cultures and a variety of strains. These are the ones I suggest:
Renew Life Ultimate Flora– 50 billion live cultures and 10 strains per capsule
Garden of Life Raw Probiotics– billions of live cultures and upwards of 30 different strains
MegaFlora Probiotics: 20 billion live cultures and 14 strains
Tips For A Healthy Gut
How can you apply this newfound knowledge and actually create a healthier gut? Simple-just follow these tips!
- Eat prebiotic rich foods, like fruits and vegetables
- Eat probiotic rich foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid stress
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
I know this is a very complicated topic, and what I’ve provided here is only an overview. That’s why I’ve compiled some extra reading on this topic from myself and other Dietitians. And, as always, feel free to contact me with questions.
Here’s What Happened When I Took A Probiotic for 30 Days (Food Network Healthy Eats)
Should You Take A Probiotic? (Toby Amidor Nutrition)
Why You Need To Feed Your Gut With Prebiotic Flora (Hungry Hobby)
Do Probiotic Products Live Up To Their Promises (Sonima by Amy Gorin, MS, RD)
Is Your Gut Microbiome Affecting Your Health (Erica Julson)
5 Good-For-Your-Gut Ways To Use Sauerkraut (Well & Good)