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Probiotics and the microbiome are hot topics in the world of nutrition, but these scientific words can conjure up confusion and leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you’ve ever wondered what the heck probiotics really mean and whether or not you need them, I’ve got you covered with a simple explainer article that delves into everything related to the microbiome and nutrition.
What is the microbiome?
The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, which make up the microbiome. Probiotics are the microorganisms that reside in the gut are actually good for you and contribute to overall health.
These good bacteria, also known as probiotics, have their own unique DNA. While most people share similarities in 99% of their human DNA, microbial DNA is only about 10% similar from person to person. Because of the sheer number of microbes and DNA, many refer to the microbiome as an “organ.”
The microbiome contributes to many important bodily processes, such as:
- Production of amino acids, short chain fatty acids and vitamins
- Breaking down plant fibers
- Promoting healthy balance of gut bacteria
- Supporting the immune system
For a relatively new area of science, the microbiome sure is important!
How the American diet affects gut health
Unfortunately, the American diet is full of processed foods that affect the microbes in the gut. Because probiotics have evolved to break down whole foods, eating a diet high in processed foods causes undesirable effects in the microbiome.
Specifically, foods that are high in saturated fats, like red meat, and foods that are rich in refined carbs and sugar, such as chips and desserts, can cause unwanted microbiome factors. Many processed foods also contain artificial sweeteners, which have been shown to affect the good bacteria in the gut. Not to mention that the average American diet contains 150 pounds of sugar per year!
The importance of maintaining a healthy gut environment
The microbiome is made up of all the bacteria in our digestive systems. But the favorable or “good” probiotics are under siege from dietary and environmental changes introduced in the past century, as well as other factors.
Like the rest of your body, the microbiome needs a healthy environment to thrive. Poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle can have an undesirable impact on your microbiome health.
Probiotics beyond the digestive system
You may be familiar with probiotics for their digestive health benefits, but these beneficial bacteria impact many other parts of the body.
There are different types of probiotics–Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common. Confusing names aside, the vital thing to remember is that each group consists of different species, and each species has many strains.
Research has found that varying types of probiotics play a role in overall gut health. For example, certain gut microbes affect sleep and stress, and they influence memory, mood, and cognition. Others can improve the intestine’s immunologic barrier and benefit the immune system.
Which probiotic should you take?
Because each species is different, it’s best to choose a blend that can serve various functions in the body. I like the FLORASSIST® GI with Phage Technology by Life Extension because it combines a proprietary probiotic blend with innovative bacteriophage technology.
Bacteriophage are “bacteria eaters” that consume the unwanted bacteria in the gut. The FLORASSIST® GI with Phage Technology has a unique TetraPhage Blend of four bacteriophages, which affects unwanted bacteria. FLORASSIST® GI features a unique dual-encapsulation delivery system, which safely bypasses the harsh stomach acid to deliver 15 billion CFU (colony forming units). And with the unwanted organisms out of the way, these probiotics get the opportunity to thrive and do good for your body!
Probiotic rich foods
Taking a probiotic supplement is important, but it can’t undo an unhealthy diet. Eat foods rich in probiotics to reap all the benefits. Here are some naturally probiotic rich foods:
- Yogurt and kefir– [check out this Sunshine Smoothie, featuring Greek yogurt]
- Tempeh and miso– [Try tempeh in this veggie burger or rice bowl]
- Sauerkraut and kimchi
It’s also important to eat plenty of prebiotics–a fiber that feeds the beneficial probiotics in your gut. Some food sources of prebiotics include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Onions and garlic
Research has also determined that eating a Mediterranean Diet is good for the gut. That translates to a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and fish.
Remember, for best results, combine a probiotic supplement with a healthy diet that includes probiotic and prebiotic rich foods. You gut will thank you!
For more info on probiotics visit the Life Extension website. Interested in trying FLORASSIST® GI, just click here and you’ll receive $10 off $75 plus free shipping. If you are a Registered Dietitian and a member of the Healthy Aging Dietetic Practice Group you can listen to my webinar in partnership with Life Extension by visiting the Healthy Aging website.
| These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to |
diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.