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How to Improve Gut Health Naturally

microbiome git health

Your microbiome, the community of around 100 trillion bacteria, viruses, and fungi inhabiting your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, plays a pivotal role in health and disease

The microbiome has been implicated in multiple chronic conditions ranging from inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease to colorectal cancer.

Your microbiome has a direct impact on how you think, feel, and act too. 

We know that the gut microbiota undergo significant fluctuations over the course of one’s lifetime … and these modifications are frequently associated with undesirable effects on your health. 

But, these fluctuations are influenced by several controllable factors, such as lifestyle, stress, nutrition, and antibiotic use. A 2021 study showed “how little of the microbiome is predetermined by our genes and therefore how much is modifiable by diet,” according to researcher Sarah Berry. 

In this guide, we will cover four proven strategies for improving your gut health. We will talk about some exciting research that will show you how to 1.) breathe, 2.) move, 3.) exercise, and 4.) sleep better to create long-term, sustainable changes to your microbiome and in turn, your overall health and wellness. 

Let’s get started … 

Download the PDF Version of This Gut Health Guide Here

Breathing

deep breathing for gut healthYou know that feeling you get when you’re stuck in traffic and late for a meeting? Or somebody cuts you off then has the audacity to honk at you? 

These types of stressful events cause emotional responses like anger or fear, which prompt an immediate physical reaction within your body: your heart beats faster, your breathing gets quicker, and your stomach tenses up. 

This “fight or flight” response causes blood to move from your gut to the larger muscles, which hampers digestion, weakens your immune system, and increases inflammation.

The changes may not last long, and in the short term they aren’t harmful and may even be helpful in certain situations. But when they happen repeatedly, over time they can cause dysbiosis (when your gut bacteria are out of whack). 

The good news is, you can learn to recognize and turn off these automatic responses through deep breathing.

Before you dispel this as New Age mumbo jumbo, here’s some science to quell your skepticism.

According to the University of Michigan Health System

For those suffering from GI symptoms, diaphragmatic breathing offers specific benefits: Activating the diaphragm creates a gentle massaging action felt by internal organs like the intestines and stomach, which can reduce abdominal pain, urgency, bloating and constipation. While diaphragmatic breathing, you are facilitating the activation of the parasympathetic system, which can be thought of as the relaxation response of the body or the “rest and digest” state. 

Deep breathing has additional benefits, including:

Action Steps: 

  1. Read this primer on how to breathe better
  2. Practice deep breathing each day. Start with just 1-5 minutes then work your way up from there (I personally aim for 10-30 minutes each day, spread out over 2-3 sessions depending on the day). There are many different deep breathing techniques (progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, repetitive prayer, guided imagery, the Wim Hoff Method, to name a few).

Eating

foods to improve gut health naturally

Eating for better gut health is a highly individual affair. 

In this section, we’ll cover some different dietary approaches that may be beneficial for those GI issues. 

First, it’s important to talk to a specialist if you’re having digestive issues to make sure it’s not something more serious. I also highly recommend getting tested for food allergies and getting a gut intelligence test. These two tests will tell you exactly what foods you should and shouldn’t be eating, based on your unique physiology. 

Now let’s unpack a few dietary approaches that may (or may not) help improve your gut health. 

The FODMAP Diet

FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that aren’t absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gut disorders. 

These substances include lactose, fructose, fructans, galactans, and polyalcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, and isomalt). 

Clinical trials suggest that most patients with IBS report a reduction in symptoms from following a low-FODMAP diet. 

Also, people with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) seem to benefit from a low-FODMAPs diet and often experience a reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms.

But despite the demonstrated beneficial effects, low-FODMAPs diet have generated some concerns, namely: 

  • IBS patients have been shown to have a dysbiotic microbiota, which might predispose them to additional pathological dysbiosis (a gut that’s out of balance that can lead to other health issues). 
  • In one clinical trial, microbiota of IBS patients submitted to 4-week dietary intervention was compared with that of an IBS patient with a habitual diet. The authors demonstrated a reduction in concentration and proportion of Bifidobacteria after the carbohydrate restriction. 
  • Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) patients on the low FODMAP diet experienced a reduction of beneficial Bifidobacteriaceae and an increase of disease-promoting Lachnospiraceae were observed in their gut microbiota. 

Taking probiotics might help offset some of this. According to this 2019 study

Supplementation of the diet with probiotics could help in maintaining the beneficial component of gut microbiota, especially considering the inverse correlation between Bifidobacteria and the symptomatology of IBS. 

The Impact of Ketogenic Diets on Gut Health

Low carbohydrate diets like keto, Paleo, and Atkins focus on drastically reduced carbohydrate intake in favor of fats and protein. 

More research is needed on the long-term effects of these diets on gut health. Here’s what we know so far, based the current body of evidence

  1. A few human and animal studies have shown different results demonstrating positive effects on reshaping bacterial architecture and gut biological functions, while others reporting negative effects as a lowered diversity and an increased amount of pro-inflammatory bacteria. 
  2. According to several different studies, better strategies are needed to maximize the benefit of ketogenic diets. Here’s what they recommend: 
    1. Introduce the use of whey and plant proteins (i.e., pea protein).
    2. Reduce the intake of animal protein.
    3. Implement fermented food and beverages (yogurt, water and milk kefir, kimchi, fermented vegetables). 
    4. Introduce prebiotics and probiotics. 
    5. Reduce omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids ratio (increase omega 3 while decreasing omega 6).
    6. Introduce an accurate quantity and quality of unsaturated fatty acids. 
    7. Avoid artificial sweeteners and processed foods.
    8. Test your microbiome if needed (analysis of 16S rRNA to identify biodiversity and richness).

Gluten Free Diets and Gut Health: What We Know So Far

What about a gluten free diet? It’s a low-carb world, and many people are pushing grains off their plate in an effort to control their waistline and improve GI symptoms. 

Gluten-free diets are essential for people with celiac disease and other medical conditions that are negatively affected by gluten. 

But for most people, gluten is unjustifiably vilified. 

A 2019 meta analysis published in the scientific journal Nutrients reported that in patients with cardiovascular disease, after two years on a gluten-free diet, the “imbalance of duodenal mucosal microbiota were not completely restored with a worsening in the reduction of bacterial richness.”

And while some potentially pathogenic bacteria such as E coli and Staphylococcus may decrease on a gluten free diet, levels of beneficial species as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus also remain low. 

Anti-nutrients: Good or Bad? 

Anti-nutrients are natural substances found in certain plant- and animal-based foods that can block the absorption of nutrients. A common refrain you hear from people who swear off grains is that anti-nutrients are terrible for you and cause all types of issues.  

That may not be the case though. 

According to the Harvard School of Public Health

  • The pros and cons of anti-nutrients on long-term human health is an area of active research. 
  • Though certain foods may contain residual amounts of anti-nutrients after processing and cooking, the health benefits of eating these foods outweigh any potential negative nutritional effects. 
  • Eating a variety of nutritious foods daily and avoiding eating large amounts of a single food at one meal can help to offset minor losses in nutrient absorption caused by anti-nutrients.
  • Many anti-nutrients have antioxidant and anticancer actions, so avoiding them entirely is not recommended.

Why Most People Should Not Give Up Grains

Based on the current body of evidence, whole grains have some unique digestive health properties that make them a valuable addition to the diet for most people. The pros outweigh the cons. 

Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, saysThe main benefit of whole cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, and barley, is in the fiber. Cereal fiber is different from vegetable fiber or bean fiber.”

A reduced risk of colon cancer has been linked to fiber from grains, but not necessarily fiber from other sources, such as fruits and vegetables, she says. 

Whole grains have other health benefits as well. They lower cholesterol levels and reduce chronic inflammation, which has been linked to cancer and heart disease. Reducing chronic inflammation inside the body may also help to control blood pressure.

A 2016 study published in the journal Circulation found that people who ate at least four servings of whole grains each day had a 22% lower risk of death from any cause during the study period, compared with people who didn’t eat as much. The study’s authors also found a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer associated with diets rich in whole grains.

How Whole Grains Affect Your Microbiome

Whole grains break down slowly during digestion, which helps to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. Similarly, some studies have linked whole grains with a lower risk of getting diabetes.

The fiber in whole grains acts as a prebiotic, which is a substance that helps to feed, grow, and sustain healthy bacteria in your intestines. 

One study found that “whole grains, including oats, constitute important sources of nutrients for the gut microbiota and contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.”

Another study published in 2019 in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition showed “Increasing cereal fiber consumption should be encouraged for overall good health and for gut microbiota diversity.

Action Steps: 

Cleveland Clinic Gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD, shares six tips to improve your gut health and digestion naturally.

  1. Eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Fill your plate with the colors of the rainbow, from red to dark green. Stock up on canned and frozen veggies for convenience, but also be sure to include lots of fresh produce into your meals. Try to add a few veggies with each meal. 
  2. Choose whole grains more often. Look for and choose packages that say “whole grains” more often than white or processed bread or other grains. Then also check the amount of fiber the product contains. Try to choose items with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving for the most benefit.
  3. If you eat meat, limit the amount of beef, pork, lamb and processed meats you eat. Choose poultry or fish more frequently than red meat and limit all processed meats, like salami, bacon and hotdogs. Smaller portions of meat (1-4 oz.), consumed less often, are also beneficial. Most people don’t need to consume more than 6-8 ounces of meat every day. Try replacing meat with some beans or other plant-based protein for more fiber. One half cup of beans provides the same amount of protein as in 1 ounce of meat.
  4. Experiment with healthier cooking options. Opt for steaming, poaching, stewing, microwaving, braising and boiling over grilling and frying. And don’t forget – it’s important to make sure your meat gets cooked thoroughly before eating it to reduce other digestive health risks, such as salmonella (author’s note: I spent a day in the hospital after getting salmonella … trust me when I say you don’t want to experience it). 
  5. Consume foods with probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that help fight off the bad bacteria in your gut. They also produce healthy substances that provide nourishment for your gut. Good sources of probiotics include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchee, raw apple cider vinegar, onion, garlic and sauerkraut. If those foods don’t suit your fancy, then a probiotic supplement may help. 
  6. Limit foods that have added sugars and animal fats. These foods can produce harmful chemicals in your GI tract and cause major damage over time. Read ingredient labels for sources of added sugars – they can be tricky! 

Sleeping

microbiome supplementsThere’s a direct link between sleep disturbances and gut health. 

Just as you can influence your waking routine, scientists have determined poor night-time practices and an unhealthy diet can change your gut flora and impact your risk of insomnia

There are several theories on how your gut microbes might affect sleep: 

  1.     The Gut-Brain Axis

The connection between our brain and our digestive system is a complex system connected by the vagus nerve. Key signals can be passed between these two, such as when we’re hungry, stressed, or even our emotional state.

If your gut microbiome shows signs of gut dysbiosis, leading to leaky gut syndrome, it’s possible neuroinflammatory metabolites may be traveling up the vagus nerve and penetrating the brain. These metabolites have been shown to influence our stress response, impacting our heart rate and disrupting sleep structure patterns.

  1.     Hormone Regulation:

Many microbes within our gut microbiome produce serotonin, a key biochemical that regulates our mood. Serotonin is also a precursor for melatonin, another hormone essential to our light-dark cycle that eases us to sleep. If the gut microbiome isn’t producing it’s fair share of serotonin, this hormone flow may cease to a trickle and change standard sleep patterns.

This theory has also been supported by the number of people suffering from mood disorders like depression who also report additional issues with sleep. Researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan said, “Changing which microbes are in the gut by altering diet has the potential to help those who have trouble sleeping.”

  1.     Immune System:

Scientists say our gut houses upwards of 70% of our immune system. When we’re at our optimal health, this “immune organ” works in peak performance like an efficient fighting machine. However, when our body is under long-term assault from toxic substances, invading bacteria, or injury, our immune system can interrupt normal processes and change how well we regulate our sleep cycle.

When the gut ecosystem becomes imbalanced, it can cause an immune reaction that permeates through the digestive lining and penetrates peripheral tissues. If this immune response reaches organs such as the lungs, the inflammatory response can impact breathing at night and increase the likelihood of disorders like sleep apnea.

Action Steps: 

  1. Improve your diet by following the Action Steps in the Eating section above.  
  2. Try a prebiotic / probiotic / digestive enzyme supplement
  3. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Try going to bed 20-30 minutes earlier than normal each night. Dr. Meeta Singh, a sleep disorder expert at Henry Ford Sleep Disorders Center says “If you increase your time in bed by even 15 – 20 minutes, you will notice a difference.”
  4. Don’t eat or drink caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine can disrupt your sleep. Cut it out after 3 p.m.
  5. Don’t drink too much alcohol. 1 or 2 drinks a night should be your limit. Any more and your sleep will suffer.
  6. Keep your room as dark and quiet as possible. I have two young kids, so I know “quiet” is relative for many of us. But a room darkening shade and/or a sleep mask is a great investment if you don’t have them. And to drown out those loud kids, pets, partners, use ear plugs.
  7. Invest in a white noise machine and ear plugs if needed (check out the links for the ones I use). The Lectrofan white noise machine is the loudest and best white noise machine I’ve used … we have four of them in our house!
  8. Cut out screen time while in bed. Watch TV, check your phone, or dabble on your tablet outside of the bedroom. Studies show technology in the bedroom negatively impacts sleep.
  9. Spend 15-30 minutes winding down. Read, do yoga, stretch, foam roll, or meditate to wind down before bed. People who do sleep better.
  10. Invest in a good pillow and mattress. Think about how much time you spend in bed. A good mattress will probably set you back $1000+, but upgrading your pillow is a super easy sleep hack. I recommend the Coop Home Goods Pillow and body pillow. They’re highly rated on Amazon, hypoallergenic, and you can adjust the amount of memory foam inside to your liking.
  11. Use a sleep tracker. There are many sleep tracking products on the market now. I have used both the FitBit Charge 2 and Charge 3 with success, as well as the Withings Sleep Mat. All are $150 or less. I’ve heard good things about the Oura Ring too, but it’s a bit more expensive. 

Moving 

Studies suggest that exercise can:

  • Enhance the number of beneficial microbial species
  • Enrich the microflora diversity
  • Improve the development of commensal bacteria. 

Microflora diversity is indispensable to homeostasis and normal gut physiology and contributes to efficient signaling along the aforementioned brain-gut axis.

Exercise also improves the Bacteroidetes-Firmicutes ratio, which may contribute to reducing weight and gastrointestinal disorders, stimulate the proliferation of bacteria which can modulate mucosal immunity and improve barrier functions, and stimulate bacteria capable of producing substances that protect against gastrointestinal disorders and colon cancer. 

Here are some tips to improve your gut health with exercise …

Action Steps: 

  1. Schedule a little exercise every day. Add a recurring event on your calendar for 5-15 minutes of exercise every day. 5 minutes may not seem like enough, but you will often find that you want to do more when you have the time. And even if you only have time for 5 minutes, it’ll help you create a habit, which is imperative to long-term success. 
  2. Find some types of exercise you don’t hate. You’ll be more likely to stick with something you enjoy. So try different types of workouts until you find a couple you like doing. 
  3. Switch things up for best results. You need to constantly push your body outside of its comfort zone to create adaptation. The point of diminishing returns happens when you do the same thing for too long and it yields less and less desirable results relative to the work put in. Constantly seek out and try new ways of moving. 
  4. Don’t sit for more than 20 minutes at a time. If you spend a lot of time sitting, changing that habit is one of the best things you can do for your overall health (and particularly your gut health). Stand up and go for a 5-minute walk around your house, stretch, dance, do a few yoga poses. Try “walking meetings” whenever possible. Here are a few of my favorite exercises I do in between my daily tasks. 

Download the PDF Version of This Gut Health Guide Here

How to Find the Best Probiotics for YOU, According to Science

In this guide, we’ll help you navigate the fascinating yet complex world of probiotics.

We’ll talk about the benefits and risks of probiotics. The best food sources of probiotics. The myths and misconceptions. And what to look for if you decide to take a probiotic supplement.

Away we go …

Download Our FREE Gut Health Guide Here

What Are Probiotics and Why Are They So Popular Right Now?

best vegan probiotics

There are 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body at any given moment (compared to around 30 trillion human cells).

Many of these bacterial organisms live in your gut, part of a stunningly complex network of neurons known as your “microbiome”.

The densest part of your microbiome is in your gut, where about 1,000 species of bacteria feast on complex carbohydrates and fibers you eat.

The microbiome plays an important role in your body …

Scientists have discovered that 70-80 percent of your immune system is controlled by your microbiome and 95 percent of your body’s serotonin—the neurotransmitter that’s the main contributor to your well-being and happiness—is made in your gut, not your brain.

The gut microbiome is largely shaped by what we eat and drink. And the Western diet, with its heavy use of heavily processed foods like refined flour and sugar, actually starves your microbiota, leading to a plethora of health conditions.

That’s why probiotics, these “good”, “friendly” or “healthy” bacteria you can take in supplement form, are so popular now.

The Best Food and Drink Sources of Naturally-Occurring Probiotics

1. Fermented vegetables 

Sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi are among the most popular natural sources of vegan probiotics. But most of the store brands contain vinegar and preservatives, which kill the beneficial bacteria.

So look for pickled vegetables that are naturally fermented using salt.

Or just make your own.

Personal note: I was inspired to start fermenting vegetables after reading Michael Pollan’s fantastic book, Cooked. All you need is vegetables/fruit, salt, and a fermentation vessel. This is the crock I use if you get serious but when you’re first starting out, any large container will work).

Also, the cellular structure of certain foods makes them act as “superfoods” for good microbes to feed on. These include onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, jicama, and peas.

2. Fermented tea 
Kombucha is black tea that’s fermented with sugar. Some store-bought brands also add sugar, which can strengthen harmful microbes like E. coli.

Personal note: I got this kombucha kit and use it to make a fermented tea called Jun that uses green tea and honey instead of black tea and sugar. Here’s how to make it.

3. Sourdough Bread

There is not a more delicious way to enjoy the benefits of probiotics than eating a warm, crusty slice of sourdough bread (assuming you don’t have a gluten sensitivity).

Personal note: I also start making sourdough bread after reading Cooked. Seriously, read the book! Then pick up a sourdough starter and some flour and make this no-knead Cast Iron Sourdough Bread recipe. from the New York Times.

4. Fermented soy

Soy has gotten a bad rap because it’s used so much in processed foods and is one of the top 8 allergens. However, fermented soy products like organic miso, tofu, and soy sauce may actually have some health benefits.

5. Variety

Simple sugars cause conflict between our microbes and cells, but eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains encourages cooperation between them. Gregory Plotnifkoff, MD, coauthor of Trust Your Gut recommends adhering to the old Japanese adage of eating at least 30 different whole foods per day!

6. Supplements

Eating 30 different foods can be a challenge for time-strapped folks though. That’s where probiotic supplements may help.

How to Find the Best Probiotic Supplements for Your Health Needs

healthiest probiotics for vegansNot all probiotics strains are the same. Different strains offer different benefits and some probiotic strains survive manufacturing processes, shelf life and digestive transit better than others. When choosing a probiotic consider the following questions:

  1. Is it derived from dairy? 4 out of every 5 probiotic supplements contain dairy-based derivatives. This isn’t just bad news for vegans. Why?Because up to 65 percent of adults are lactose intolerant, which means milk-based probiotics can make things worse for those with dairy sensitivities. On top of that, dairy-based probiotics are often only shelf stable for a few days. After this, the bacteria start to die. So, you have to take more of them to feel any effect. Choose “plant-based” or vegan probiotics instead. The product packaging or company website should tell you if the probiotic supplement you’re considering is from vegan / plant based sources.
  2. Does your probiotic survive stomach acid and/or manufacturing? As mentioned, most don’t. Certain strains fare better than others. Always ask the manufacturer of your probiotic if they have any clinical research to support their product. Just because they sell a popular strain, doesn’t mean their probiotic are live and active.
  3. Is your probiotic tested for safety and potency? The FDA doesn’t require probiotic companies to test their bacteria strains. So naturally, most don’t do it. Probiotic contamination is a big deal though. If your probiotic manufacturer doesn’t have strict quality control measures in place, your probiotic may be doing more harm than good. And, many of these beneficial bacteria die during processing because of the harsh processing methods most manufacturers use. Make sure the company you buy from tests its probiotics for safety and potency and can provide documentation to prove it.
  4. Is your probiotic backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies? Don’t trust marketing claims on product labels and websites. Even most clinical data large probiotic companies cite is funded by the companies themselves. Your probiotic should be backed by randomized, double-blind, peer-reviewed clinical studies (the gold standard in scientific research) whenever possible if the company makes any claims about its benefits.
  5. Does your probiotic contain fillers, preservatives, allergens, and artificial ingredients? The answer is usually yes, but manufacturers are very good at hiding this information. The only way to know is to ask them what “excipients” are in it and what purpose those serve.
  6. Does your probiotic contain prebiotic fiber and digestive enzymes? Prebiotics are essentially “food” that probiotics feast on. They help make probiotics more effective once they reach your intestines and colon. Digestive enzymes can help you digest all foods better, so often times you’ll see supplements that contain these as well.
  7. What health challenges are you facing? Different strains of probiotics offer different types of benefits. Don’t just buy a probiotic without understanding the type or types of strains it contains—otherwise you’re very likely wasting your money. For example, I suffer from GI issues, so I make sure I take strains that help me with those.

The Number One Myth About Probiotics

If you’ve shopped for probiotics before, you’ve probably noticed one statistic that all probiotics emphasize on the bottle, the CFU count. CFUs, or colony forming units, are the number of live probiotic bacteria that are supposed to be in each serving.

Some companies pack tens or even hundreds of billions of CFUs per dose. But what they don’t tell you is that most of these bacteria are going to die before they ever reach your small intestine (where they exert  the most benefits).

Probiotic companies have pushed CFU count as the singular point of comparison for the uninformed. In a way, this makes sense because it gives buyers an easy number that they can use to compare competing products.

But more CFUs does not always mean more effective! And in some cases, more can be worse.

The National Institutes of Health states:

Many probiotic supplements contain 1 to 10 billion CFU per dose, but some products contain up to 50 billion CFU or more. However, higher CFU counts do not necessarily improve the product’s health effects.

How Many CFUs Do You Really Need?

CFU numbers on probiotic supplements can vary anywhere from several million to 50 billion, but  research has shown that effective probiotic dosage for general gut health seems to be in the range of 10 million to one billion CFUs per day in humans.

Another thing to keep in mind is that multi-strain probiotics will help you achieve better results than single-strain probiotics. Different probiotic strains excel at different mechanisms, so diversified collection of strains is ideal for overall health.

The Best Time to Take Probiotics

Research shows you can take probiotics before, during, or after meals. However, you may experience additional benefits if you take your probiotics with some form of healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, etc.).

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Let’s look at some of the strain-specific benefits of probiotics …

Sleep Benefits of Probiotics

We spend almost a third of our lives asleep. Researchers are discovering that the duration and quality of our sleep affect everything from our cognitive performance, mood, and memory to the health of our immune and endocrine systems.

It’s widely known that quality sleep can improve your memory, reduce inflammation (the pre-cursor to most disease), sharpen your mental focus, help you control your weight, and lower your stress levels.

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) produce and regulate a number of neurotransmitters and hormones that impact our sleep:

Tryptophan and Melatonin: Probiotics can increase blood levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that converts into serotonin and then into melatonin, the hormone that regulates how sleepy you feel.

Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and plays a significant role in sleep quality. Researchers found that serotonin deficiency in rats led to disrupted sleep-wake cycles. Most serotonin is made in the gut.

GABA: Beneficial bacteria help produce GABA, the calming brain chemical, as well as enhance its brain receptors.

Cortisol: If temporary stress and anxiety are the cause of your sleepless nights, rest assured that probiotics may even lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that becomes elevated during times of stress.

So what probiotic strains have been shown to be effective for sleep? Not many, just yet.

A small study showed that the probiotic Streptococcus can help improve sleep outcomes.

Mental Health Benefits of Probiotics

The relationship between the microbiota and anxiety/depression has been studied mainly in animals … but preliminary research is promising.

Your gut microbiota plays a major role in the communication between the gut and the brain.

A review of several research studies showed that certain probiotics have antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. The researchers concluded:

Regulation of the gut microbiota using diet, probiotics and FMT (fecal microbiota transplantation) may have important benefits for preventing and treating depression.

Weight Loss Benefits of Probiotics

In a metaanalysis of over 800 studies, researchers found that:

Administration of probiotics resulted in a significantly larger reduction in body weight and fat percentage compared with placebo; however, the effect sizes were small.

Immunity Benefits

Research is still emerging in this area but it appears probiotics may be able to help you keep your immune system functioning at a higher level.

New research has shown that certain strains can activate health immune cells and decrease inflammation.

Gut Health Benefits

Several probiotic strains have been shown to help those suffering from GI issues like diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowl disease (IBD), and food allergies.

Safety and Side Effects of Probiotics

According to the National Institutes of Health, the safety of probiotics depends on the state of your health and the strain you’re using.

In people who are generally healthy, probiotics have a solid safety record. Side effects, if they occur at all, usually consist only of mild digestive symptoms such as gas.

On the other hand, there have been reports linking some probiotics to severe side effects, such as dangerous infections, in people with serious underlying medical problems. The people who are most at risk of severe side effects include critically ill patients, those who have had surgery, very sick infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Do your homework and ask your doctor about any certain strains so she/he can tell you whether it’s safe for you.

Bottom Line About Probiotics

the best probioticsFrom the day you were born, your digestive tract has been exposed to a steady stream of bacteria–some helpful, some harmful. One key to gastrointestinal (GI) health is maintaining a balance of these “good” and “bad” bacteria.

Over time, diet, aging, antibiotic use, travel, medications, illness, stress, and hormonal changes can disrupt your intestinal balance.

Keeping a healthy level of these “good” bacteria is key to maintaining your digestive and immune health.

To help level the playing field of good and bad bacteria, many people find it helpful to add a daily supplement or eat more probiotic fortified foods and beverages.

Like most industries, the market for probiotics is ripe with crappy products. The only way to know if your probiotic is legit is to answer the 6 questions above. If a manufacturer is hesitant to provide any information you ask for, that’s a big red flag for an inferior product that could do more harm than good.

10 minutes of research makes a world of difference when it comes to choosing the right probiotic supplement for you.

Learn More About Pure Food DIGEST (Probiotics + Prebiotics + Digestive Enzymes

Sources Not Linked to Above/Further Reading:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-HealthProfessional/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-humans-carry-more-bacterial-cells-than-human-ones/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10564096

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204468004577164732944974356

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

https://www.the-rheumatologist.org/details/article/1386089/The_Microbiome.html

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/gut-week-do-probiotics-work-are-they-good-for-me/ 

https://experiencelife.com/article/how-to-heal-a-leaky-gut/

Is This “The Secret” to Optimal Health and Happiness?

You are only 10 percent human.

As crazy as it sounds, our bodies have only 10 percent human cells. The other 90 percent are bacterial.

Most of these bacterial organisms live in your gut, part of a stunningly complex network of 100 million neurons known as your “microbiome”.

Your gut—which includes the esophagus, stomach, and intestines—actually has its own nervous system that allows it to operate independently from the brain, which is why it’s often called the “second brain.”

Ever felt butterflies in your stomach before giving a speech? Or had a “gut feeling” about something that turned out to be right?

That’s the second brain at work.

The Health Benefits of Probiotics

probiotics health benefits

So how do you improve your gut health?

The best way to get more good bacteria in your body is to eat whole, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and miso.

The second best way is to take a supplement or eat foods with added “probiotics,” a term used to describe health-promoting bacterial species.

However, 94% of probiotics added to food products are completely ineffective.

That’s because they either:

  1. Have a short shelf life
  2. Get killed by your stomach acid, or
  3. Don’t stay in your digestive tract long enough to provide any health benefit

It doesn’t matter how many “billion CFUs” your probiotic has if none of those good bacteria survive through your digestive system!

How do you find a good probiotic that actually works?

Start by finding out the answers to these questions:

  1. Does your probiotic survive stomach acid? As mentioned, most don’t. Certain strains fare better than others (like Bacillus coagulans). And some manufacturers (like Hyperbiotics) have developed proprietary processes that time-release the delivery of the bacteria until it reaches your intestine.
  2. Is your probiotic lab tested for safety? The FDA doesn’t require probiotic companies to test their bacteria strains. So naturally, they don’t do it. Probiotic contamination is a big deal though. If your probiotic manufacturer doesn’t have strict quality control measures in place, your probiotic may be doing more harm than good. Make sure the company you buy from tests its probiotics and can prove it to you.
  3. Is your probiotic backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies? Don’t trust marketing claims on product labels and websites. Even most clinical data probiotic companies cite is funded by the companies themselves. Your probiotic should be backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies (the gold standard in scientific research) if the company makes any claims about its benefits.
  4. Does your probiotic contain fillers, preservatives, and artificial ingredients? The answer is usually yes, but manufacturers are very good at hiding this information. The only way to know is to ask.
  5. Is your probiotic dairy-free? Many probiotics use a milk-based medium to help the bacteria grow. However, the people who probiotics tend to benefit most are those with digestive or immune problems … and dairy can trigger a whole host of issues.

The bottom line

Like most industries, the market for probiotics is ripe with crappy products. The only way to know if your probiotic is legit is to find out the answers to the five questions above. If a manufacturer is hesitant to provide any information you ask for, that’s a big red flag for an inferior product that could do more harm than good.

10 minutes of research makes a world of difference when it comes to choosing a healthy probiotic supplement.

Don’t roll the dice with your health.

If you want to try a probiotic that actually works, grab a sample bag of Pure Food Probiotic Protein Powder for just 5 bucks (you just pay shipping).