Yogurt Is Not Enough For A Healthy Gut
Improve your health by balancing your gut bacteria. Balanced gut bacteria promotes fat loss, improves muscle, boosts mood, and reduces disease risk. Healthy gut bacteria also improves absorption of proteins and phytonutrients for better overall nutritional status.
Why Balanced Gut Bacteria Matters
Many people believe that all you need to do is eat yogurt regularly and your gut bacteria will be taken care of. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.
Although fermented foods like yogurt and other cultured dairy products all contain active live cultures, the bacteria used for fermentation doesn’t necessarily have any health benefit. Instead, the bacteria are chosen expressly for the purpose of fermenting foods. They may not have health benefits like helping make your belly slim or your brain work better!
Another concern is that the live active cultures that enable the fermentation process may not survive the preparation process and make it into your GI tract alive. High temperatures, time, and other factors such as the use of additives all have the potential to kill off healthy bacteria before you even eat them.
What about certain studies that show eating probiotic foods can improve health?
It’s true that fermented foods are linked with significant health benefits in randomized trials. These foods have specific bacterial strains added to them after the products are made. For example, a 2010 study found that when overweight subjects were given 7 oz. of fermented milk containing additional live bacteria every day for 12 weeks, they decreased belly fat by 4.6 percent and reduced body weight by 1.1 kg. A control group experienced no changes (1).
Researchers identify these key points to success in this trial:
- A specific bacterial strain was used that survived digestion and reached the GI tract,
- The bacterial strain had a positive impact on the colony of bacteria living in the gut, and
- The bacteria reduced inflammation and increased energy expenditure for a measurable reduction in body fat.
The bottom line is that although fermented foods can provide benefits to the overall microbiome, they shouldn’t be your only line of defense. A number of factors in our modern day lifestyles make it difficult for most people to maintain a healthy microbial environment through diet alone.
C-Section & Microbiome
A classic example is with the increased use of C-sections for childbirth. The womb is a sterile environment, which means that the first time we encounter microbes is during natural childbirth. This birth exposure is what sets the tone for all the microbes that colonize a baby.
If you are born through a C-section, you encounter a different set of microbes coming from the hospital environment. C-section babies appear to have decreased microbial diversity and a lower colonization of beneficial bacteria (2, 3). They may also have a reduced immune response to certain stimuli.
American Diet & Microbiome
Another example is the modern American diet. It is high in processed grains but hopelessly low in prebiotics, which are a type of indigestible fiber that feed the healthy bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are present in specific high-fiber foods such as bananas, garlic, onions, potato starch, and oats. Without prebiotics, the beneficial bacteria in your GI tract have no food, won’t proliferate, and can more easily become overwhelmed by harmful bacteria.
Lifestyle Factors & Microbiome
Other lifestyle factors that affect your microbiome include overuse of antibacterial soaps, tap water with chlorine, alcohol consumption, and antibiotics present in food. Bottle feeding babies also negatively affects gut health because about 10 percent of breast milk contains carbohydrates that the baby can’t digest and are specifically there to nourish the microbes in the baby’s gut.
Unless you’re actively cultivating a healthy microbiome, you probably need to continually use a high-quality probiotic supplement for optimal health. Even so, it’s essential to know that although probiotics have some powerful benefits, they aren’t a magic pill. As science writer Ed Yong explains, “It is about engineering an entire ecosystem. It's as complicated as changing a coral reef or a grassland. It's about sculpting a world.”
What follows are ten of our best tips for balancing your gut bacteria for optimal immunity, leanness, and health.
#1: Eat Plenty of Vegetables & Fruit
Vegetables and fruit provide the prebiotic fiber that feeds your healthy microflora. They also contain phytonutrients that balance the gut bacteria and have an anti-inflammatory effect.
#2: Get Dirty
Avoiding bacteria made sense in the past after we first discovered that certain bacterial strains cause disease. But modern science has shown us that there are thousands of types of bacteria that are beneficial for health and can promote superior immunity and overall health. Anything that exposes you to dirt, whether it’s gardening or competing in a mud run, can help balance gut bacteria.
Exercise encourages the growth of gut bacteria that are linked to leanness. Physical activity also suppresses other types of bacteria that are associated with obesity (13).
#4: Get A Dog
Dog owners have more balanced gut health than those who are pet free. Scientists believe that being around a dog regularly transmits healthy bacteria to your skin, which may help ward off virus and illness-causing bugs (4, 5).
#5: Avoid NSAIDS
NSAIDs restrict blood flow to the kidneys and damage the protective intestinal barrier, which has a negative effect on healthy bacteria. Two natural supplements that promote gut health and have an anti-inflammatory, pain killing effect are curcumin and boswellia (16).
#6: Minimize Antibiotic Use
Antibiotics can save your life. They also wipe out all the good bacteria you’ve been cultivating. Unfortunately, doctors are overprescribing them or choosing broad-spectrum antibiotics because they require fewer daily doses. Before signing on to whatever your doctor prescribes, ask if there’s a medication that specifically targets your condition.
#7: Monitor Your Vitamin D
One more reason to ensure your vitamin D status is in the healthy range: It balances your gut bacteria. A vitamin D deficiency causes digestive problems and an unhealthy gut (7).
#8: Time Your Meals
Your circadian rhythm moderate your gut bacteria (6). In simple terms, this means they set their clock by when you eat, becoming more active in response to meals. When you eat at random times or get a midnight snack, your bacteria don’t make the switch. This leads to poor digestion and undernourished gut bugs, which may eventually lead them to die off.
#9: Cope With Stress
Stress and anxiety can throw off your ratio of healthy-to-harmful gut bacteria (8). This change impairs immunity and can leave you experiencing digestive issues. Adopt a stress management plan that includes deep breathing, fun activities, and a healthy diet.
#10: Supplement With Probiotics
Your most powerful defense against harmful bacteria is a strong offense. That’s where probiotic supplementation comes in.
In choosing a probiotic, you naturally want one that has research demonstrating its beneficial effects. For example, lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM has been shown to balance gut bacteria by improving the microbial community in the gut (9). It also reduces bloating and decreases the incidence of abdominal pain and GI disorders (10, 11).
Next, you need to ensure your getting a top quality brand because many supplement companies choose the probiotic strains that are the easiest to manufacture and package, not because they are good at balancing gut bacteria. Pick a brand that includes at least 1 billion count of live bacteria. Many people need to start with a higher dose in the 25 to 50 billion count range, but once the gut bacteria begin to balance, a lower dose can be used.
Another key factor when choosing a probiotic is that the supplement you buy contains live microflora bacteria. Many products are only guaranteed at the time of manufacture, which means that the majority of bacteria may have died off by the time you get around to taking them. Instead, buy probiotics that are guaranteed though the date of expiration.
Finally, you want a probiotic that is acid and bile resistant so that it will survive the digestion process and make it through to the intestine alive and kicking. A top quality product such as those sold in our Poliquin Group Store are 99 percent acid and bile resistant and can be taken at any time of day, not just with meals.
Three Excellent Probiotic Formulas
If you’re considering trying a probiotic for the first time, we sell three formulas that are indicated in the following situations:
Proflora Excellence and Mega Proflora are the foundational probiotics. Proflora Excellence is designed to be taken continually. Mega Proflora provides a powerhouse 100 billion colony forming units of bacteria per capsule and is great for jump starting GI health. It is recommended for people who have a compromised immune system and need immune support.
Proflora Excellence SB is recommended during antibiotic use to reduce the incidence of diarrhea. It’s also useful any time you are exposed to E. coli, salmonella, candida, or other pathogenic bacteria. Use it when traveling to a foreign country where you come in contact with unfamiliar bacteria.