If you’ve read anything in health and fitness in the last few years then you’ve heard about how your gut is loaded with bacteria which can be separated to a “good” versus “bad” struggle. A probiotic is “good” bacteria while eating sugar, processed foods and stress leads to the formation of “bad” bacteria. All of this is directed and impacted by your genetics, lifestyle, daily diet, environment, activity level and stress levels.
Not surprisingly, since we’re loaded with over one trillion tiny bits of bacteria, health and performance research is starting to focus on the benefits of good gut health.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are micro organisms that live inside your gut and intestinal tract. Most commonly sold is lactobacillus and bifdobacterium but you can also get a good shot of good bacteria in fermented foods like yogurt, heifer, buttermilk, aged theses, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and some wines.
Have you ever known anyone that suffers from a variety of digestive disorders such as irritable/inflammatory bowel syndrome, autoimmune disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis? How about cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, skin disorders or obesity?
Well all of those conditions and more are impacted by your gut health.
We also can’t ignore prebiotics or fermentable fibers which is essentially tiny bits of foods for gut bacteria. You find these probiotics in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables but you’ll also find them in psyllium husk and inulin and potato starch.
Generally speaking, altering the balance of gut bacteria to “good” can lead to the following
-Increased insulin sensitivity
-Improved immune system function
-Increased muscle recovery
-Improved body composition
There’s even evidence that increased good bacteria leads to improved absorption of the amino acid leucine which is a key muscle growth trigger.
Probiotics are very powerful immune system boosting substances even if they don’t help your gut health, which we will discuss later.
What if you can’t tolerate a probiotic or fermented foods?
Oddly, individuals attempting to feel better end up taking a probotic but it tends to make things worse which is a big first clue. It’s actually a weird problem because if you negatively react to probiotics or fermented foods than you likely really need them so it becomes a matter of managing the short term dissatisfaction for the long term gains.
It becomes a slow process. It’s a tiny bit of fermented food each day as you build a tolerance to them.
You can’t ignore the signals. If you are really sensitive to the issues then you need to get testing done with a functional practitioner and he may put you on anti-microbial supplements.
Why are fermented foods so healthy for us anyway?
Fermented foods are high in histamine and people either have a genetic mutation that limits their ability to break down histamine or they don't.General issues with gut flora makes it hard to handle histamine
Typical intolerance symptoms range from headaches to hives, skin conditions, fatigue, bloodshot eyes and nausea.
This is seen with a variety of foods that undergo fermentation including the obvious foods like yogurt and sauerkraut but also wine or vinegar or cheese
Probiotcs and Small intention bacteria overgrowth (SIBO)
SIBO is an overgrowth of bacteria that produces lactic acid. The key is that lactobacillus acidophilus is one of those strands of bacteria but it is a popular probiotic supplement and it can also be found in high qualntaties in fermented foods.
Suggesting probiotics for common situations like irratible bowel disease may or may not help. There’s evidence that certain IBD cases are caused by a bad reaction to normal gut bacteria and there’s evidence that IBD is caused by a lack of gut bacteria so it’s really a 50-50 chance that you'll tolerate probiotics or not.
FODMAP’s may also cause issues since a FODMAP is fermentable fibers. We know fermentable fibers are really powerful for helping your gut heal but again, we've come to the catch-22 of eating what we should and dealing with stomach discomfort.
Other substances to heal your gut include fermentable fibers, resistant starches, non-starch polysaccharides such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides
How can probiotics help you?
There's several syndromes aside from immune or gut health that probiotcs can be beneficial for.
Mounds of research support the idea that probiotics can and should be used as a natural treatment for depression. A healthy gut means a healthy brain and that connection can and should not be overlooked. The more gut inflammation that you have, partially attributed to a lack of healthy gut flora, increased inflammatory signals that raise inflammation in the brain that attributes to symptoms of depression in the brain.
Probiotics can directly reduce inflammation cytokines and there is evidence that your gut health may impact the amount of brain neurotransmitters that your gut produces as well.
While probiotics have fantastic immune system boosting benefits, they may also positively impact seasonal allergies according to studies. Probiotics seem to reduce symptoms of season allergies such as nasal congestion. This is likely due to their ability to reduce inflammation.
Eating fermented foods, since you have to chew, seems to help to reduce cavities. The chewing is the key part here. Don't expect a probiotic supplement to lower the cavities if you aren't eating fermented fibers.
It all goes back to inflammation and it’s not hard to believe that increased inflammation in your gut or brain or any other area can’t cause increased inflammation in your skin. Acne, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis are all big issues in today’s landscape so it’s not too much of a reach to suggest that inflammation is likely linked. Probiotics can lower inflammation so you see the connection.
Probiotics question and answer
1) How should I take a probiotic?
The measure of probiotic units is in CFU(colony-forming units) and The Physique Formula Ultra Probiotic 8 contains 8 different stands and 4 billion live cultures. Best of all, due to cutting edge technology, Physique Formula probitocs are centric coated and do not need to be refrigerated. The bacteria is freeze dried and shelf stable.
Start with 1 capsule before bed and assess your tolerance. If you don’t have any bad symptoms such as acid reflux or an upset stomach, than you can slowly work up to 2 before bed and 2 before breakfast.
2) Should I take probiotics on a empty stomach?
There’s no clear evidence that discusses when you should or should no take probiotics. I generally recommend probiotics to be taken before bed in case there is any stomach discomfort or bloating.
3) Shouldn’t I just eat probiotic rich foods?
Yes! As stated above there are multiple benefits from eating probiotic rich foods including dental health. That being said, the best approach is a multi-functional approach that allows you exposures to multiple strands and types of good bacteria from both a supplement and variety of whole foods.