It’s a Gut Feeling: The Benefits of Gut Flora and Probiotics

When it comes to healing yourself from the inside out, taking care of your gut is the best place to start. With so much emphasis put on heart health, brain health, liver health, lung health... it’s easy to forget the gut is where many health problems begin. Achieving a healthy gut and digestive system is a key step in improving health in other parts of the body. Books like Gut and Psychology Syndrome even link gut health to mental behaviors and modern disorders like autism and ADHD.

Today, many people tend to think digestive upsets like heartburn, acid reflux, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), stomach pains, and constipation are normal. In fact, we have aisles at every store dedicated solely to medications designed to treat these symptoms. And yes, they are symptoms - signs of an unhealthy gut. Which means if we treat the root of the problem (or the gut of it?), then many of these conditions seem to resolve themselves.

Digestive problems have reached almost epidemic proportions, especially for the youngest generation. Even young babies are developing acid reflux and leaky gut syndrome. In basic terms, this is because gut flora are established even before birth and also during the early months of feeding. Without proper nourishment gut health will weaken more with each generation. So, taking steps to nourish our own digestive system and those of our children is very important for preserving the health of future generations.

Gut Basics

What does the gut really do? We know what the heart does, we know what the lungs do. Some of us would even venture to say we have a good grasp on what the liver and kidneys do. But what about our gut? We know it’s responsible for digesting food, but in reality the gut handles a lot more than we think.

- The gut is like an intricate ecosystem populated with an incredible amount of living beings: tiny microorganisms which play a key role in keeping you healthy. Your body relies on this population of beneficial bacteria to assimilate valuable nutrients, and defend itself against toxins and pathogenic bacteria.

- About 70-80% of your immune system in based in your gut. A healthy gut can put up an awesome fight against invading bacteria and viruses; on the same note, a weak gut makes you vulnerable to a myriad of illenesses and conditions.

- You probably know the phrase “Follow your gut feeling.” Well, in a way you really can think with your gut. Containing more nerve cells and neurotransmitters than the nervous system, the gut has been referred to as a second brain. And what goes on in there is just as important as what’s going on in your brain.

So, how do you restore your gut health? Today I want to focus on probiotics: the tiny little guys who regulate the activity in your gut. They are small, but don’t let their size fool you. Probiotics and intestinal flora are the foundation of a healthy gut. They destroy bad bacteria and help the body use nutrients properly. For many people, consuming more probiotics resolves many digestive issues, and other seemingly unrelated conditions as well.

Here’s how you can get more probiotics into your diet:

- Get cultured. Eat more yogurt and kefir! I love these foods, so this is not a problem for me. I’m working on healing my own gut right now, so I drink three kefir smoothies a day to help me get plenty of natural probiotics. Homemade yogurt and kefir from raw milk will offer the most benefits. (They are also very easy to make - I will be posting how-to pages about both of these soon, plus some great smoothie recipes!)

- Ferment it. Lacto-fermented foods are brimming with probiotics. Fermenting your own foods might seem too complicated at first, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Sauerkraut is one of the easiest fermented foods you can make, and easily combines with meat dishes and broths. On a personal note, I did not think I would like sauerkraut at all, but I actually find it pretty tolerable (and even pleasant with bratwurst!). Plus, you can get a lot of benefits from just 2-4 tablespoons at a time, and it’s not too hard to get that much down. I promise. :)

Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra Ultimate Probiotics Formula, Capsules, 90-Count Bottle- Probiotic supplements. Most of us like to limit supplements, but supplemental probiotics can be really important for those who need to repopulate their gut with the good stuff. Look for a good quality probiotic containing at least 1 billion microorganisms per serving. Most quality probiotics need to be refrigerated. I’ve read the probiotics in enteric-coated pills are most likely destroyed, so avoid these if possible. Also, start small with probiotic supplements to avoid severe “die-off” symptoms (a reaction to mass amounts of harmful bacteria dying off, which includes flu-like symptoms like headaches, chills, nausea, etc.).

Probiotics are an excellent start for healing a weak gut, but here are some more keys to restoring gut health:

- Avoid sugars, starches and other carbs. These feed the bad bacteria and disrupt balance in the GI tract. Grains and sugars are particularly harsh on the gut. This is not to say carbs are inherently bad for your health (some do well on them, others may not). But it may help temporarily to cut down on certain carbs in an effort to restore gut health.

- Take daily dose of fermented cod liver oil. The vitamin A, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil are healing to the gut.

- Include bone broths with at least one meal each day. The minerals and gelatin in a quality bone broth are very soothing for the digestive system. Bone broths also aid in the assimilation of nutrients. Read more about bone broth here.

- Eat healthy fats like butter and coconut oil. These contain special fatty acids designed to fight bacteria and viruses in the gut.

- Drink raw milk, which contains loads of beneficial enzymes and bacteria which promote gut health.

The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your ImmunityWell, this has turned out to be a seriously long post, and I feel like I’ve barely touched on the basics of gut health! I will definitely post more details in the future about keeping your gut healthy. So stay tuned, and for more information I recommend reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and/or The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates.

And don't forget to try these probiotic recipes:

Follow Me on Pinterest