If you’ve ever taken antibiotics, you’ve probably heard your doctor suggest that you should eat some yogurt to replenish your “good” gut bacteria. Sounds simple, right? It turns out there’s much more to the story.
Nutrition researchers have recently been discovering that the balance of gut bacteria in our digestive tract is much more important to our overall health than previously thought, and it takes more than a few doses of yogurt once in a while to keep your digestive tract functioning optimally.
Among its many other benefits, a healthy balance of flora in the digestive system is essential for nutrient absorption. Getting more nutrition from your diet through good digestion will help support a stronger, more resilient immune system. You will get sick less frequently and recover faster if your digestive system is supercharged with healthy bacteria!
Most people are aware that yeast infections are caused by bacterial imbalance in the gut. Lesser known symptoms are constipation, allergies, indigestion, weight gain, depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue.
I touched on the importance of good digestion in my post on Five Natural Ways to Beat Seasonal Allergies. I take a digestive enzyme supplement with every meal to keep my gut functioning optimally.
Why use a supplement?
Most of the bacteria our digestive systems depend on originally came from the food our ancestors ate. It was fresh, minimally processed and, as uncomfortable as it sounds to our modern sensibilities, not all that clean. Healthy bacteria spreads quickly through human populations due to their close contact with one another, just like dangerous bacteria does.
Our modern Western diet, inundated with processed foods produced in squeaky clean factories is as effective at suppressing the spread of “good” bacteria as it is at suppressing the “bad” stuff. Even the fresh fruit and vegetables in the grocery store are rinsed with heavily chlorinated water to rid them of any microbes, destroying much of the good gut bacteria in the process.
Supplementing your diet with digestive enzymes and a good probiotic are great ways to restore the complex balance of healthy flora your body needs without sacrificing the hygienic practices that protect us from harmful food-borne bacteria.
What are Prebiotics? Food for gut health!
Despite our super-hygienic modern food culture, no food cleaning process is perfect. You can still get a good dose of healthy flora through your diet. Adding complex, nutrient-rich, plant-based foods into your diet helps to create a healthy environment where good gut bacteria can thrive.
Every microorganism in your digestive tract is there for selfish purposes: your digestive tract to them is a giant buffet. You can help the microbes that help you by making sure you’re eating enough of what they love to eat. Food for healthy gut bacteria is known as “prebiotics”.
Food rich in prebiotics includes anything from the onion family, asparagus, oats and bananas.
Plant based foods can also give your friendly flora an edge by interfering with the production of the biofilms that bad bacteria produce to protect themselves from the immune system. For this, berries, fresh herbs, turmeric, ginger and kale have all been found to be effective.
So be sure to head on out to your local health food store this week and stock up on some multi-strain probiotics, digestive enzymes and some yummy plant based goodies and eat your way to better gut health!
I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts or stories in the comments below.