Gut Health – Why It’s Important
Reserchers suggest that we have an average of 500 species of bactera inside of us, and altogether we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 trillion bacteria living in us. Usually people see bacteria as a bad thing, and usually, they’re right. But gut health requires that we have many different strains of good bacteria in our body. Why is our gut health important? because not only does it contain more neurons than our spinal cord (over 100 million), but the gut is host to the enteric nervous system (ENS), also referred to as our second brain. Serotonin, Dopamine and glutamate are neurotrasmitters produced here via the bacteria. These neurotransmitters form the very basis for your personality and based on the levels of each your personality changes.
Depression, lack of energy, gaining weight are all possible symptoms of poor gut health. A recent study showed that when rats without bacteria were given certain strains of bacteria from obese people, they started to gain weight. Similarly, rats that were given bacteria from lean rats became leaner (similar study here). Another study showed that rats who were given varying bacteria experienced a change in behavior. For example, some rats suddenly became more social and daring. The effects that gut health has on each of us shows how important making sure everything is running in top-shape is.
Gut Health for a healthier life
According to some researches gut health can effect people with depression in both positive and negative ways. The probiotic strain known as Bifidobacterium Infantis (B.Infantis) contains bacteria that have antidepressant effects. This study suggests that when rats were admistered this strain of bacteria they had less of an emotional response during traumatic events. Another suggested benefit to this strain is relax neural processes which means it has properties that reduce stress. Your metabolism and nutrient absorbtion is also said to be controlled by the kind of bacteria in your gut. This could mean that your energy levels and the amount of nutrients that actually get absorbed into your body depend strongly on the bacteria inside of your gut,
Poor gut health has also been linked to mental conditions such as brain fog, ADHD, Anxiety and Alzheimer’s disease(related study). Making sure your gut is in a good state not only ensures that various other processes in your body function smoothly, keep you happy and helps boost your metabolism but it keeps the doctor away, too. Around 60% of your immune issued is located in your gut as lymph tissue, known as your Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue. So keeping your gut in check also fights off certain common illnesses.
What To Avoid
One type of thing most people don’t realize that really messes with gut health are NSAIDs such as Asprin, Motrin, Advil, and similar drugs. These drugs tend to reduce the diversity of bacteria in your microbiome and kill off a decent amount of good bacteria that lives inside your stomach. It’s not enough to just have good bacteria in our bodies, but we need to have a diverse variety of many different kinds of good bacteria because each kind of bacteria has a specific role to fulfil such as mood regulation and weight loss. Something else to stay on the lookout for is unfiltered water. Chlorine and fluoride are often found in unfiltered water and these two chemicals can really do a number to not only your body but they can also mess up your hormones. Generally you should be drinking filtered water regardless of what your situation is because high-quality water does a lot for our bodies and for our energy levels (as well as provide a healthy environment for good bacteria to grow in).
You also may want to lookout for grains. You know, bread, pasta, and other things that an average American will consume on a daily basis. These tend to cause long-lasting harm to your gut health and will greatly lower the quality of your microbiome which means that eating grains alone possibly cause slight weight gain or changes in mood. Changing your diet is a good step towards improving the health of not just yourself but for the organisms that regulate all the things inside you that make you, you. You don’t need to eliminate grains forever from your life but just try to keep them minimally low in your daily eating habits.
For better gut health prebiotics are really all you need. They’re easy to find in a lot of tasty foods such as whole milk and garlic. All you need to do is find some you enjoy and add a little to a meal or two throughout the day. For example you could make some oven-baked chicken with garlic and red onions and voila, a tasty, gut-friendly meal. Things like fruits also tend to have prebiotic benefits such as carrying the Bifidobacterium family of bacteria, and they also increases the number of Lactobacillus bacteria in your gut. Here’s a list of a few pre-biotic foods to get you started with a diet for improved gut health:
- Raw chicory root
- Raw Jerusalem Artichoke
- Raw Dandelion Greens
- Raw garlic
- Raw Leeks
- Raw Onions or cooked onions
- Raw wheat bran
- Baked wheat flour
- Raw banana
You don’t need to eat all of these. Bananas are great, you can put them in a blender and add it to your favorite shake. You can add it to really any kind of meal and they aren’t too expensive. As long as your diet is in check the only thing you need to improve gut health is to incorporate some prebiotics. Some peopl will go on about how you need probiotics and supplements to ensure good gut health, but no amount of supplements can top what a good diet can do for you, because at the end of the day supplements are just that – supplementing for the real deal.
Before we get in to probiotics we need to go over the strains of bacteria they offer. Probiotic bacteria strains usually only help with specific issues such as SIBO and dysbiosis. Unless you have a very specific symptom such as SIBO or IBS I wouldn’t bother with probiotics. Instead, I’d worry about creating a healthier microbiome environment with some prebiotics you can find in healthy food. Let’s break down what a bacteria strain is. Here we have “Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019” for example, in this name we have three different parts of the strain. Bifidobacterium is the genus, Lactis is the species and HN019 is the strain. There are around 5600 strains of bacteria and they all differ in their effects to our body.
For example, the strain above helps with dysbiosis, constipation and similar problems. There have been some strains that show signs of improving mental health and sharpness, but there’s only been one study on the subject and it isn’t very promising. You can get more bang for your buck by just adding pre-biotics to your diet, but here are some probiotics that may help with certain stomach issues:
- Kefir (This is especially good. Probably one of the best probiotics you can take if you can find a good brand locally)
- Dark Chocolate (A personal favorite of mine.)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Some of these probiotics such as kefir may not be available to you if you live in an out of the way area. Alternatively, you can make your own Kefir and kombucha. Fermented foods for thousands of years have always helped with digestion issues so if you’re having some issues in that department I’d give similar foods a go.
The last thing you should be looking at for gut health unless you have very specific issues is supplements. There are very few quality supplements and most companies are just wasting your money. The delivery system for the bacteria to reach your gut wall is important because if the bacteria can’t survive through the stomach acid then you’ll get no benefits at all from taking a supplement and quite literally end up flushing the money you spent on these supplements down the toilet. Quality supplements with good delivery systems run around $60~$100 so for a majority of people it wouldn’t be viable to take supplements like this for a long time unless you don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars on it.
Just by improving your diet with some of the foods I listed for you above will create a better microbiome inside your body and give you better results than taking the majority of supplements out there without breaking the bank. If you really want to try some supplements then I cannot stress enough to make sure that the brand you purchase has a good bacteria delivery system. Secondly, take a look at the bacteria listed on the label and make sure that a specific strain is actually listed because most companies will just slap on a certain genus and claim it has MILLIONS of this genus of bacteria, when in fact it could just be a random strain within that genus that offers little to no benefit for your situation.
- Have a good diet
- Stay away from unfiltered water and antibiotics when possible
- Drink lots of water
- Eat some bananas
- Stay away from off the shelf and store-brand probiotics