Gut Health has become something of a “buzz term” the past 5+ years, and there a myriad of “Gut Gurus” cropping up out of nowhere who are quick to tell you that your diet is ruining your ‘gut biome’ – the environment within your gastrointestinal tract where billions of bacteria reside.
Now, while I agree that there is a degree of truth to a lot of what is said, there is also a fair amount of scaremongering occurring too – with insufficient evidence to back up the claims being made.
Cards face up, I’m no expert – per se – on the subject of Gut Health [as a niche], but I know enough about the basics (added to an abundance about Human Physiology & Biology) to call B.S. when I see it. But I’m not putting pen to paper / fingertip to keyboard / vocals to mic in a bid to further stoke the fire on this one…
Today, I just want to look at what we can do to help promote a healthy digestive system, and the benefits we can reap from adding a simple supplement to the mix that will aid the process.
First, let me just clear up one common conundrum: the difference between pre-biotics and pro-biotics – as they are often erroneously misconstrued as being one in the same. The distinction is, however, quite simple…
Probiotics are the actual organisms (good bacteria) that help cultivate a healthy gut biome; lactobacillus bifidus being the most common one that you’ll find marketed – typically/almost exclusively among the yoghurt-based products out there.
*Pre*biotics, on the other hand, is what feeds the probiotics. Probably the most used “prebiotic” is potato starch, which the probiotics use for fuel to grow and multiply. But of course, ‘Potato Starch’ doesn’t sound nearly as sexy or… useful (?) But seriously, it’s the starch element that we’re most concerned with here; starchy foods in general are all good sources of prebiotics. Bananas are another great example!
Fermented foods are excellent prebiotics also – if you guys have been reading the CXP Fitness blog for a while now, you’ll know that I used to live in South Korea – so, *kimchi* gets a special mention here for that alone.
Conversely to all this good stuff, there is also an inadvertent villain in the mix of it all too…
Anti-biotics… Now, while they serve a purpose and – medically speaking – are relatively important to help with certain health conditions/issues, they also [quite unfortunately] decimate the gut flora (a.k.a. the good bacteria in your gut). A bit of a Pyrrhic Victory if you ask me… But then, I almost NEVER use medication, so… To quote my Mum’s cousin: ‘Con medicina te mejores en siete dias; sin medicina te mejores en una semana’ … Translation: ‘With medicine you get better in seven days; without it, you get better in a week’! Synical? Yes. Accurate? Fairly!! (Assuming you keep active and eat healthy, anyway!)
But okay, so look… what are the benefits of feeding all those little beasties in your belly? Why should we care about adding to their hundred-billion-strong population?
Well, just a few of the fundamental roles that these good bacteria play within the gastrointestinal system should tell you all you need to know:
- They aid in nutrient absorption (which you’ll have heard me refer to in the last CXP Nutrition post).
- They are crucial to hormone signalling.
- They can help inhibit pathogens, and subsequently, help support the immune system.
To summarize why just those three roles alone are so important, consider this:
You can eat all the “superfoods” in the world, but without a healthy amount of probiotics / good bacteria to help extract the nutrients from them in the first place, you won’t actually reap the benefits that they’re touted for in the first place!
You’ve heard me talk about the intricacies of the Endocrine System before – our hormones – and just how paramount it is that there is a balance; a symbiosis if you will. Well, same goes for the probiotics – they’re going to help facilitate the synergy that we’re looking for here.
And if you consider ‘peak health’ to be the ability to stave off colds come rain or snow, then you’ll definitely want to keep your immune system in check with… yup! Probiotics.
There’s something else you should know about probiotics though. Something to glean over real quick seeing as how – in true nonchalant fashion – virtually all of the marketing “geniuses” of the big corporations seem to skip this little (but important) detail…
Of the *hundreds of billions* of bacteria that reside in your gut, there are in fact, several different types, not just one. So, to allude back to earlier in this post – where I mentioned lactobacillus bifidus – this is a massively oversold probiotic that is in all actuality fairly redundant. See, we actually already have several billion of this particular strain in our systems, so really, we would do well to seek different strains that we have less of, thus creating a more diverse microbiome.
So, what do I suggest?
I know of two superb Probiotic supplements that you can take (in addition to a healthy diet) in order to optimize your Gut Health.
The first is from Mark Sisson’s Primal line-up. You may have heard me talk about Mark’s blog and how it helped me several years ago when dealing with Type II Diabetes. Well, in the last few years, Mark has grown his blog into new realms – from ‘Primal Certification’ (becoming a Nutrition Coach that specializes in the Paleo/Primal diet) to an extensive range of Paleo/Primal-friendly foods, condiments and supplements. Primal Probiotics is awesome, and you should definitely check it out!
The second is from dotFIT – the supplement line that I promote on the blog; the UltraProbiotic™ is quite simply second to none! One of the best things about this one is that you actual get numerous different strains of probiotic in one capsule – not just one.
There are three standout features of both these products:
First is that their bacteria strains are acid & bile resistant meaning that they don’t get broken down by your stomach acid before they have a chance to reach the intestines (where they need to be in order to be absorbed). This is a fatal caveat of the yoghurt-based-bacteria products being sold.
Second, and this is pretty significant also, there’s the fact that neither requires refrigeration!
And third, you have the diet-conscious consideration of not needing to worry about calories, sugar or lactose – which *would* be an issue (on all counts) if you were to consume a yoghurt-based alternative.
If you’re interested in the Primal Probiotic then you should check out Mark’s site (I have a direct link on my Recommendations Page).
And you can get the UltraProbiotic™ through the dotFIT site – check out the link to their page (located in the sidebar); as a bonus, if you set up a profile through dotFIT, you’ll get a discount applied to any/all supplements you buy*.
*For complete transparency, I do get a small commission for anything you buy from dotFIT (only if you set up a profile – with me as your Trainer, which is the default option if you click on the link provided on the blog). I receive no credit / commission / compensation for referring you to Primal though – I just love Mark’s blog, resources and products, and have recommended him / them for years!
So, that’s it for this segment on Probiotics for Improved Health. Hopefully, you learned a little something about the importance of your Gut Microbiome – if only on a “surface-level” – and what to look out for / consider when looking at Probiotic Supplements/Products.
I’ll catch you in the next one, but in the meantime, remember: Eat Healthy, and Eat Smart!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO