My obsession with probiotics dates back to when I first moved to India and started discovering the fantastic flavors that my taste buds loved but overwhelmed my western stomach. However, as I got used to the food and learned more about nutrition, I became less reliant on probiotics to support my gut health and instead started practicing healthy eating practices. for the intestines.
Personal experience aside, there’s considerable debate about gut health: whether or not we should supplement our gut microbiome (a fancy term for the bacteria living and thriving in our digestive system). Gut health research is an emerging field of study, and while it’s fascinating (and sometimes mind-boggling) it’s safe to say, we don’t yet have all the answers.
Nutrition coaches like me were determined to prescribe probiotic supplements to anyone who stopped for a moment to learn more about this exciting new world. Improving our gut health could reduce inflammation, improve our mood, elevate our cognition, and perhaps even clear up our troubled skin. We’ve bragged about how our mighty guts can fight infections – given that we eat multiple times a day and eating and drinking are surefire ways to ingest pathogens – 70% of our immunity is in our intestines.
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However, over time I realized that because our gut is complex and intricate, adding a simple probiotic to its daily functioning was not a panacea. You could be forgiven if you thought so too; perhaps we have oversold the role of probiotics in our enthusiasm. And while our gut health plays a vital role in our overall health, believing that we can influence the health of our whole body by just ingesting a pill or a drink is a little myopic.
But that doesn’t make probiotics obsolete. Probiotics have a role in our diet, just different from what you think.
First, let’s start with a definition of a probiotic. The universal definition of probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. The host. It looks like an alien movie. If you think ingesting a capsule full of living organisms is weird, our whole gut is already full of them. According to Harvard Health, more than 100,000 billion bacteria live in our digestive system. The newspaper Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology tells us more than 1000 different species in the gut microbiota. Researchers are starting to realize that each species has a different role and function, which is pretty impressive.
Moreover, no two people will have the same microbiome. Compiling a person’s gut bacteria is particularly personal – even twins won’t have identical samples. So when we talk about a healthy gut microbiome, we must first understand that no one solution will work for everyone.
It is also a confusion when choosing a probiotic. There is lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, saccharomyces and bacillus, to name a few. How do you know what bacteria your body needs to replenish versus what role the bacteria will play in the body? A paper titled Probiotics: mixed messages published by Canadian Family Physician aptly says, “Thus, for practicing physicians, probiotic choices tend to be subjective, extrapolated, imaginative, based on availability, or based on suggestions from the company supplying the probiotic “. There is no standard practice, and probiotics are often suggested and self-administered – to what effect?
But we can say that a healthy microbiome has the greatest variety of bacteria. The more different strains of bacteria there are, the more roles they can play in your body and the better your health will be. These bacteria can reduce inflammation, regulate hunger and satiety signals, and help our bodies respond to stress. Diets high in processed foods and low in fibrous fruits and vegetables tend to have lower microbiome diversity, which is why eating your vegetables is essential!
Your body can harbor both harmful and good gut bacteria, and there’s a war going on between them (a battle of good versus evil is going on in your gut right now!)
Our natural reaction is to support the “good” bacteria, to be the winning team, so our first thought is to send reinforcements to bolster their efforts. It is a noble cause; however, in some cases it may not be necessary. In addition to everyone’s different microbiome, we can’t be sure if the probiotics we ingested were properly stored and even managed to be “down the hatch”. Even though probiotics have managed to find their way into our digestion, they may not even stick around and take up residence. Instead, evacuate with our feces.
Does that make a probiotic worthless? Not necessarily.
There are very good reasons to take probiotics.
We live in a world that reveres modern medicine, and sometimes these drugs can alter our microbiome. The word “antibiotic” should be a clue to how they can impact our guts – wiping out swathes of good and bad bacteria is collateral damage in the continued fight against infection. For someone on a course of antibiotics, taking a probiotic alongside it may be the best decision.
Additionally, infectious diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or someone with ulcerative colitis or h.pylori may also benefit from a probiotic supplement.
However, if you want to take a probiotic “just in case” and for “general health” or other claims such as mood enhancement and fat loss, your money is better spent elsewhere.
Read also : How food can change your mood and personality
Here’s how you can improve your likelihood of having a healthy microbiome
1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables: These foods are high in fiber, which the good bacteria love to eat.
2. Limit processed foods: Relying on fast foods can limit the diversity of our gut microbiota.
3. Only take antibiotics when needed
4. To be active: Activity supports a healthy immune system
5. Go outside: Exposure to nature and animals will help increase the diversity of your gut microbiota.
6. Eat foods rich in probiotics. Examples are fermented milk products such as yogurt, curds, buttermilk, kefir, bacterially fermented cheeses and sour cream. Foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are also rich in probiotics.
Jen Thomas is a weight loss coach based in Chennai