Probiotics have become somewhat of a buzz word lately with food products like yogurt, smoothies, and drinks advertising “great source of probiotics!” But what exactly do probiotics do for us? Probiotics live inside and outside of our bodies but most reside in our guts. They create a physical barrier along the wall of our intestines that act like a security guard, choosing to allow in nutrients or keep out invaders. Regardless of how clean we eat and how much we remove chemicals from our homes our bodies are still fighting a war each day against bacteria, toxins in our environment, viruses, fungi, molds and yeast. A healthy gut that is lined with probiotics will be able to identify who should be allowed in and who should be kept out. Toxins, chemicals, and waste products will be eliminated, while nutrients will be absorbed and delivered to cells throughout our body to maintain healthy cell function.
Probiotics do so much more though than just act as security guards. Check out this list!
Support immune health
Aide in digestion
Improve iron absorption
Decrease inflammation (a huge component in any disease process)
Synthesize food nutrients
Clean intestine lining
Manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and colitis
Support gut function
That’s a long list of benefits we get from having a healthy and functioning probiotic system! Thankfully we have up to 100 TRILLION of these little guys working for us to get this long list of jobs done. (Fun fact- that’s about 7lbs worth of probiotics!) Not only do probiotics support the immune system, but they actually account for 60% of it! So how do we get a healthy probiotic system and what should we avoid to protect it?
First, we are born with them as a gift from our mom. Thanks mom. How easy is that? But there’s a caveat.. We don’t get our mothers probiotics if we’re delivered via c-section, only through the birth canal. Scientists think this can contribute to the reason babies delivered through c-section are often more prone to allergies and illness. After that we get our probiotics through fermented foods. Some examples are sauerkraut (it’s good to be a German girl), Kimchi from cabbage, and kombucha. In order to really benefit though, these foods and drinks must be raw/unpasteurized because heat destroys probiotics. Lastly, you can get them from supplements if these food choices don’t appeal to you. So once we have these probiotics in our guts how do we keep them functioning? One way is to try to avoid drinking chlorinated water (tap water) and taking unnecessary antibiotics because they destroy probiotics, but more importantly, we also need to manage stress. Stress increases the amount of bad bacteria in our gut and helps it to thrive. (Side note: stress management is also incredibly important because it plays a gigantic role in the disease process from cancer to heart disease to IBS and on and on and on. Stress in life is inevitable but how we deal with it is key! Ok off my soap box..) When we lack a well functioning probiotic system we are much more susceptible to germs and viruses and can become sick much more easily. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
So your assignment for this week is to love your probiotic system and fuel it with some good German sauerkraut and sausage (no antibiotics of course 🙂 ) and wash it down with a glass of raw kombucha! Cheers! To you and your gut’s health!