Chances are, if you’re not taking a probiotic, you know someone who is – or you’ve at least heard people talking about them. But you may be asking, “why do I need probiotics?” Our gut houses a colony of millions of bacteria, which we call our “microflora.” Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that keep our guts performing at their best. There are many things that can negatively impact the delicate environment of our gut bacteria, including antibiotic use, daily exposure to environmental toxins, chemicals, fluoride in our water, artificial sweeteners, GMOs and processed foods. And, since the gut is where absorption of nutrients happens, it is vital that we make sure it is healthy and primed to actually receive all the goodness that we are putting in it!
Gut health::Mental Health
Every day, scientists and doctors are learning more and more about how our gut health affects the function of our entire body. So much so, that our gut has been called our “second brain” and the “forgotten organ.” We now know that our gut environment not only influences digestion, but also immune response, genetic expression, weight control and mental health! Nearly every chemical that controls the brain is also located in the stomach region – including hormones and neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Dopamine, Glutamate, GABA and Norepinephrine. The gut contains 100 million neurons – that’s more than the spinal cord! Psychiatric studies are now finding that, in some cases, prescribing probiotics and healing a patient’s gut can significantly improve conditions including depression and even schizophrenia.
Gut health::Weight Loss
Researchers* have found a relationship between gut microflora and obesity. In one study, genetically identical baby rodents were raised in a germ-free environment so that their bodies would be free of any bacteria. Then, they populated their guts with intestinal microbes collected from obese women and their lean twin sisters (three pairs of fraternal female twins and one set of identical twins were used in the studies). The mice ate the same diet in equal amounts, yet the animals that received bacteria from an obese twin grew heavier and had more body fat than mice with microbes from a lean twin.
Other studies have shown that changes in the gut flora can increase the rate at which we absorb fatty acids and carbohydrates, and increase the storage of calories as fat. This means that someone with bad gut flora could eat the same amount of food as someone with a healthy gut, but extract more calories from it and gain more weight.
How can I make sure my gut environment is healthy?
First, minimizing processed food is a great place to start! Second, make sure you are providing your body with good sources of healthy bacteria by eating probiotic-rich foods. Some of the best are kefir (fermented yogurt drink), any fermented food such as kimchi, sauerkraut and probiotic-rich yogurt with live and active cultures. Third, as a BONUS, take a high-quality probiotic supplement. At Alloy, we carry DotFit UltraProbiotic, which contains 35 billon probiotics per serving and is formulated to survive the acidic environment of the stomach. These three together make for better gut and overall health!