By: Mike Staszak, PT
Recent research shows that an unhealthy digestive system (gut) is linked to several different disease states. Maintaining a healthy gut is one of the best ways to stay healthier and can potentially help people to live longer. A healthy diet is important to maintaining a good functioning gut but getting daily probiotics through certain foods and supplementation is also very important. Below are some common questions and answers that many people have when it comes to probiotics and gut health.
What causes so many people to have an unhealthy digestive system?
First, having a poor diet is the biggest culprit to an unhealthy digestive system. Overeating, a diet high in sugar and grains, preservatives, alcohol, processed foods, inadequate fiber, and overcompensation of animal-based protein, especially hard processed like lunch meats all contribute to bad gut health. Antibiotics can also cause our digestive system to weaken. We take antibiotics to kill infections, but it also kills the good bacteria in our gut. Finally, cancer treatment therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy can lead to an unhealthy digestive system.
What are some of the signs of having a poor functioning digestive system?
Excessive gas, constipation, diarrhea, the infrequency of bowel movements (everyone should poop at least one time per day), and a frequent upset stomach.
What does having a poorly functioning digestive system do to us?
A poorly functioning digestive system can cause leaky gut syndrome. This is where the intestinal lining develops perforations and causes toxins to leak out of your intestines into your body.
Other diseases that are linked to a poor functioning gut are, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Multiple Sclerosis, general body inflammation as well as obesity.
What can we do to improve our gut health?
Over the past several years there has been significant amounts of research done on the digestive system and the positive effects of probiotics. The results of this research are definitive and clearly show that probiotics are more likely act to produce substances that inhibit the bad bacteria that contribute to diseases. Probiotics have been shown to enhance GI mobility and function, strengthen your immune system, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, help with cellular signaling (function), reduce Ulcerative Colitis and IBS, prevention of infection, reduce or eliminate atopic eczema, lessen chances of liver disease, help assist in the reduction of cholesterol and improve behavior in individuals with Autism.
What is the best way to get probiotics, supplementation or diet?
To maintain optimal digestive health, we need to consume probiotics on a regular basis as research shows that if you stop taking them the benefits decrease. Probiotics are found in a limited number of foods, so unless you eat these specific foods on a daily basis, supplementation is necessary.
Foods with probiotics:
This can be a bit challenging to know what the best type of probiotic is, partly because the supplement industry is unregulated.
Things to look for when purchasing probiotics
Like everything, not every brand of probiotics is right for everybody. If the probiotics you’re taking give you side effects, such as gas, simply try another brand. Another thing to look for in probiotics is prebiotics. Some probiotics contain these which is a good thing. Prebiotics feed the probiotics, so they are beneficial.
To conclude, probiotics are a crucial part of having a healthy digestive system. By adding in a supplement or eating more of the foods listed above consistently, you are more likely to have a healthy gut and less chance of diseases.
Photos from Everyday Health, Nuliv Science, Google Image Creative Commons
About Mike Staszak
Michael Staszak has been an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist for the past 27 years. He is the owner of Staszak Physical Therapy & Wellness Center in Eugene. He and his staff believe that the more people understand about how their bodies work and learn proper body mechanics, the less likely they are to become injured again. With this commitment to patient education, Michael provides wellness articles and presentations for businesses and community members. He also has a passion for nutrition and how it affects our physical health.
Evolve Fitness Studios
Check out posts from our trainers, healthy recipes, and tips for staying motivated and more!