As a healthy gut flora clearly plays an incredibly important role in optimal health, what steps can we take to ensure a healthy gut?
First of all, a healthy gut flora begins at birth. When an infant goes through the birth canal, they swallow healthy bacteria from the mother’s fluid which is the beginning to a healthy immune system. Breastmilk is also concentrated with healthy bacteria and prebiotics which begin to colonize the infant’s gut.
As adults, we can encourage a healthy gut flora through diet and supplements, if need be. For example, live, active cultures are found in fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. Fermented foods have been used historically to enhance gut flora and science is beginning to back up the use of live, active cultures to support a healthy gut.
A diet high in fiber is incredibly important in providing our bodies with healthy gut flora. It has been found that vegetarians and vegans, who often have higher fiber intake than those who consume meat, have higher counts of healthy bacteria and healthier and more diversified gut flora. Fiber, such as inulin, naturally found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, act as prebiotics which stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
The consumption of foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats and a diet high in processed foods reduce the diversity of the microflora and these types of diets are related to obesity and diseased states.
Probiotics are bacteria proven to have health benefits when they colonize the gut. Probiotics can be taken in the form of a supplement. When choosing a probiotic, it should be refrigerated, multi-strained and enteric coated to ensure it reaches the colon and does not get destroyed due to acid in the stomach. There are probiotic strains specific to certain GI diseases as well to decrease symptoms as well such as IBS and IBD.
Lastly, if requiring antibiotics, there are two marketed probiotics that are vital to ensure the gut can recover from broad spectrum antibiotic intake. Culturelle and Bio K+ are two brands that are of the quality required to maintain a healthy gut population. When taking antibiotics, start the probiotic supplementation within 24-72 hours of starting the antibiotic. Also, be sure to take the probiotic 2 hours after taking the antibiotic to decrease the risk of antibiotic associated diarrhea. Furthermore, take the probiotic for 3-14 days after the use of antibiotics has ceased to rebuild the gut flora.
To find out more about probiotic use in specific GI disorders or ulcers or encouraging a healthy gut or to find out more about general use of probiotics, contact me at Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org