Gut health is a heavy and complex topic, but it’s worth learning more about, that’s for sure. You know how they say to “trust your gut.” Well that’s because your gut is said to be your second brain. So many of us don’t know how bad of shape our gut is in. We also don’t even know what feeling good is like. We think, well, I hit a certain age so I’m supposed to be tired and cranky. I’ve seen the meme too many times referring to “adulting,” but keeping our gut in check is one way to not take adulting so hard.
Probiotics have gained in popularity over the last decade and for good reason. I tell my clients to think of them as a game of Pac-Man (OK, maybe I’m aging myself, but there will never be games as good as Pac-Man and Mario Bros). Seriously though, one job of probiotics is to fight the effects of bad bacteria, often referred to as pathogens, as they travel through the digestive track. If only that’s all we needed, right? Well, like most practices, probiotics certainly work best with a healthy lifestyle.
All fermented foods are a good source of probiotics, and it’s a good idea to start including those regularly to keep your gut health in check. This includes sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, and more. You can also ferment your own foods by pickling them.
I could honestly write a book on gut health and probiotics, but here’s the most important things to know.
1. Look for a probiotic with multiple bacterial strains. Our bodies respond differently to different strains, so instead of just sticking with acidophilus, it’s a good idea to buy a supplement with several strains.
2. Look for a probiotic with prebiotics and postbiotics. Since probiotics are live bacteria, they need to be fed well in order to thrive, which is where the prebiotics come in. Eating a healthy amount of fiber is similar to taking prebiotics as well. Postbiotic metabolites are a product of the metabolic processes of bacteria. Postbiotic metabolites are similar to vitamins that keep good bacteria thriving in order to combat pathological bacteria.
3. Look for a probiotic with at least 10 billion CFU. This is a colony-forming unit and how we estimate the number of viable bacteria that we will be receiving.
4. Take breaks. After using a full bottle, it’s a good idea to take a few weeks off before starting a new bottle. Along those same lines, I like to switch up brands from bottle to bottle.
Another thing to remember is that probiotics do a great job with keeping the gut healthy, but they aren’t the end all. Keep eating a healthy, balanced diet and don’t hesitate to enhance your immune health with supplements like zinc, vitamin C, or even a multivitamin if you feel like you’re trying to recover from leaky gut.