The more I learn about the massive role our gut plays in our health the more I am held in complete fascination.
I recently listened to a podcast interview with the renowned neurologist and author of ‘Grain Brain’, Dr David Perlmutter. Much to my surprise, he explained that 90% of all the peer reviewed literature we now have on the microbiome has only been published in the last 5 years.
Unbelievable! There’s tons of new information on the importance of maintaining a healthy gut. Yet, there is so much that we still do not know and have yet to learn.
What exactly is the human microbiome, you might ask?
According to Dr Permutter, it is a 3-pound organ weighing about the same as the human brain, commonly referred to as the ‘gut’. It is comprised of more than 100 trillion organisms living within each and every one of us. This collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc., play a vital role in regulating every important part of our physiology.
Cultivating healthy gut flora is one of the best investments you can make in your health. The bacterial colonization in our microbiome or GI tract begins at the moment of birth in the birth canal, provided your mother had a natural delivery.
As you grow, the beneficial bacteria in your gut is faced with many enemies and obstacles. Although antibiotics are helpful in killing pathogens and infection, they decimate your healthy flora. Surprisingly, even a single course of antibiotics can permanently alter your gut flora.
My 5 Tips for taking Effective Probiotics:
1. Make sure your probiotic supplement contains these 5 core species.
Although I highly recommend getting your probiotics from fermented foods, I do believe that probiotic supplements have their place. Whether you are traveling and don’t have access to cultured foods, probiotics can be great for you.
One pearl of advice I took away from the podcast interview with Dr. Perlmutter was his recommendation on what probiotic species are most important. Because there are 10,000 species of bacteria in the gut, it can be overwhelming when trying to chose a probiotic supplement.
Based on his research, he made a list of the five core probiotic species that he believes are the most vital as they are by far the most heavily studied in scientific literature. The best probiotic supplements are those which contain these species. The Five Core Species are as follows:
2. Take a prebiotic with your probiotic.
The one thing I was unaware of when I first began to take probiotic supplements was the importance of taking a prebiotic. The purpose of a prebiotic is to provide ‘food’ for your beneficial bacteria. By nourishing your healthy gut flora with prebiotics, you help the good bacteria from your probiotic grow and survive in your gut.
If you are taking a probiotic supplement, be sure that it includes a prebiotic. You also can derive prebiotics from a natural food source. Starches such as sweet potatoes, yams, yucca root, and other tubers usually work great for most people. However, there are many other prebiotic rich foods such as follows:
3. Eat Your Probiotics
When I first began to take probiotics, I would take them in capsule form. I knew nothing about the magical benefits of taking them in the form of fermented or ‘cultured’ foods. So, I would willingly fork out $50.00 for my month’s supply.
After a few moths of this, Jake, my then fiance, taught me that although probiotic capsules were great, fermented vegetables contain 100 times more probiotics than a supplement.
A study conducted by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride showed that one serving of fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic.
This far superior AND more cost effective probiotic resource was good news to me, I must say!
Fermented vegetables are incredible superfoods for your body. They are powerful chelators (detoxifiers), helping rid your body of heavy metals and toxins. By optimizing your beneficial bacteria, you increase your mineral absorption, prevent obesity and diabetes, lower your risk of cancer, improve your mental health, and prevent acne.
4. Eat a variety of cultured foods
Yes, you will always reap beneficial bacterial from eating lacto-fermented sauerkraut. However, I would encourage you to venture out and try a variety of cultured foods.
The reason? It will challenge your immune system. And your immune system likes a good challenge. Remember, 80 % of your immune actually lives in your gut with an estimated 100 trillion bacteria.
By varying your fermented foods you seed your gut with many new strains of good bacteria and build a stronger microbiome. My favorite fermented foods include raw cultured veggies (ie. my homemade sauerkraut) , raw organic sheep’s yogurt (which surprisingly doesn’t give me cystic acne along my chin and jawline like pasteurized dairy), and kombucha tea.
5. Take probiotics daily.
Yes, daily. Of course it is important to consistently take them when you are taking antibiotics. However, it is crucial for you to consume probiotic rich foods on a daily basis.
You may have the best probiotics supplements on the market but if you don’t take them regularly, you won’t receive any benefit. They keep your digestion running smoothly, improve cognitive functioning, keep bad bacteria under control, prevent allergies, and provide support to your immune system.
The ideal good-to-bad bacteria ratio is 85 percent good to 15 percent bad. By taking probiotics daily, you give your body the ammunition to ward off disease.
I’ve decided to make daily consumption of probiotic foods a top priority. I have struggled with many digestive issues and persistent acne for a number of years now. So far, I have noticed incredible results. My skin is clear and I have had less digestive issues after meals.
I have sauerkraut at least once a day, typically with dinner, and will enjoy kombucha a couple of times a week. My latest obsession is raw organic cultured sheep’s yogurt which is made from locally pasture-raised sheep.
What about you?
Do you struggle with digestion issues or problematic skin? If so, I hope you are now inspired to give fermented vegetables and other cultured foods a try. Start with a small serving (around one teaspoon) if this is your first time as cultured foods are very detoxifying.