Let’s talk GUT! Because boy is this thing important! The gut aka the gastrointestinal tract, aka the GI tract is everything from your mouth to your anus, including all the organs in-between that are involved in digestion of our food, absorption of nutrients, as well as the secretion of our waste. The mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon (large intestine), and rectum are all the organs and part of the body that make up this amazing system that works within us.
Besides all of the amazing work the gut does to digest food there is also something called the gut microbiome that plays a crucial role in our lives and our health. The microbiome is the community of good and bad bacteria, parasites, and viruses, and fungi that live within our digestive system. We aren’t talking just a few bugs…we are talking 100 trillion of them!! It is an entire community. That is 10 times the number of cells we have in our body!!! No wonder these little guys are so important. These bugs are what control the digestion process, helping our organs break down our foods and extract the proper nutrients for our bodies.
A healthy microbiome in the gut is one that has a variety of both good and bad “bugs” or microorganisms that are able to coexist peacefully. While an unhealthy gut will most likely have a dominant species of bad microorganisms, leading to disease and other imbalances.
Now this is where the important part comes in, all of these microbes work collectively to control many different functions in the body such as programming the immune system, breaking down food, providing nutrients to our cells and body, sending signals to the brain that determine mood, as well as the control of disease and cancer. Yup…that’s a lot. Safe to say that they are important.
The make up of our gut is dependent on our DNA, the way were birthed, our environments, our diets, and the medication we take. Throughout out lives our microbiome will shift and change based on these factors. Both a good and bad thing is that the make up of our gut actually changes rapidly, depending heavily on both the probiotics and probiotics we are consuming.
Probiotics are what we call the good bacteria in your gut. They help fight off bad bugs and keep the body healthy and functioning well. Prebiotics are the compounds found in food that promote the growth of the bacteria. Picture prebiotic as the fuel for all the probiotics.
So what can we do with all of this information? What steps can we take in our daily lives to ensure that we are positively impacting our community of critters. Most people will jump to the conclusion that they should be consuming probiotic supplements every day, which is not a bad thing when trying to rebalance the gut but, what should be understood is the make up of your gut will be deterimined mostly by the food or prebiotic sources you are choosing. What kind of fuel you are feeding your bacteria with will determine which will thrive. So while yes, taking a probiotic can be beneficial for someone who is dealing with an imbalanced gut but, what we should really be putting our energy towards is getting our probiotics from our environment and then feeding them with the proper naturally found prebiotics.
Besides probiotic supplements, probiotics can be found in fermented foods and drinks such as kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, yogurt, and more. Now like mentioned before the most essential part of all of this is knowing how to fuel these guys and allow them to multiply and thrive within. The hands down number one best source of this fuel is PLANT BASED FIBER. Plant based foods contain prebiotic that will fuel the proper colonies of bacteria. Giving you a gut that will work for you instead of against.
On the flip side, you can be taking all the probiotics in the world but if you are consuming animal products and processed food all day long, you will end up nourishing the wrong community of microbes, lending way to a thriving community of bad guys controlling your body.
OK that was a lot of info!! And If all of this talk of microgranisms is confusing you try to remember one thing; give your body healthy fuel to allow the good bugs to do their work. Eat fermented foods, a lot of plant based fiber, and if you ever take an antibiotic it's important to know that they will kill both good and bad bacteria so supplementing with a probiotic and being careful with your consumption choices is extra important!
Next time you sit down for a meal view your plate as a source of fuel for the community that lives within. It's up to you to decide, will you feed the good guys or the bad guys?
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