Healthy gut bacteria plays a fundamental role in our health. In fact, there are more bacterial cells in our gut than there are human cells in our body. This array of gut bacteria (known as our microbiome) is unique to each individual, and influences everything from metabolic reactions and digestion, mood and cognitive function to immunity and resistance to certain diseases. Gut health is becoming a strong focus of recent research, in particular, the relationship between gut microbes and human health.
THE SECOND BRAIN
You may have heard the gut referred to as your “second brain.” Communication occurs in both directions from our brain to our gut along a neural pathway known as the gut-brain axis. The nervous pang which we commonly refer to as “butterflies” is a result of this. In fact, there are over 100 million neurons in the gut (more than the spinal cord), suggesting it’s responsible for much more than the occasional nervous pang. The influence of probiotics on the gut-brain communication has been getting a lot of attention for its potential role in improving anxiety and depression (Shi, Balakrishnan, Thiagarajah, Mohd Ismail, & Yin, 2016).
DIET AND GUT HEALTH
Diet has been shown to have a significant impact on the composition of bacteria in the gut. Eating an abundance of prebiotic and probiotic foods can help to boost your healthy gut bacteria. Prebiotic foods, such as onions, garlic, bananas, apple skins, and many others, are essentially a type of non-digestible fibre that travels through the gut and ferments in the large intestine. This fermentation process feeds the healthy bacteria and helps them to multiply. Probiotics are live bacteria which have been naturally created via fermentation. You might also know these as “fermented foods” and include things like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and miso.
If we can get them through food, you may wonder:
DO WE NEED PROBIOTICS?
With the modern westernised diet, we do not eat as many fermented foods as we perhaps should, or are able to. For some people, digestive issues, yeast overgrowth (such as candida) or food intolerances can mean that consuming fermented foods may do more harm than good.
The clean environments which we live in today also means that we are less exposed to the beneficial bacteria from the soil. This in conjunction with the increasing prevalence of antibiotic use means that our gut bacteria may need more attention than it has needed in previous generations. Overuse of antibiotics can allow opportunistic pathogenic strains of bacteria to dominate: a microbial state known as dysbiosis (Belkaid & Hand, 2014). Dysbiosis can also be encouraged from eating too much refined sugars which pathogenic bacteria thrive on.
A good quality probiotic can make an excellent addition to your health regime.
There’s an abundance of different strains on the market these days, each serving a unique purpose for the body. The Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain, for example, has been particularly well studied for use with skin conditions, such as acne and eczema. One study found that supplementation with this specific probiotic strain “improves the appearance of adult acne” (Fabbrocini et al., 2016). Other strains may offer more benefit for healthy digestion, immunity or mood, among other things.
To find the best probiotic for your unique needs, speak to one of our friendly experts.
Belkaid, Y., & Hand, T. W. (2014). Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell, 157, 121-141.
Fabbrocini, G., Bertona, M., Picazo, O., Pareja-Galeano, H., Monfrecola, G., & Emanuele, E., (2016). Supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 normalises skin expression of genes implicated in insulin signalling and improves adult acne. Beneficial microbes, 30;7(5), 625-630. doi:10.3920/BM2016.0089
Shi, L. H., Balakrishnan, K., Thiagarajah, K., Mohd Ismail, N. I., & Yin, O. S. (2016). Beneficial Properties of Probiotics. Tropical life sciences research, 27(2), 73–90. doi:10.21315/tlsr2016.27.2.6
Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for educational purposes only. Please do not use this information to diagnose or treat any health concerns you may have. This information is not intended to replace the advice given to you by a qualified health professional. Get in contact with a Tonic Health consultant or a relevant health professional if you need guidance on your individual health journey.