Silver Fern's Chief Nutritionist Explains the Basics
Before we get started, there are a few terms we should probably define. In talking about gut health, you'll often hear words like microflora, gut flora, microbes, microbiome, microorganisms, etc. These are basically tiny little bacteria that live in (and on) your body. In fact, we have 10 times MORE bacteria in our bodies than cells! This might sound a little creepy, but most of these are actually helpful bacteria. In fact, when talking about gut health, the idea is to have a really good balance of healthy bacteria in your body.
The next thing to clarify is what we mean when we say “gut.” Your first thought might be your stomach, but generally, the gut refers to your entire gastrointestinal tract. In more simple terms, this includes everything from where the food comes in all the way to where the food goes out.
So that means your esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon (also called the large intestine) are all involved in keeping a nice healthy gut.
Now let's move on to the bacteria and why they are so important. As we already mentioned, your body is filled with bacteria (more than 100 trillion) with many different types and with many different functions in the body. Modern research has started to unfold just how important these bacteria are, and we are learning new things each day. We do know that having a good portion of “good” bacteria is important and that too much “bad” bacteria can cause major problems in our bodies.
Healthy bacteria help create vitamins for the body, strengthen the immune system, kill pathogens and keep our gut lining strong. They also play a huge role in brain health. The “gut-brain” connection refers to the constant communication that is going on between your gut and your brain. We now know that the gut is filled with neurons that are designed to send messages to the brain (and vice versa).
This means that our brain health is also heavily linked to what's going on in the gut. And not just the physical aspect, emotional issues can also affect both our gut AND our brain.
If you didn’t know before, you probably realize now just how important it is to maintain a good balance of healthy bacteria in the body. There are a few things that you can do to help with this balance:
1. Avoid simple sugars and watch your intake of antibiotics - Both of these have the ability to kill the healthy bacteria.
2. Feed the bacteria - Our bodies need the bacteria and they need us. They use prebiotic fiber, which we as humans don't digest, but the bacteria ferment for energy. A well-balanced diet high in fiber will help with a happy gut.
3. Take time to de-stress - Unfortunately, life can get stressful, and this stress can have a very negative impact on your gut flora. Some studies have suggested that even taking a moment to recognize your stress can help.
4. Take a good quality probiotic supplement - Studies show that a good probiotic can help to colonize healthy bacteria all throughout your gut.
Charity Lighten, B.S., M.S.
Silver Fern™ Brand Chief Nutritionist
P.S.Check out the recorded webinar below with Microbiologist Kiran Kirshnan for a comprehensive understanding of how probiotics and more importantly, different species of probiotics, affect overall health.