How to Support Your Gut Health from the Inside Out
When it comes to the quest for lifelong vitality and well-being, the concept of supporting and optimizing gut health is trending at the top of most wellness to-do lists. But, what exactly does gut health mean?
Well, it all depends on which layer of gut function you have in mind. At its most basic, the gut is the series of organs in the digestive tract that work together to digest the food you eat. At a deeper level, though, the gut is an interconnected network of trillions of microbes and cells that team up to keep you feeling your absolute best inside and out, from head to toe—and it all starts with your microbiome.
Gut Health 101: The Mighty Microbiome
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates proclaimed that “all disease begins in the gut,” and as research into how the gut influences our health continues to emerge, it’s clear that he was on to something remarkable. But, why does the gut have such an impact on our overall health…or lack thereof?
We now know that our body plays host to about 100 trillion microbes that outnumber our human cells.1 And it turns out that all those microbes (collectively known as the microbiome) aren’t just freeloading couch surfers in our body—in exchange for a place to live and sustenance, they more than pay their way.
In fact, based on all they do for us, the argument could easily be made that we are the ones making out like bandits in this symbiotic relationship! That is, as long as our gut is healthy and in balance.
You see, most of the microbes in your microbiome live in your gut, but not all of these “bugs” have your health top of mind—quite a few are prepared to wage war as soon as they get the upper hand. In a balanced and healthy gut microbiome, 85% of the microbes are good guys working on your behalf, while only 15% are the hooligans ready to cause trouble at the first opportunity.
Maintaining that balance of friendly flora is the key to not only keeping the bad guys under control, but to supporting all of your body’s processes that keep you healthy—this is the absolute cornerstone of gut health.
Meet the Happy Helpers, Your Friendly Flora
The beneficial bacteria in your gut (aka probiotics) play a role in almost every bodily function imaginable! From balancing your metabolism and optimizing blood sugar levels to promoting sleep, these microbial superstars are true heroes when it comes to your overall health. Some of their most important functions include:
- Improving nutrient absorption. The good guys in your gut help to break down and digest your food, so you can truly benefit from your healthy food choices. For instance, some strains of Lactobacillus produce lactase, which can help digest lactose in people who are sensitive to dairy products.2 Probiotics also produce specific enzymes that help to increase mineral absorption in your gut.3
- Regulating the immune response. Nearly 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, so it makes sense that your beneficial bacteria help determine how your immune system functions. By strengthening and reinforcing the gut barrier, probiotics can help to make sure toxins and invader microbes can’t “leak” through into your bloodstream, causing all sorts of immune reactions.4,5 Your friendly flora also create antibodies, and can crowd out and destroy harmful organisms.6
- Supporting emotional balance. Amazingly, probiotics also work via the gut-brain axis to influence your moods and brain function. Various strains of helpful bacteria can help to improve your mood and relieve temporary stress and anxiety by producing and regulating important brain chemicals, like cortisol, GABA, serotonin, and oxytocin.7,8 They can even work to enhance cognition!9
So, given all that your friendly gut bugs do to support your health day in and day out, how do you make sure they are positively thriving?
3 Microbially-Minded Steps to Your Healthiest You
The single most important step you can take in your gut health journey is making sure you have all the beneficial bacteria you need to feel your best in every possible way. Follow these simple steps for gut health nirvana!
- Mind your microbes. In order to have a balanced and thriving microbiome, it’s crucial to ensure your gut is teeming with billions of beneficial bacteria that can set up shop in your digestive tract and get to work supporting your health. If you need to replenish and revive your microbial populations (let’s be honest, most of us do), take a high-quality, effective, multi-strain probiotic supplement that ensures the majority of organisms will make it into your gut (and past harsh stomach acids!) alive, like Hyperbiotics PRO-15.
- Give them something to chew on. It’s not enough to just provide your bacterial visitors with a place to stay—as a good host, you’ll also need to give them the food they need to flourish. While inhospitable microbes thrive on sugar and processed foods, the good guys crave one thing…prebiotic fiber. Present in many whole, plant-based foods, prebiotic fiber is crucial to your probiotics’ survival, but it’s difficult to get enough of it in today’s modern diet. Supplementing with an organic, food-based prebiotic powder supplement, such as Hyperbiotics Prebiotic Powder, can enable you to give your microbes a meal fit for kings, all in a simple daily scoop mixed into your favorite food or smoothie!
- Live a gut-healthy lifestyle. Once you’ve set the foundation for a healthy gut by taking probiotics and making sure you eat a real food, whole food diet with plenty of prebiotic fiber, it’s time to do all you can to keep the good guys in the majority. This means both seeking out situations that nurture your microbiome (like getting outdoors, spending time with animals, playing in the dirt, and getting plenty of exercise), as well as steering clear of anything that threatens the health of your friendly flora (like using antibacterial cleaners, taking unnecessary antibiotics, eating processed foods or sugar, and feeling chronically stressed).
More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates already had his finger on the pulse of the foundation of health—the gut. Now, research on the microbiome shows us that we can reframe his proclamation to one of positivity and hope, and say that all health begins in the gut, with our trillions of life-supporting microbial friends within. Indeed, taking the time to nourish your bacterial populations and nurture your gut health can give you the groundwork you need to strive for and live your healthiest and happiest days.
Please see our “10 Steps to a Gut-Healthy Life” download for more tips on how to support your gut health and your marvelous microbiome!
- Sender, R., Fuchs, S., & Milo, R. (2016). Are We Really Vastly Outnumbered? Revisiting the Ratio of Bacterial to Host Cells in Humans. Cell,164(3), 337-340. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.01.013
- Ojetti, V., Gigante, G., Gabrielli, M., Ainora, M.E., Mannocci, A., Lauritano, E..C, Gasbarrini, G., Gasbarrini, A. (2010). The effect of oral supplementation with Lactobacillus reuteri or tilactase in lactose intolerant patients: randomized trial. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 14(3), 163-170.
- Parvaneh, K., Jamaluddin, R., Karimi, G., & Erfani, R. (2014). Effect of Probiotics Supplementation on Bone Mineral Content and Bone Mass Density. The Scientific World Journal, 2014, 1-6.
- Caballero-Franco, C., Keller, K., Simone, C. D., & Chadee, K. (2006). The VSL#3 probiotic formula induces mucin gene expression and secretion in colonic epithelial cells. AJP: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 292(1).
- Rao, R. K., & Samak, G. (2013). Protection and Restitution of Gut Barrier by Probiotics: Nutritional and Clinical Implications. Current Nutrition & Food Science, 9(2), 99-107.
- Lievin, V. (2000). Bifidobacterium strains from resident infant human gastrointestinal microflora exert antimicrobial activity. Gut, 47(5), 646-652.
- Kato-Kataoka, A., Nishida, K., Takada, M., Kawai, M., Kikuchi-Hayakawa, H., Suda, K., . . . Rokutan, K. (2016). Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Applied and Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1128/aem.04134-15
- Bravo, J. A., Forsythe, P., Chew, M. V., Escaravage, E., Savignac, H. M., Dinan, T. G., . . . Cryan, J. F. (2011). Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(38), 16050-16055.
- Tillisch, K., Labus, J., Kilpatrick, L., Jiang, Z., Stains, J., Ebrat, B., . . . Mayer, E. A. (2013). Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity. Gastroenterology, 144(7).