Happy gut = healthy body
The balance of bacteria in your gut (otherwise known as your gut microbiota) can impact more than just your digestion. In fact, your gut microbiome can influence your mood, energy levels, metabolism, sleep, immune function, hormonal balance, nutrient absorption and the health of your skin and joints. Funnily enough, a mixture of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria is actually healthy, but when the bad bacteria outweighs the good, problems can arise.
What causes bacterial imbalance in the gut?
Poor diet: Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods and low in fermentable fibres and diversity
Dietary and environmental toxins: BPAs in plastic, heavy metals like aluminium, mercury and lead, etc.
Chronic stress or infections
Your gut is sensitive to stress, and that includes stress on the body from infections.
In fight-or-flight mode - when your sympathetic nervous system is activated - your digestive system becomes suppressed. And this can lead to a whole host of unpleasant symptoms.
Infections affect the immune system, and this can make it easier for bad bacteria to enter the gut.
Too much high-intensity exercise can put unnecessary stress on the body and negatively affect intestinal function.
Physical exercise positively affects the gut microbiome. Studies have found that it is capable of increasing good, butyrate-producing bacteria and reducing bad pro-inflammatory bacteria.
Poor sleep hygiene
Try to get 8 hrs of sleep a night and develop a regular sleep schedule.That might involve:
- Avoiding blue light from electronic devices 2 hrs before bedtime
- Not drinking caffeine past 5pm
- Making sure your room is a comfortable temperature
The gut microbiome regulates oestrogen, but this process can become impaired when there is low diversity in the gut.
Medications such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, steroids, antacids, etc.
Sometimes these medications are necessary, but for some issues it’s worth trying natural alternatives first or alongside the medication.
Caesarean section (C-section) birth and lack of breastfeeding as a baby
Of course these are both completely unavoidable in many cases, but if you’re wondering why your gut may be imbalanced it’s worth thinking about.
Overuse of antibacterial soap/an overly clean environment
Tip: Try using natural cleaning products in your home, containing ingredients like essential oils, baking soda and white wine vinegar.
That’s where probiotics come in. Probiotics can help balance your gut microbiota by fighting off pathogenic bacteria and supporting the good bacteria.
Where do we get healthy bacteria from?
Some bacteria is picked up in the womb, but a large dose is obtained when babies pass through their mother’s vaginal canal. And then they get even more from their mother’s breast milk.
Other things that improve the colonisation of good bacteria include exposure to dirt and animals, and eating a balanced, diverse diet that includes regular probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods. However, to reach the therapeutic dose of probiotics that has showed results in clinical trials, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is beneficial.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms (live bacteria and yeast) that already naturally live in your body. They provide beneficial bacteria that support your immune and digestive systems, and help to protect against inflammation. Most people have around 1,000 different bacterial species in their gut.
For a microorganism to be called a probiotic, it must:
Be isolated from a human
Survive in your intestine after being eaten
Have a proven benefit to you
- Be safely consumed
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics are antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic, helping to create a healthier bacterial community by cleaning out the bad bugs and helping the good bugs thrive. They can also reduce overactive immune system activity and inflammation.
Some probiotic strains ‘stick’ to and colonise the gut, but the gut microbiota is generally resistant to colonisation. This means most probiotics are transient helpers: they help as they make their way through, but they don’t stick around.
Why are probiotics important?
- Balance the levels of good and bad bacteria in your gut, fighting off the bad and helping the good thrive
- Help your body digest food and absorb nutrients
- Promote faster recovery from gut imbalances
- Encourage a healthy immune response in your gut (where 70% of your immune system lives)
- Reduce inflammation in your gut
- Minimise the symptoms of leaky gut (damage to your gut lining)
- Help the body to digest food and absorb vitamins
What are probiotics good for?
Most common uses:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, and abdominal pain
Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD): Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis
Mood: Depression and anxiety
Gut microbiota imbalance: SIBO, H. Pylori, Fungus, Candida, and other pathogens
Less common, but encouraging uses:
Hormone and thyroid health
Blood pressure and cholesterol
Where are probiotics found?
You can boost the bacteria in your gut with probiotic-rich foods. Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, miso, kefir, tempeh, sourdough bread, pickles or sauerkraut are all high in probiotics. Yogurt is also rich in probiotics if it says ‘live and active cultures’ on the label.
Prebiotics are food for the good bacteria in your gut (they’ve got to eat too!) They are complex carbohydrates such as insulin, pectin and resistant starches and are often combined with probiotic supplements.
What are the main types of probiotics?
There are three main categories of probiotics. They are:
Category 1: Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium Predominated Blends
The most well-researched type of probiotic, these live microorganisms are also known as lactic acid-producing probiotic bacteria. There are over 100 species of Lactobacilli and over 30 species of Bifidobacterium. They typically don’t colonise in the gut, but they improve the health of it as they pass through.
Key benefits of Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium:
Promote optimal gastrointestinal function
Encourage a healthy inflammatory response
Improve the ability to support a healthy and balanced microbiota
Preliminary research suggests they work to reduce anxiety
Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium may assist with:
- C. difficile infection
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Yeast infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Gum disease
- Upper respiratory infections (ear infections, common cold, sinusitis)
This is the category that the NEW Gut Biome Zooki falls under - which includes 35 billion live bacteria from three hand-selected strains:
While this type doesn’t typically colonise the gut, the addition of lactoferrin in Gut Biome Zooki enables the bacteria to ‘stick’ and colonise. It is also encapsulated in lipids to protect the live bacteria from the damaging effects of stomach acid.
Category 2 – Saccharomyces Boulardii (S. boulardii)
S. boulardii is the second most researched probiotic. It’s not a normal part of the human microbiota, meaning it does not colonise our gut.
It’s a yeast which is antifungal and can help fight fungal (candida) overgrowths in our intestines. It does this partly by breaking down the protective layer (biofilm) that forms over fungus.
S. boulardii may help with:
C. difficile infection
Inflammatory bowel disease
Category 3 – Soil-Based Probiotics (Bacillus Species)
The third most researched category of probiotics is soil-based probiotics. These live microorganisms are also known as non lactic acid-forming bacteria and are also often referred to as spore-forming bacteria. This category of probiotic can colonise the host.
These are said to be an important type of probiotic because they may help replace what we’re missing due to our reduced contact with soil and natural environments.
A number of soil-based species show health benefits, including Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis. This type of probiotic, like many others, has been shown to improve and balance the community of bacteria in your gut.
Some bacilli bacteria are harmful, so it’s important to use well-labelled and tested strains. It’s also worth noting that category 3 of probiotics should be avoided in critically ill patients, but otherwise are safe.