100 Days of Fitness
PROBIOTICS – OUR BACTERIAL BUDDIES
by Lauren Squier, MPH, RD
Our magnificent bodies are made up of 30-40 trillion cells that work together to keep us alive (and hopefully healthy!). Did you know there are ten times that many microbes (bacterial & yeast cells) hard at work in our bodies too?! This fact makes us more of a host to an elaborate ecosystem of bacteria than an independent being. The community of microorganisms in and on our bodies is referred to as microbiota and its collective genetics as the microbiome.
Check out this fascinating video on the microbiome by NPR: The Invisible Universe of the Human Microbiome (5 minutes).
While the study of the human microbiome is relatively new, we know that microbes and their host interact in many profound ways. We can think of the microbiome as an organ we didn’t know we had! Microbes can be our friend or foe depending on the type and number. The genes of these “bacterial buddies” interact with our genetic code and affect digestion, metabolism, immunity, stress response, and mood.
Boost Your Health & Immunity
Eating probiotics and prebiotics may offer significant health benefits. These microbes may be part of the prevention and treatment of some infectious diseases and metabolic conditions as well as immune and neurological disorders. Emerging science suggests the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut has a big impact on overall health.
Probiotics = good bacteria that live in your digestive tract. You can help nurture yours with yogurt (containing active cultures), aged cheeses, and traditionally fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir (yogurt drink), curtido (cabbage relish), tempeh, miso, and sourdough bread. Probiotics are also available in powder, chewable and pill form. Look for those with the “Good Manufacturing Practices” (GMP) label which demonstrates third-party safety testing. Doses vary but typically range from 1 to 50 billion colony-forming units (CFU) per day. Consumer’s Health Report lists the “Top 5 Probiotics of 2018”.
Prebiotics = foods with fiber that feed probiotics. Asparagus, artichokes, onions/leeks/scallions, leafy greens, and beans are good sources. If you want “good bacteria” to stick around and flourish, provide their favorite foods! On the flip side, diets high in meat, dairy, sugar, and alcohol, and low in fermentable fibers (vegetables, beans and grains) encourage less friendly bacteria to multiply.
Talk to your healthcare provider about taking probiotics. Some people with immune problems or digestive issues shouldn’t take them. Also, start slowly as stomach upset, gas, bloating, and diarrhea are possible side effects. Discontinue probiotics if problems arise.
For more information:
Healthline’s Probiotics 101: A Simple Beginner’s Guide
The American Society for Microbiology’s report on the Human Microbiome highlights these interesting facts:
- diseases as different as asthma, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease are influenced by the microbiome.
- certain groups of gut bacteria correlate closely with obesity; the microbiomes of people who lose weight will gradually become more like those of lean people.
- the microbiome can change as a result of dietary changes, treatment with antibiotics, or moving to a new environment.
The Good Gut by Justin & Erica Sonnenburg explores the interaction of the human body and its colony of bacteria; this husband and wife research team is focusing on the microbiome at Stanford University.
Questions about any of the above? Need more guidance? Email the expert! Lauren welcomes questions and is always happy to share more tips and tricks with anyone who asks so… ask away!
Lauren Squier, MPH, RD
Lauren Squier, MPH, RD, is a Registered Dietitian, trained chef and owner of Culinary Enlightenment. Lauren’s nutrition background and culinary skills provide a unique blend of resources to help people plan meals, shop, cook, and eat better. For more than a decade, she has been teaching nutrition to children, adults and families through healthy cooking and eating.
Read more about Lauren here. Check her website for more articles & recipes and come to bootcamp and talk to her in person about your nutrition challenges. She has a lot of knowledge and is always ready to share it.