“Gut health” is a term that refers to the overall state or condition of the gut microbiome in our digestive tract. According to the CDC, the gut microbiome is the community of germs that lives in and on our bodies. Having good gut health means ensuring that your gut and gut microbiome are healthy and full of the “good” bacteria that the body needs to function. The gut is the most important thing to keep healthy as it plays a role in the wellbeing of the entire body; its involved in immune health, emotional wellbeing, skin health and so much more.
Lots of products advertise to be “gut friendly” or boost gut health, but what exactly is it about different products that give the body those benefits? A healthy diet should contain some key nutrients to fuel good gut health: probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are foods live and active cultures or the healthy bacteria that are found in certain food products, and also live in the body to support different functions, and prebiotics are the food to support/feed the healthy gut bacteria. Ideally, we are going to be getting our prebiotics and probiotics from their most bioavailable source: food. Prebiotics are found in high fiber foods such as oatmeal, beans, bananas, while probiotics are found naturally in foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented food products.
There are other avenues to consuming prebiotics and probiotics besides their food sources, and that would be through supplement form. Probiotics can be taken in a supplement form, but something that should be kept in mind is that not all species or strains provide the same benefits. Research on probiotics is conducted using a specific type of microbe, and results can be only associated with that specific microbe. In addition, research is performed using a certain dose, which is based on colony-forming units (CFUs). When recommending certain probiotic products, it's important to tell clients that they should contain the specific live microbes in adequate amounts as reflected in the literature to receive the health benefits. If someone does choose to take a probiotic supplement, it should be taken consistently and in the proper quantities to be the most effective.
Probiotics specifically play an important role regarding the administration to antibiotics. Antibiotics are medications that fight antimicrobial infections, either by killing the bacteria or making it difficult for that bacteria to grow in that environment. Antibiotics are not specific about which type of bacteria – good or bad – that they affect; it affects all the bacteria in our system. According to the CDC, many of the antibiotics that are prescribed are not actually needed, as they are often overprescribed. This leads to many people wiping out their entire gut microbiome – the good and bad. Consuming probiotic containing foods on a regular basis or a probiotic supplement is important to replenish the body with healthy bacteria after taking antibiotics.
Outside of food, there are other ways of making sure that gut health is in good shape by reducing or managing stress levels, getting appropriate amounts of sleep, staying active and avoiding tobacco can all aid in a healthier gut. Remember that the function of the gut goes beyond just digesting food; a healthy gut means a healthy YOU.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.