As we continue to learn how important healthy gut bacteria is for the brain and immune system, interest in cultivating a rich and diverse “gut microbiome” grows.
One important tool in this quest are spore-based probiotic supplements. “Spore” is derived from the word “seed,” and spore-based probiotics are a hardy delivery system that germinate in the small intestine and help you colonize your gut with more healthy bacteria.
Modern humans face many challenges to developing and maintaining healthy gut bacteria. In fact, studies of primitive people who live much like our hunter gatherer ancestors did show their guts have about 50 percent more diversity in gut bacteria than the average American. Its not just how much good bacteria you have, it’s how many different types.
Researchers are finding this lack of microbiome diversity plays a role in many chronic health and brain disorders, including depression and autoimmunity.
This is often one of the reasons I recommend periodically switching probiotic brands and strains. Diversity.
Low-fiber, junk food diets, antibiotic overuse, chlorinated water, heavy environmental toxin and pollution loads, chronic stress, alcohol, and various medications all play a role in reducing the diversity and amount of beneficial gut bacteria.
As a result, opportunistic and infectious “bad” gut bacteria are able to more easily conquer the gut. This weakens the gut lining, increases inflammation, and promotes brain and mood disorders.
There are many ways we can build a healthy and diverse population of gut bacteria. The most important is to eat a whole foods diet that is predominantly vegetables and fruits. It’s important to vary the kind of produce you eat regularly. It’s also helpful to include cultured and fermented foods and take probiotics. Also, avoid drugs such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, and heartburn medication as much as possible, which can also contribute to the development of leaky gut, among other things.
Given the challenges the modern gut faces, it’s not a bad idea to make probiotics a part of your routine. This is where spore-based probiotics come in. What makes spore-based probiotics special?
- The survive the acidic environment of the stomach on their way to the intestines.
- They resist breakdown by digestive enzymes.
- They are heat stable and don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator.
- Some spores are antibiotic-resistant, which means you can take while taking antibiotics.
Once in the small intestine, spore-based probiotics can germinate,
if you provide the right environment with plenty of plant fiber.
Spore probiotics and healthy gut bacteria in general can help improve your health in several ways. They improve the health and integrity of the lining of the small intestine. This lining contains not only bacteria but also plenty of immune cells to defend the bloodstream from bad bacteria, yeast, toxins, undigested foods, and other pathogens that can trigger inflammation if they make their way through the gut lining into the bloodstream. This is called leaky gut.
For instance, one strain of spore-based probiotic, bacillus coagulans, has been well studied for its beneficial effect on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease.
Bacillus coagulans produces lactic acid, which has been shown to help protect the gut and boost immune resistance to viruses. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
Ask my office for more information on how to support healthy gut bacteria and help eradicate bad bacteria to improve immune health.
Now go eat something new, go eat some dirt, get exposed to some new healthy bacteria.
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, he happy!
You can eat fermented foods every day and take all the probiotic supplements you want, but if you aren’t also feeding those intestinal bacteria what they want, you could be throwing your money away. That’s because to thrive and multiply, healthy gut bacteria need to eat. And what your gut bacteria like best is fiber.
Recently published research done at the University of Oveido in Spain found that obese people with low levels of a group of intestinal bacteria — Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Porphyromonas — also had a lower intake of fruit.
Fruit is a good source of pectin, which is metabolized in the colon by bacteria, such as Bacteroides, producing small chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are known to keep the immune system in check and turn down inflammation, known to be implicated in obesity, among a long list of other issues inflammation contributes to.
The researchers concluded in the journal Nutrients, “These results could be useful for designing strategies targeted to obesity prevention.”
Why Feed Your Microbiome Prebiotics
Researchers have yet to agree on a precise definition of prebiotics, the substances that intestinal bacteria feed on, but generally the scientists agree that these are “undigested dietary carbohydrates that are fermented by colonic bacteria yielding short chain fatty acids.”
Say what?! It’s basically the bacteria digests what we aren’t able to digest and the SCFA’s are their waste product.
Different prebiotics may nourish different types of bacteria, and researchers have not yet pinned down the specifics of exactly what prebiotic nourishes which bacteria. But you can’t go wrong covering your bases by eating with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The keyword being wide. Variety it the key here.
A high fiber diet has often been recommended for people who need to lose weight, but now we know the point of eating more fiber is not only to make you feel full, but also because of its integral role insustaining a healthy diversity of gut bacteria. Meanwhile, the opposite — an unhealthy microbiota — is being increasingly associated with inflammation and obesity.
Supporting gut bacteria with probiotics
In addition to a diet of ample and diverse produce that is rich in prebiotic fiber, you can also support your microbiota with probiotics. Probiotics work best when you are already fostering your gut environment with healthy prebiotic fiber. Another common prebiotic that can be useful is FOS (Fructo-Oligosaccharide)
Look for probiotics that will survive the acidic environment of the environment. Many different strains exist and researchers are increasingly finding different strains support different aspects of health. Research which ones may be best for you and switch them up on occasion.
Fermented foods such as kimchee, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha contain live microbes that can help improve the health of your gut bacteria. Make sure you get truly live products and not pasteurized. They will usually be in the refrigerated section at the store.
SIDE NOTE: IF you have dysbiosis (unbalance gut bacterial levels, SIBO, or some other digestive issue, I highly recommend you do not willy nilly take a bunch of prebiotics and/or probiotics. You can actually make things worse. See my previous post “Are probiotics doing more harm than good”
Ask my office for more advice on building good gut health.
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!