PROBIOTICS: What Are They & Why Do We Need Them for Our Digestion
We have bacteria in our gut. And a lot. (Trivia: There are approximately 500 bacterial species in the gut, specially, the colon.)
The good news, most of them are friendly and have a ton of important functions that need to happen every day in order to maintain a strong digestive system.
To break the friendly down, “Pro” means “good,” and “biotics” means life thus probiotics are referred to as, the friendly, beneficial bacterial gut flora species in the gut.
• aid in protecting the digestive system from an overgrowth of germs
• stimulate the growth of the intestinal lining
• boosting the immune system
• improving vitamin and mineral absorption
• aiding in manufacturing B vitamins and vitamin K
• protects the mucous lining of the intestines
What decreases the amount of probiotics in the diet?
Stress, allergies, poor eating habits, and antibiotic use all may decrease the good bacteria levels
Probiotic foods to eat:
Fermented foods: tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi; kefir, some yogurt
The one thing that is often missed when talking about probiotics, is fiber. Fiber is a big topic, mostly on the importance of eating your fruits and vegetables to enhance nutrient intake plus avoiding constipation, however, it has another important (digestive) job: its by-product.
When we ingest dietary fiber, our gut flora eats it up and breaks it down into butyrate acid; making the gut flora is the biggest producer of butyrate acid. Why is this important? Butyrate acid has been shown to maintain and promote gut lining health, and has anti-inflammatory effects. This in turn stimulates the growth and integrity of the intestinal lining; very important for optimal nutrient absorption.
The take home: Eat more fiber-rich foods that will feed our gut flora and further strengthen our digestive system.
In your BEST health,
Dr. Heather Manley, who in 2001 received her medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, is a practicing physician whose primary interest is preventative healthcare for families. She is the author of the award winning Human Body Detectives, her children’s educational series of story-telling books, curriculum, eBooks, and iPhone/iPad apps. She also promotes wellness and naturopathic healthcare on her website drheathernd.com. She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her husband and two daughters, and is currently at work on the next Human Body Detectives adventure.