healthy gut

Adapted from IDEA Health & Fitness Association

If your gut is in a rut, chances are your health is suffering, too.

The gut, also known as the gastrointestinal (or GI) tract, hosts trillions of bacteria that can have profound effects on digestive health and overall wellness. It’s a good idea to consume prebiotics and probiotics—dietary dynamos that work in concert to populate the gut with “microflora” that keep you healthy.

Eating a variety of prebiotic-rich vegetables and probiotic fermented foods every day may improve mood, reduce cholesterol and promote weight loss. It even helps build immunity and protect you from unwanted gut visitors, as your Gut health is one of the most important aspects of your body to consider. Here’s how you can help.

Prebiotics: Fuel for Your Flora

Prebiotics are naturally occurring nondigestible carbohydrates, or soluble fibers, that nourish the growth of specific beneficial bacteria. All prebiotics are fiber, but not all fibers are prebiotics. When prebiotics ferment in the intestines, they release fuel that enables friendly bacteria like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria to thrive.

The health benefits of prebiotics are still being investigated, but studies suggest they can:

• reduce the prevalence and duration of infectious, traveler’s and antibiotic-associated diarrhea (Slavin 2013);
• reduce inflammation and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (Slavin 2013); and
• protect against colon cancer (Slavin 2013).

Probiotics: Alive and Well

Probiotics are live, active bacteria and/or yeasts. The most common strains of probiotic bacteria are the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria families, which use lactose to prevent harmful bacteria growth, compete with bad bugs for nutrients, and alter intestinal pH to tackle bacterial villains (like diarrhea-producing Clostridium difficile) that thrive in a neutral pH environment. Friendly bacteria also stimulate the immune system (Sommer & Bäckhed 2013).

Weight loss and prevention of obesity are linked to consumption of probiotics (Million et al. 2013), that’s why it might be worthwhile considering adding probiotics, you can take a look at these recommended daily probiotics to help you make a decision. Beneficial bacteria may also improve athletic performance (West et al. 2009) and reduce anxiety (Tillisch et al. 2013).

What to Eat, Prebiotics:

  • Raw chicory root – Used as a coffee replacement, this root provides the most prebiotic of any food.
  • Jerusalem artichoke – Also called “sunchokes,” these tuber-like veggies have a potato-like texture and look like ginger roots.
  • Raw dandelion greens – Available from organic markets, these greens have a bitter taste and can be tossed into a salad.
  • Raw leeks – Similar to onions, leeks are a great addition to salads.
  • Raw onions – Prebiotic content may vary with the variety of onion.

What to Eat, Probiotics:

  • Yogurt – Only yogurts stamped with the “Live & Active Cultures” seal are guaranteed to contain beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
  • Sauerkraut – Fermented cabbage is a great source of probiotics. Look for the unpasteurized type, as pasteurization kills some friendly bacteria.
  • Miso – This fermented soybean paste, popular in Japanese soups, is thought to contain over 160 bacterial strains that boost probiotic diversity in the gut.
  • Kombucha tea – This highly acidic fermented tea has a vinegar taste and smell with a slight fizz. It’s all over instagram, too!

Million, M., et al. 2013. Gut bacterial microbiota and obesity. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 19 (4), 305–13.
Slavin, J. 2013. Fiber and prebiotics: Mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients, 5 (4), 1417–35.
Sommer, F., & Bäckhed, F. 2013. The gut microbiota— masters of host development and physiology. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 11 (4), 227–38.
Tillisch, K., et al. 2013. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology, 144 (7), 1394–1401.
Van Loo, J., et al. 1995. On the presence of inulin and oligofructose as natural ingredients in the Western diet. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 35 (6), 525–52.
West, N.P., et al. 2009. Probiotics, immunity and exercise: A review. Exercise Immunology Review, 15, 107–26.

VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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health hacks probiotic

Living your healthiest life can be a lot of work.

There is a good amount of planning and effort that goes into the classic healthy living advice: hours of exercise, meal planning, yoga, cooking, meditation. It’s a full lifestyle, but it is most certainly not effortless.

Here are three health hacks to add to your routine that you can sit (or nap!) through to reap the benefits with almost no effort.

  1. Lie down for a power nap.
    Not getting enough sleep can have a negative effect on the rest of your day. Taking a quick power nap can work magic on your energy levels. Ten minutes of shut eye or even just focusing on yoga breathing for a few minutes will leave you rejuvenated. (Of course, getting enough sleep at night is the best way to achieve optimal rest.)

  2. Take a probiotic.
    You simply take a pill and those billions of good bacteria do all the heavy lifting for you in your gut to support a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

  3. Laugh.
    Laughter is the best medicine! Laughing helps you destress, triggers the release of endorphins, and can even help you live longer.

Let’s focus in on probiotics.

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in your GI tract and create the ideal conditions for digestion, helping to absorb nutrients. There are literally trillions of good bacteria that are living inside of you right now! Your GI tract also acts as a defense barrier between the outside world (aka germs) and your bloodstream. The more good bacteria it has, the harder it is for germs to get inside. If your microbiome is off, you might have symptoms ranging from minor gas and bloating to more chronic stress and mood swings. Your microbiome can even affect your skin, dental health ands personality!

Good bacteria are naturally found in fermented foods like yogurt with active cultures, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. Ideally, you’d eat these every day and have a flourishing GI gut. Yogurt is the most popular of the probiotic foods, but many of us don’t eat the rest of them enough. Therefore, taking a probiotic supplement is a simple and convenient way to help your GI tract thrive, just like a multivitamin can fill the gaps in your diet.

When you add an optimized gut to the other pillars of good health (sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress relief), then you’re using every defense you can against getting sick.

This is even more important if you’re going through a stressful time like a move or a job change or if you’re traveling somewhere that might have different bacteria in the food than you’re used to. When one pillar of health is compromised, the rest must pick up the slack, so keep them all as strong as you can when you’re well!

Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver

VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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