Love Your Guts!

Dear Leah Renee, 

Is it really that important I take probiotics?  If I eat yogurt a few times a week, is that enough?  Will I be able to tell the difference anyway?  Thanks!  ~Leslie, IL

Proper gastrointestinal (GI) health is crucial in keeping immunity up, maintaining healthy skin, and feeling good in general.  A lot of it is easy; our body takes care of a lot on its own, and if you have a pretty healthy diet, you probably won’t notice anything significant day to day.  That’s not to say there will not be other ways our body will play up because it is lacking in one area–and our digestive health is one of the most significant areas in which problems will tend to arise.  We have trillions of bacteria in our intestines all which play an important role of the immune system and is the foundation to overall health.  Changes to the inner flora (like consuming foods or medicine like antibiotics that harms our natural healthy gut bacteria) can increase our chances of allergies and other inflammatory intestinal diseases.  So many of us now suffer from ailments such as celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome/inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, and Chron’s disease, it is extra important to control what we can and help keep our gut as healthy as possible.

Everything in our body is linked.  Why else when we get nervous do we get “butterflies” and feel like tossing our cookies?!  Because our mind is connected to our stomach connected to our immune system connected to our–you get the picture.  Don’t think for a moment that your decisions, good or bad, will not have an effect on you in more ways than one.  This is great news for all the healthy decisions you make–and can be concerning when improper ones are made too often.  Our bodies are strong–amazing, actually!  They work so efficiently in fact that it’s shocking how much it can tolerate until something gives.  It will then send you signals you should not ignore.  Oh, if only instead of an ache here and there our body would cry like a baby would we then give it what it wants.  Instead, we likely will ignore those symptoms because we would rather continue having foods that are high in sugar, fats, and chemicals all which really disturb the intestinal walls.  It’s like filling up your gas tank with the cheap stuff only at a disservice to us because we have to get the oil changed sooner.  Keep putting in the good stuff, and you’ll continue without being disturbed.

So, yes!  It is important to take probiotics.  Probiotics are associated with reducing the risk of colon cancer, lowering cholesterol.  There are other ways you can help maintain good gut flora other than just taking probiotics daily.  It can be fun too, because a lot of what keeps us healthy is actually quite tasty too (assuming you like most fruits, and at least some veggies!).  Let’s face it, we’re not going to have a 100% perfect diet 100% of the time!  Not to mention, there’s a lot more than just a healthy diet that plays into the status of our intestinal flora (stress, etc.).  BUT, here are some good foods to consume, bad foods to stay away from (as much as possible), and supplements that will help you maintain a healthy digestive system:

The Good:

  • Warm water + Lemon: this may seem contradictory since lemon is acidic.  It has the opposite effect in our intestines and is completely alkaline (pH balanced) in our body!  I can’t say enough good things about warm water and lemon–especially to start of each day.
  • Fermented foods: Miso (soup made from miso paste–you can buy it at the store and make it in seconds at home!), sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and kim chee.
  • Yogurt: I say this with hesitation not because I’m not positive of the great qualities it has, but because there are SO many on the market to choose from–and the sugary varieties and frozen yogurts don’t really count.  Sure, they may still have some healthful properties, but they’re being offset with the sugar and other chemicals in there.  Pick one that’s plain, and if you don’t like it straight (not many of us do!), add it to a healthy smoothie or add some fruit and/or nuts, stevia–whatever you like that are good choices!
  • Veggies: You pick 🙂 (Those richest in Vitamin K, helpful to the intestinal bacteria include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and spinach.)
  • Beans: Fiber keeps everything moving right along and cleans out the intestinal walls.  Sorry, the refried beans in your fast food burrito don’t count.
  • Oats: See above (except you can’t get these refried.  I don’t think).

The Not-So-Good (OK–just bad!): 

  • Processed meats: they are full of nitrates, sodium, some contain MSG, and are simply not welcomed by your gut or colon.
  • Sugar: This one is not as simple as processed meats since sugar can be OK when you are having some fruit, or as just one of the additions to an entire dish.  Unlike processed meat, you’re probably not going to bite into a sugar sandwich–but I think you get my drift.  Candy bars, adding 3 packets of sugar (that includes those fake sugars–chemicals!) to your coffee or ice tea is no good.  Keep it to a minimum!
  • Salt: This one’s like sugar–don’t add it to everything and have a big mac with fries.  Watch the content on soups and frozen meals too.  Salt makes things taste good–that’s why many eateries pack it in.
  • Gluten: Take in moderation.  I think if our portion sizes were smaller and grains were not eaten so frequently in our diets, it wouldn’t be such an issue.  Unfortunately so many products contain this protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and is not well tolerated by most.  It causes inflammation which wreaks havoc on our system.

The Supplements: 

  • 100% Pure Aloe Vera Juice: I’m not going to lie–this tastes wrong.  But it’s so right.  So what’s a second taking a shot of it for the awesome benefits?!  That’s how I look at it anyway 🙂
  • Probiotics:  Udo’s Choice and Jarrow Formula are good ones.  They are best to take first thing in the morning (with your warm water and lemon!) so they have the opportunity to line the intestines with the healthy bacteria before you eat.
  • Enzymes:  I take LifeExtension Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes.  Surprisingly it does not contain Bromelain (derived from pineapples, very good as well), but everything else.

You’ll see that it’s probably easier than you think to have a healthy gut, at least I’m sure you already consume a few if not more on the good list!  In addition to what you already have, pick a couple that you may be able to add for even better immunity and overall health.  Your body will thank you for it!

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