Part 1: Gut Health Is Super Important

Hi friends, happy Friday! How are you all? What is your gut feeling about the covid-19 vaccination? Soon or not so soon?

Ever wondered why we say gut feeling? Gut here means our intestine, colon or large intestine more specifically. Since when our intestines feel or say anything, leave alone predicting anything? Ever wondered? Actually, it has something to do with our gut-health. In this first part today, let us know more about the importance of a healthy gut.

Why Is A Healthy Gut Important?

Do you know that our gut-microbiome is made up of around 100 trillion microorganisms of 300-500 species, consisting of bacteria, viruses or fungi? Almost like a vital organ in itself, it would be very difficult for us to survive without these micro-organisms. These start affecting us as a newborn baby and eventually, we become more bacteria than human! Am not exaggerating! We have around 30 trillion human-cells in our body and 40 trillion bacteria cells.

For ages, it was believed that our intestine is a simple organ that just helps in bowel-management and digestion of food. However, it is much, much beyond that. It is also complex eco-system of micro-organisms and there is so much happening in our guts with so many little bacteria living inside and doing so much of chemical actions and reactions…all the time! It impacts:

  • Digestion including effective digestion of breast milk in newborns
  • Prevents stomach aches, bowel disorders, bloating and cramps etc
  • Digestion of fibre which in turn controls weight loss, diabetes, blood pressure etc
  • Protection of Gastro-Intestinal barrier i.e. intestinal-lining, thereby preventing ‘leaky gut’. Leaky gut syndrome, in short, can be held responsible for breast cancer, obesity, chronic fatigue and depression etc
  • Immunity – by protecting us from infections from foreign bacteria, fungi and virus. In fact these gut-bacteria make up for more than 75% of our immune system! The better your gut-health is, the better your immunity would be!
  • Weight management and metabolism regulation
  • Blood sugar management
  • Heart health
  • Cholestrol management
  • Brain and nervous system health – Gut-bacteria produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate moods, memory and other learnings
  • Hormones
  • Sleep
  • Prevents some cancers and auto-immune diseases
  • Destroying of harmful bacteria
  • Production of vitamin K, folate and short-chain fatty acids

Did You Know?

Our friendly bacteria in the gut, make 95% of our body’s supply of serotonin. Serotonin is also called ‘Happy Hormone’ as it makes us feel well and happy. Happiness in the gut, really?

Our brain and intestine are deeply interlinked. If one is in trouble, the other gets affected. Our gastro-intestinal tract is sensitive to all our emotions. Have you ever noticed that you feel nervous, feel like throwing up or have ‘butterflies in stomach’ before a big presentation or performance? Or when you are stressed out, you get a heartburn?

How Do I Know If My gut Is Healthy?

If you suffer from one or many of the below, you might want to take better care of your gut-health:

  • Frequent or chronic stomach-upsets such as diarrhea, bloating, constipation etc
  • Frequent heartburns or stomach aches or nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Sleep issues
  • Frequent colds and low immunity in general
  • Skin conditions such as eczema etc

How Does It Get Imbalanced?

Our gut health gets negatively affected by our diet and lifestyle such as;

  • A high-sugar diet
  • A limited diet which does not have much of whole foods and whole grains. The diversity in food is important to have a healthy gut-flora. The diverse we eat, the diverse the bacteria grow
  • A lack of probiotics in diet
  • Eating too much processed food
  • Due to use of antibiotics – Antibiotics do not differentiate between good and bad bacteria. While they kill bad bacteria, good bacteria are lost too. The effects could last for a couple of weeks…to two years!
  • Too much alcohol consumption
  • Lack of physical activity – People who are physically fit and active have more butyrate (a short-chained fatty acid) produced in body which is important for gut health
  • Smoking
  • Lack of good sleep
  • Stress

In my next week’s post, we shall discuss how we can take care of our gut-health, now that we know how important it is.

The good news is that it is not that hard to take care of our gut health. A little effort on our part can have a tremendous impact on our gut-health and our overall health. It is just that we were never taught to take care of our gut-health in particular, the way we are told to take care of our cardiac health or diabetes or even weight loss.

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

All About Probiotics

Hi friends, happy Friday!

For a long while, all days were so similar but now I have again started loving the weekends. Why? Because of start of online-schooling. The precious extra hours of  morning sleep is what makes the weekends special, again!

In my last post on sabja/basil seeds, I wrote that pectin found in them is a prebiotic and some of you messaged me telling I made a spelling mistake there. I sometimes do make a spelling mistake or other, especially on the more hectic days…but this time, it was not a mistake. What I meant was prebiotic indeed! But I do realize that I owe a big thank you to all those of you who read my blogs so closely 🙂

Most of us are probably already aware of the term “probiotic”, thanks to advertisements by  many yogurt brands and fermented milk-based health drinks. The term isn’t very old but has become very popular recently.

Before we come to understanding the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, let’s understand probiotics first.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms i.e. the bacteria that are found naturally in our body (mainly intestine) and help our body in breaking down the food. Also called gut-bacteria, friendly/healthy bacteria or gut-flora, these bacteria are mostly divided into two families: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Our body generally takes care of our gut-health on its own. However gut-flora can be disbalanced due to bad diet, infections, medications, hygiene habits etc. It becomes even more important to re-build a healthy balance in such cases.

Did You Know?

Our intestines contain 100 billion bacteria (of 1000 various kinds) and some of these are unique to each one of us, quite like our fingerprints!

Benefits

  • Probiotics helps in maintaining the healthy balance of friendly bacteria in our digestive system
  • Not just physical health, some researches have shown that probiotic foods can improve some mental health disorders too such as depression, stress and anxiety etc. How? By producting serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. Wow!
  • Boosts immune system and this reduce the severity or frequency of cold and certain allergies
  • Prevents and even treats diarrhea
  • Toxic removal from our bodies
  • Better metabolism

Natural Sources Of Probiotics

There are many reasons why newborns are advised to be breastfed and probiotics are one of the main reasons! Breast milk is naturally rich in probiotics and sometimes, formula milk is fortified by the probiotics to get it closer to breastmilk.

Apart from occurring naturally in our bodies, certain foods such as yogurts (with live strains), tempeh (fermented soyabean), miso (Japanese seasoning with soyabeans as main ingredient), kefir (fermented milk drink), kimchi (fermented spicy Korean dish with cabbage or other veggies), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), pickles (or gherkins, are cucumbers pickled in salt and water), kombucha (fermented black/green tea drink) and certain cheeses etc are rich sources of probiotics.

On desi front – curd, regular yogurt, buttermilk, idli, dosa, kanji, achhar, dhokla etc though are not true probiotics as not standardized, provide many similar benefits.

And no, wine and beer, though fermented cannot be considered probiotics!

Probiotic Supplements

According to the official definition of probiotics by WHO, any strain or product can be classified as a probiotic only if it contains a stipulated amount of live microorganisms which are resistant to gastric juices etc to reach the target area successfully in our body and be of any actual benefit.

Probiotics are also sold as powder/liquid supplements such as Yakult as well as capsules or tablets. Some good quality multivitamins also include probiotics in their composition. Remember, not every yoghurt can be sold as a probiotic unless it clearly mentions the live culture it contains!

I have even been prescribed a urinary tract probiotic as a part of my UTI treatment once. And I am sure most of us have used, Enterogermina, Novogermina and the kinds, at one point or other…especially for our kids. Have you?

In The End

Before you start a probiotic supplement of any sort, make sure you are not allergic to the particular strain found in it. If someone is lactose-intolerant, a dairy-free probiotic is an obvious choice.

In general, probiotic supplements are considered safe. People on antibiotic medication can benefit from probiotics a lot as the antibiotics are prone to destroy the balance of gut-flora by killing healthy bacteria along with the bad ones.

If you have any pre-existing medical issues or any immunity-related condition, do check with your doctor/nutritionist, before you choose your probiotic.

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Till next Friday

Namaste, Health & Peace