Hello all, this is the Healthy Advocate.
This post will not be entirely about losing weight, despite the title; however, there is a point about our digestion that I will cover here which infuses the topic of weight loss/maintenance, just so that we’re clear.
Good digestion is, what I believe to be, the cornerstone of overall health. Without a proper digestion system in check, we can assimilate nutrients from the food we eat and derive energy from them, we can’t eliminate wastes or harmful products from our bodies, we increase our chances of not being at the weight we want tremendously, and we can even put our immune systems and mental faculties at risk.
The Friendly Guys Inside Our Gut
Yup, that’s right. There are friendly guys living inside of you. There are also some bad ones, as well. These guys are, wait for it…bacteria. You have bacteria living inside of you day in and day out. Now if you lead a normally healthy lifestyle, making sure you get plenty of raw, organic vegetables and moderate amounts of fruits (even non-organic is OK–take what you can get!), get plenty of exercise, sun exposure and are handling stress effectively (did I forget about high quality sleep?), then it is highly likely that you have more beneficial bacteria residing within you than bad bacteria.
The good bacteria inside of you are there to help facilitate proper digestion of your food, enzymes, vitamins and minerals and are also there to support your facilitation and elimination of food wastes. If you have ever taken a probiotic supplement regularly, you will know that bowel movements start to occur more frequently. This is because those good bacteria are getting the food they need–probiotics are basically the “fertilizer” for good bacteria.
Bad bacteria, on the other hand, should NOT make up the bulk of your bacteria count, for obvious reasons. Bad bacteria usually results from an excess of sugar, low to no exercise, bad sleeping habits, and an intake of processed foods devoid of any nutrition. It has also been noted in studies that those who are overweight have more bad bacteria in their colon than slim people, or people of a normal weight.
Someone, somewhere, came up with an ideal ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria that you should always maintain in your intestinal tract. This is about 85% good and 15% bad–however I find it very difficult to always know the numbers (can anybody? Perhaps there is a test…). Just know that if you are doing everything right (eating the right foods for your body type, exercising, handling stress efficiently, and even taking a probiotic supplement) then you should be in balance.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics, like I mentioned earlier, is basically the fertilizer for the good bacteria in your system. Taking a good probiotic, such as in a good, high quality pill form or through plain, organic yogurt or kefir, promotes the good bacteria to flourish to perform their jobs.
Probiotics=Pro, meaning for, and bio, meaning life. These are the millions of microorganisms that support the life of your intestinal tract and the health of your colon (it kind of sounds a little gross, but it’s quite cool when you stop to think about it – millions of different bacteria inside of you, supporting your body because YOU are so important to them!).
What Are Probiotics Good For?
So what does all of this information mean to you? What are probiotics good for, and what can all these bacteria do for you?
#1 – Probiotics can help you stay slim.
Research has shown that people who are overweight have much more bad bacteria in their intestines than slim people. In fact, the bacteria in our system weighs about eight pounds. Studies have also shown that having a high level of bad bacteria stimulates appetite and can be directly related to weight problems in some individuals. Taking a good probiotic regularly, especially when you know your diet won’t be providing you with optimal nutition, will go far in helping controlling your beneficial gut microflora.
#2 – Keeps your immune system in check.
Most people don’t realize that 80% of our immune system lives in our digestive system
where all these bacteria also reside. So, it makes sense that if you want to stay healthy,
especially during the cold and flu seasons, then you always want to maintain a correct
balance of good bacteria. This means avoiding things that might grow your bad bacteria–
mainly sugars and grains and everything else that will turn into sugar quickly in your body.
Bad bacteria feed and grow off sugar, which will wreak havoc on your immune system (not
to mention your digestive system).
#3 – Good emotional and mental health.
Probiotics and the good bacteria in your digestive system will help you digest and absorb
nutrients much more efficiently. There are many studies showing that depressed, angry those
with emotional disorders have an imbalance in their nutritional biochemistry, and that certain
vitamins and minerals are deficient–not because they are lacking in the diet, but because they
have a hard time absorbing the nutrients that support healthy mental agility.
#4 – Prevents Allergies.
This is something that I was not aware of until I did a little more research. In The Journal of
Allergy and Clinical Immunology, studies showed that probiotics and a healthy gut flora ratio
helped prevent eczema. According to Mercola.com, “Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.“
Ways to Get Probiotics into Your Diet
A good, high quality probiotic capsule is always good to have around whenever you need it, but some people tend to take them every single day. I don’t have that luxury (have I mentioned I’m a college student on a budget?), but I do take a good probiotic whenever I know my diet won’t be up to par, or whenever I know that I will be consuming something that isn’t all that healthy (usually during the holidays–it’s OK to have a treat once in a while!).
You can also take yogurt or kefir (a fermented, yogurt like beverage). Ideally you want to consume dairy products in their RAW form, as raw dairy products already contain beneficial bacteria already (pasteurized products still have all the bacteria, but their dead and swimming around–gross). This ups the ante, so to speak, and provides you with more good bacteria for your body. Plus, raw dairy products are easy on your digestive system. My favorite raw goat milk and goat’s milk yogurt (I make my own whenever I can afford to pick up some raw milk). If you need help finding a certified grade A raw dairy farm near you, please visit the Real Milk website.
If you can’t get raw dairy, then try and find an organic source of yogurt or kefir from your grocery store. You want to get plain, unsweetened, and preferably full fat (non-fat dairy is a no-no, which I will go into at a later moment), and always make sure to read the ingredient label to make sure that there are live active cultures present. Getting sweetened yogurt or kefir will be a problem, as the sugar will help feed the bad bacteria, which is the complete opposite of what you were going for in the first place! Try blending unsweetened yogurt or kefir with fresh or frozen (hopefully organic?) berries or fruit, with stevia or Xylitol (a low calorie, low glycemic sugar alcohol).
So why don’t you go out, get some kefir or do some research on a good probiotic, and take care of your digestive system! It’s time to grow the bacteria (good, that is) in your system to support your body, as it is your vehicle for your entire life. Your future self will thank you!
For now, this has been the Healthy Advocate.