When I first became a certified healthy eating and weight loss coach (though I’m not sure that’s the correct name anymore as it keeps changing), one of the things that I noticed time and time again is that almost everyone who applied to work with me was either seriously constipated or believed they had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). When I interviewed them, I would ask if they had been diagnosed with IBS and most of the time the answer was no – they were self diagnosed, and the truth was that most simply had very poor gut health. After we addressed the underlying issues, most (not all) discovered that with a little care they really didn’t have a digestive issue at all.
Now I do have IBS, and I’m not saying that to be boastful, because who in the right mind would boast about such a thing? I mention it because I feel like it makes it easier for me to sort of determine who really may have a digestive condition/syndrome (and refer them to a doctor), and who just needs to get their microbiome under control.
And the fact of the matter is – most of us need a little help getting our gut in check these days.
You might be surprised to learn that 70% of our immune system is within our digestive system. Remember the last time you were prescribed an antibiotic and the doctor suggested you eat some extra yogurt or take a probiotic? That’s because the antibiotic attacks all the bacteria – good and bad, so while it kills the bad bacteria, your good bacteria become depleted. This in turn compromises your immune system, making it that much more important to focus on gut health when we are ill.
What Is A Probiotic?
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that grow naturally in our intestinal tract. Their primary role is to help with digestion, but studies have linked good bacteria to our immune function – which makes sense as I’ve already mentioned above the most of our immune system is located in our gut.
Keeping a balance of good and bad bacteria is absolutely key for both good digestion, and good health. But many of us are wandering around with bad bacteria running rampant.
No wonder everyone feels like they must have a digestive problem – they do!
Probiotics versus Prebiotics
Prebiotics are food for healthy bacteria, which in turn promotes the growth of health bacteria in the digestive tract. Prebiotic foods like kombucha (one of my faves), kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut tend to get more attention that prebiotics (plant-based, non-digestible fiber-rich foods like dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes and onions), both are important for maintaining gut health.
You can also obtain probiotics in supplement form. These probiotics are composed of lab-grown versions of those naturally occurring strains. When choosing a supplement, look for a multi-strain formula as well as a high potency probiotic that contains at least 50 billion active bacteria per serving. Also look at what the delivery system is for the supplement. A enteric-coasting, for example, will ensure the bacteria makes it to the correct destination and aren’t hijacked by stomach acids.
5 Tips For Improving Gut Health
Recently I’ve been taking the Renew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care supplement which comes in a 20-day “Go Pack”. The Go-Pack is shelf stable and doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge. Because I do have IBS, and spring-time tends to be the one time of year I always have a big flare-up, now that my digestive system has settled, I was definitely feeling like some “Critical Care” was in order. This is Renew Life’s newest probiotic supplement and is ideal for those which chronic digestive issues or those who want to strengthen their immune system after a round of antibiotics. This particular product has 50 billion active cultures from 10 strains of bacteria.
Even if you consume a lot of probiotics in your food (like yogurt), a daily supplement is able to deliver a larger dose. One serving of yogurt might have one billion bacteria, while a supplement like the Critical Care provides 50 times that amount.
Renew Life’s ingredients are GMO free, contain no artificial colours, preservatives or fillers. Sometimes I find veggie caps can upset my stomach, but these didn’t bother it at all.
Because that was kind of “gimme” here are five more ways you can improve your gut health (including some you may never have thought of before!)
Consuming Fermented Foods & Food High In Fibre
Yes I know, this is pretty obvious, but deserves repeating. Foods like kimchi, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh – even pickles help deliver healthy pre and probiotics. Because it’s important to get a variety of strains in your system, don’t depend too heavily on any one fermented food. If you are new to eating fermented foods in any quantity, take a look back on the advice I give in this post regarding kefir (though the same can hold true for most fermented foods). It’s especially important to be careful if you are both starting out with fermented foods and feel like your digestive system is quite well, messed up. The more out of balance your good and bad bacteria are, the more important it is not to go crazy with prebiotics right out of the gate.
The second half of that is high fibre foods which help “clean up” the gunk and help you dispose of it in a timely fashion. Remember, there are two different types of fibre, and both are necessary for healthy gut function. Ensuring that nothing is hanging around in your colon any longer than it needs to is so important where gut health is concerned. And is why it’s so concerning to me that so many people report to me that they are constipated.
Drink Lots Of Water
Have you noticed anything yet? That pretty much every health problem is helped with the proper consumption of water? Have I convinced you how important it is yet? Water is like the oil in your car. If there isn’t enough of it the system just isn’t going to run properly. And you are going to get among other things – constipated. And when you are constipated that bad bacteria gets to hang around in your colon longer than it should and cause all sorts of upset.
Just drink the water.
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Limit Your Intake of Sugar, Alcohol & Caffeine
Not only do these three deplete good bacteria, but bad bacteria THRIVES on them. Want a fast track way to screw up your digestion? This is it! This right here is also a big part of the reason so many people have unhealthy guts! And I’m in no way saying you need to avoid them completely (try getting my iced coffee out of my hands during dollar drink days!), just limit your intake. A little is fine, a lot is an issue.
Believe it or not, having plants in your home can help improve your gut health because they have their own unique microbiome that helps enhance yours. Like seriously, how cool is that!? Have a bit of a black thumb? Pick up some succulents. Personally I”m obsessed with them (they are so cute) and they seem to be hardy little plants. I haven’t killed one yet!
Spend Time With Your Pets (or someone else’s!)
This is my favourite for obvious reasons. Animals too, have their own unique microbiome and spending time with them helps expose you to theirs (and I can only assume does the same for them). Plus spending time with pets can be a wonderful stress reducer which will in turn help your digestion as well.
Personally I can’t imagine someone not wanting to come visit these two! Especially since it’s practically as good as a drug (well, maybe not quite ;)).
Need a little more incentive to get your gut health in check? New research point to how probiotics support digestive health, decrease inflammation, and improve vitamin and mineral absorption. It also shows that they can help to improve gastrointestinal functions, as well as allergy and respiratory responses, and may help improve mood and certain skin conditions, such as acne and eczema.
Even though I try to be mindful of getting enough probiotics, the addition of the Ultimate Flora Probiotic Critical Care has made a noticeable difference yet again in my “tummy troubles”. Even though my IBS flare-up had already subsided, I was still having some minor issues on a regular basis and they have almost entirely disappeared these last few weeks and overall I’ve had more energy even on my triple fitness class days.
Getting my gut health in even better shape has really made a wonderful difference in how I feel, and I hope you’ll consider making some life changes to help improve you gut health – and ensure things are moving smoothly! And with Renew Life’s shelf stable products it’s easy to keep your supplement on the counter where you see it and actually remember to take it!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Renew Life, all opinions expressed are entirely my own. Go drink that water and get your gut health in check!