By: Dr. Ken Redcross
The gut, or your microbiome, does not just play a role in digesting your dinner. It serves as a second brain to the body and is responsible for clearing toxins while protecting against bad bacteria and viruses that could cause infection. Without a healthy gut our immune system is compromised. In fact, 70% of your immune system lives in your microbiome.
When the microbiome is compromised, your immunity is not the only thing that suffers. How you respond to stress, whether you are getting enough sleep, your mood and hormones, can all take a hit. Gut health also affects your mental health, heart health, blood sugar and liver.
There are many ways that we can upset the balance and diversity of our microbiomes, including eating a diet that is void of fiber, nutrients and loaded up with refined sugar and chemical additives. Partaking in too much alcohol is dangerous for the gut as well as it can inhibit the production of digestive enzymes and juices, meaning it becomes more difficult for your body to break down, digest and absorb nutrients from your food. Chronic alcohol consumption may even result in bacterial overgrowth and destruction of the overall composition of the gut microbiome. In fact, some research supports the use of probiotics to reduce the effect of alcohol-induced changes on gut bacteria.
Medications we take routinely, without hesitation, can also cause a gut disruption. Antibiotics, antacids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be taken in moderation and with caution. Although this side effect has long been appreciated, that antibiotics not only act on bacteria that cause infections, but also harm the microbiome, detailed studies now show that antibiotics can actually alter the gut microbiome. Antacids do not kill off your microbiome, but they do reduce stomach acid, which allows the bad bacteria to flourish. In one study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that NSAIDs changed the composition and diversity of gut microbes, which in turn shaped how the drug is broken down and ultimately, cut its effectiveness. Common NSAIDs include:
However, it is not just what we ingest that presents hazards to our gut, our microbiome can also be negatively affected by exposures to toxins like nicotine, mercury and mold. Even chronic stress can take a toll by negatively modifying the gut’s nervous system.
Probiotics to the Rescue
It may seem too good to be true, but one of the easiest ways to counter these gut hazards and support a healthy microbiome is with a probiotic supplement. Dozens of friendly bacterial strains are found in a probiotic supplement with the primary job to assist the body in different ways. For example, Bifidobacteria bifidum strengthens gut immunity while Bifidobacteria breve reduces intestinal inflammation and Bifidobacteria longum works to counter antibiotic-resistant bacteria and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Lactobacillus gasseri, however, produces vitamin K for healthier bones and arteries, as well as antimicrobial substances that help prevent indigestion and diarrhea.
Struggling with seasonal allergies? You are not alone. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, a gut microbiota that lacks diversity is associated with all variations of allergies, especially seasonal allergies. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted by the University of Florida, 200+ participants in their mid-20s self-identified as having seasonal allergies. Kyo-Dophilus probiotics were taken to determine whether consuming Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and B. longum MM-2, compared with placebo, would result in beneficial effects on rhinoconjunctivitis (of which symptoms include nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing and red eyes) during allergy season. After eight weeks, the study concluded that this specific combination of probiotics improved rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life during allergy season for healthy individuals with self-reported seasonal allergies. This study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and registered in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Every Batman Needs His Robin
If Batman was a probiotic, Robin would be the prebiotic. A powerful probiotic supplement can contain a variety of strains, some include prebiotics, too. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the proliferation of your good gut bacteria. Prebiotic fibers also play an independent role in good health, including improving your gut’s immune response. You can get some prebiotic fibers through food, but it is challenging to get enough on a consistent basis.
This is where the “dynamic duo” of probiotics and prebiotics can be highly beneficial for gut health. Probiotics and prebiotic supplement combos are known as synbiotics. Incorporating a comprehensive synbiotic into your daily supplement routine, like Kyo-Dophilus Pro+ Synbiotic, is a dynamic way to improve and supercharge your gut and immune health. Pro+ Synbiotic contains a proprietary a-gluco-oligosaccharide prebiotic designed to support bacterial diversity for a healthier gut. In addition to promoting a healthy immune response, the right synbiotic also relieves constipation and bloating and can even support an improved mood. When choosing a high-quality synbiotic, look for one that contains a variety of well-researched probiotic strains and prebiotic fibers, while documenting that the bacteria can survive the distance through your stomach to arrive alive and active in your gut.
Power Up the Gut
There are other proactive ways to boost the good bacteria in your microbiome, beyond supplementation. Keeping your gastrointestinal (GI) tract in superhero shape is important to avoid throwing your entire body off its game. The ratio between good and bad bacteria makes a major difference. A healthy gut typically contains about 85% beneficial bacteria, which keeps in check the other 15% of harmful bacteria or pathogens. Diversity is important in everything you do, including how you eat, so double up on greens because chances are you are not consuming enough. Fresh vegetables are loaded with the vitamins, minerals and fiber that the gut bacterium needs to thrive. High-fiber veggies can also keep you regular. Try eating more artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, kale and spinach (all of these veggies contain prebiotics too)! Next, be sure to include fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha and miso.
Finally, get up and get moving. If you follow me on social media you know how much I stress the importance of having an active lifestyle. Exercise can give your body a better appearance but, here’s the kicker: studies show that active people have healthier, more diverse microbiomes, plus, regular workouts help ease stress that can also disrupt a healthy gut. Diversity is the key to a healthy gut! Combining a well-researched synbiotic probiotic/prebiotic combo supplement, in addition to practicing gut-friendly daily habits, will power up your overall health. I answer a lot of probiotic questions from people who are searching for ways to bring balance back to their gut. Exercise, diet and lifestyle changes help, but to really power up, make sure probiotics and prebiotics are in the mix!
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.
Ken Redcross, MD, is author of Bond: The 4 Cornerstones of a Lasting and Caring Relationship with Your Doctor, (2018) and founder of Redcross Concierge, a personalized medical practice designed to enhance the patient-doctor relationship while providing convenient access to a full spectrum of healthcare services and holistic and wellness counseling. As one of the first full-service concierge, personalized medical practices in the United States, Redcross’ patient portfolio includes C-level business executives, athletes and professionals in the entertainment industry, as well as individuals from all walks and stages of life including college students, young professionals, busy parents and retirees. His focus on developing the patient-doctor bond is a unique characteristic of his concierge services that allows for a more strategic and customized approach to each patient’s healthcare plan. Redcross earned his medical degree from the prestigious Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, specializing in internal medicine. During his training, he participated in fellowships in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, to fulfill his passion for serving the underserved while enhancing his medical fluency in Spanish. After completing his residency, Redcross co-founded and served as president of Medi-Stop, an urgent care, walk-in clinic in California, treating minor medical ailments. He is based in New York, but travels across the country as his concierge practice requires. Redcross is an advisor for Probiotics.com and is on the scientific advisory council for Organic & Natural Health Association.