Probiotic, Fermented Foods: Here's the Catch
So we drink kombucha on daily, add heaps of fermented beets and sauerkraut to our salads, put kefir in our smoothies and take a daily probiotic, thinking we're doing just what we need to for our gut health.
But are we doing our body more harm than good?
Well, yes and no. Because gut health has become such a hot topic in the health arena, there's been loads more research on what contributes to a healthy gut and what wreaks more havoc for our bodies.
If you have a healthy micro biome, meaning that the bacteria levels within your gut is normal and you have lots of the good stuff and none of the bad stuff, you will be perfectly fine eating all the fermented, probiotic rich foods. Why? Because these foods add bacteria to what may be an already bacteria-rich microbiome. And then there's pre-biotics. Those are fiber-rich foods that feed the bacteria in your gut. They are literally proliferating the biotic life in your gut. So when you have a gut full of healthy bacteria, and you add a probiotic/fermented food along with prebiotic foods, it will feed those good bacteria and create more of them. Then, you have a healthy gut.
But here's where it gets sticky. The bad bugs. Yes, bacteria are bugs.
Most of us don't have a completely, perfectly balanced gut micro biome, just due to our environments, dieting and other uncontrollable factors such as genetics. We all have some good gut bacteria, but also have tons of the bad bacteria... This is super super common and usually caused by consistent use of antibiotics (anyone else been on literally every acne antibiotic there is?), have had a carb and sugar addiction (raise those hands), and a compromised gut (leaky gut!), you are definitely at risk for an imbalance in gut bacteria. Symptoms of this include bloating, diarrhea or constipation, gas, abdominal pain, IBS/IBD, food intolerance, fat malabsorption and food intolerances.
The thing is, it can be extremely hard to diagnose what exactly is causing these symptoms and what the status of your gut micro biome is. You really just have to test for it. Find a functional medicine practitioner and get a comprehensive stool test. Doesn't sound ideal, but It will literally tell you everything you need to know about your gut: the amount and kinds of good bacteria you have, the bad bacteria you have, whether or not you have a parasite/candida overgrowth, nutrient absorption and so much more. It was honestly one of the most fascinating and informative tests I've taken and am so happy I did!
And from there you can truly begin to heal your gut, which I am currently doing! And here's where the probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods come in to play, and why if you have an imbalance in gut bacteria (meaning too much of the bad kind) they may not be helping.
As I said earlier, prebiotics feed the bacteria. So if you're ingesting prebiotic foods, you're going to be feeding the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. It's just like how when you take an antibiotic, you're killing the bad bacteria and the good bacteria. Both situations are unfavorable and ideally, we only want the good bacteria.
So how do we get our gut to be full of only the good bacteria that will keep our guts healthy, digestion healthy and no overgrowth of bacteria and yeast? You have to stop feeding the bad bacteria. When you take comprehensive micro biome tests, you can see which bacteria strains are overgrowing in your body. From there, you can make sure to include a probiotic only with the strains that are good for your body and that you don't have an overgrowth in and get rid of the ones you do have an overgrowth in.
For me, I was lucky enough to not have any overgrowth in dysbiyotic bacteria, but just a healthy amount of the good bacteria. So I can easily take a probiotic without worrying about the overgrowth of harmful bugs. However, this isn't all to common and most people do have some sort of overgrowth, especially if you deal with those symptoms.
Although my bugs are pretty healthy, I still have to be careful with fermented and probiotic foods for candida and yeast overgrowth, as well as inflammatory histamines. But that's a post for another day. For now, get your micro biome tested if you really want to take your health to the next level and get a hand on what is causing you to not feel 100%. Whether its abdominal pain, gas/bloating, SIBO, IBS, food intolerances, rosacea and eczema, weight gain, inflammation and puffiness, or other more serious disorders -- it all starts in the gut.
Stay tuned for more gut related posts! Stress has a huge, immediate impact on our gut health and is a true epidemic in our society -- keep an eye out for more posts on how to reduce your stress to promote better gut health and how they're connected.