Our digestive systems are like well-oiled machines in the sense that they are constantly working to process food into waste. When the oil of a machine runs out, it can turn rusty. This is similar to our colons. There are a lot of bacteria that reside within our colon, both bad and good. Good bacteria are called probiotics and these work to keep your gastrointestinal tract in balance. It sounds simple, especially since probiotics occur naturally in our bodies. However, when our good bacteria becomes overpowered by the bad bacteria, various gut problems can occur such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) —or worse, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD.) Keeping this in mind, here are ways to help support your gut flora and get the probiotics you need to keep your colon in tact.
Taking a natural route in improving your gut health is always the safest bet. After all, food is medicine and what you put in your body has a major affect on how it will function. Foods containing prebiotics can help condition your colon for better survival of already existing or new probiotics; these include honey, bananas, and asparagus. For probiotics, the best food for gut health is yogurt. This is packed with probiotics and can help move along digestion. Of course, it’s best to avoid yogurt with added sugars and go for a brand that only has naturally occurring sugars from fruit or honey. Other fermented foods that provide probiotics include sauerkraut, kefir, and even miso soup…Sushi anyone?
Some people are picky eaters, and sometimes we need a bit more of a boost than food can provide. With gut health becoming a widely growing concern (mostly because people are now coming forward to talk about this awkward subject) a lot of supplement companies are producing probiotics that can be taken in capsule form. This can be effective for anyone taking antibiotics (since they can actually harm the good bacteria,) and for anyone that is experiencing digestive issues on a regular basis. If you choose to look for a supplement, keep in mind that is should be 100% natural and refrigerated. A lot of supplements claim to be shelf stable, but since probiotics are so sensitive, they have a better chance of survival when stored in cool places.
As with many health issues, stress can play a major role in both symptoms and healing. For those with IBS and IBD, stress can completely disturb the gut and result in less than glamorous symptoms such as cramping, and diarrhea. For optimal gut health, reduce stressors that cause unnecessary anxiety.
Gut health was once a taboo subject since who really wants to talk about their digestive issues? Now, everybody is realizing that this is a common problem and it doesn’t have to be. By taking control of what foods you can and can’t tolerate, and by ensuring your body is getting enough probiotics, you’ll be on your way to kicking that gut pain in the butt for good (no pun intended.)