Who knew probiotics could do so much?
It's not often you find the words "gorgeous" and "gut" in the same sentence-after all, the picture that pops into an individual's mind when "gut" is said is typically a round belly. But I'm talking about your actual gut-the backbone of your digestive system.
Keep it in tip-top shape and you can look and feel your best. On the other hand, if your gut is not working right, it can be pretty ugly. A gorgeous gut has a lot to do with your diet. For example, getting enough fiber and water ensures that bulk can move through and eventually out of your system. Too little fiber can cause waste to hang out in the large intestine too long, which can lead to cramping, bloating and a general feeling of discomfort. If you have celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, eliminating products with wheat, rye and barley are essential to keep your gut healthy as well. And there is something else-something that has been around for ages but only now is being recognized as the gut healer that it is: probiotics.
Probiotics aid in the growth of "good" bacteria that live and grow in our guts. What exactly does that mean? Imagine probiotics as a superhero (complete with a "P" on the chest and a cape) that enters your body through your mouth and dives down into your gut. While there, he attacks harmful bacteria that live deep in your body. This, in turn, contributes to a healthier and more balanced and beautiful digestive system. But that's just the beginning of what probiotics can do for you.
Here are four more reasons why adding probiotics to your diet can get you the gorgeous gut you're looking for:
Probiotics may help reduce the effects of stress on your body
A March 2013 study found that probiotics actually reversed the negative effects that stress can cause in individuals with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Inflammasome is a compound needed to maintain normal gut activity. When patients with IBS were stressed, this compound was suppressed, which consequently increased the risk of aggravating IBS symptoms. When probiotics were added to the diet, however, the effects on inflammasome were reversed.
Probiotics may also help in the fight against obesity
A 2009 study found that when pregnant women took probiotics during pregnancy, they had lower levels of body fat and lower levels of central obesity one year after childbirth. The "gut" you were envisioning earlier in this column? That is central obesity.
Probiotics may help to aid in the treatment of osteoporosis
A February 2013 study in The Journal of Cellular Physiology found that mice given a probiotic supplement experienced a significant increase in bone density after four weeks. Researchers from the study commented that probiotics may, in fact, be another treatment option for patients with osteoporosis based on these results.
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Probiotics may help to reduce depression and anxiety
The gut and the brain are always talking. Your feelings of hunger or satiation are all controlled by this conversation. What's more, what you choose to put in your mouth when you're stressed has nothing to do with your gut and everything to do with your brain. A 2009 study found that mice that were fed probiotics were less stressed, less anxious and less depressed than mice not given probiotics. This study truly went beyond the gut and looked at how probiotics could perhaps affect our brain chemistry and further, our overall wellbeing.
Probiotics can help strengthen the immune system
Having a strong immune system is essential to good health. A 2008 study found that probiotics help to strengthen the immune system by reducing inflammatory markers in the body that may be produced by harmful bacteria.
Fortunately, getting probiotics is easier than ever, but you'll want to stay away from products that traditionally don't have probiotics naturally but are instead supplemented with them. I'm talking about the brownies, white pasta and yes, even chips that now boast having probiotics in them. Instead, focus on getting your superheros through whole food sources such as yogurt, kefir and cheese, as well as fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso and tempeh.
From fighting obesity to fighting depression, probiotics may just be the hero we've been looking for to help us get the body we want. Are you ready to get your gut gorgeous?
- by Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.