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Blog posts tagged with 'probiotics'

Can Exercise Influence the Balance of Good Bacteria in Your Gut?


Can Exercise Influence the Balance of Good Bacteria in Your Gut?Today more and more of what goes on in your stomach is being put under a microscope—in some cases quite literally. Gut health has been linked to many aspects of overall health, including your immune system, weight management, nutrition, and even mood. There’s much more going on in your gut than just the breaking down of food to extract the nutrients your body needs. Understanding how you can support your digestive system and your overall well-being with good bacteria can give you an added advantage to achieve a healthier lifestyle.


Making Way for the Good Bacteria

For most people, the mention of bacteria conjures pictures of harmful microbes that are associated with germs and sickness. However, there are actually millions of good bacteria, or probiotics, lining your colon that help your body digest nutrients. Probiotics also help battle bad bacteria that can wreak havoc on your immune system, energy levels, and overall health in general. While your diet is a large indicator of what your gut health can look like, a new study shows that even exercise can be beneficial in tipping the scales in the favor of the healthy flora your gut needs.

An Exercise in Better Gut Health

While diets can vary from person to person, researchers wanted to explore the degree to which exercise and diet in combination might be beneficial to the good bacteria count in your gut by observing several test groups. One test group consisted of rugby players due to their adherence to a more extreme diet and intense physical training. Athletes are prone to eating a more varied diet which would help enrich gut flora. The other control groups consisted of two groups of men: One group that had a normal body mass index (BMI) and engaged in periodic light exercise, while the second group were primarily sedentary and were considered overweight or obese. As one would expect, the group of athletes—due to their high level of activity and more varied diet, which included a higher protein intake—had not only more good gut bacteria, but also a variation in particular strains which has been linked to promoting healthy weight management and reduced risk of inflammation.

Food Quality Matters

Researchers and critics were quick to point out, that while these results do show a lot of promise, the link between exercise and healthy gut bacteria cannot be definitively proven from this study. Besides engaging in more physical activity, the athletes ate better-quality foods such as more fruits and vegetables compared to the sedentary test subjects who ate more snacks and processed foods. Diet, as many know, plays a major role in the health of your gut. Processed foods contain sugar, which can stimulate the growth of bad bacteria whereas fermented foods promote good bacteria growth. Health experts also caution against consuming too much protein if you aren’t a professional athlete because the metabolisms of athletes are very different from an average person’s.

Catering to Your Gut for Better Health

The study does make it clear though that sufficient levels of gut bacteria are crucial to overall health. People with more active lifestyles usually have a more varied, nutritious diet that supports healthy levels of gut bacteria, so even if the direct relationship between exercise and gut health hasn’t been established, it’s always a good idea to be physically active. Catering to your gut health with a balance of exercise, healthy eating, and probiotic supplementation is a great way to help the good bacteria in your digestive system gain the upper hand on gut health and lead to more optimal living.




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Are You Following These Top Tips for Holiday Health?


Are You Following These Top Tips for Holiday Health?The food, the shopping, the family get-togethers; the holiday season can be a wonderful time of the year, but it can also take a lot out of you. Getting through the holidays without making a dent in your daily health and nutrition is no easy task. But you can keep your immune system strong and start your New Year off on the right track with a couple of easy tips.

Go with Your Gut

An often forgotten fact about your immune system is that a large part—about 70%—resides in your gut. This makes nourishing your digestive tract paramount to protecting a healthy immune system. Probiotics, found commonly in yogurts, can help nourish your gut, keeping your immune system healthy and ready to fight off the antigens that can infiltrate your body. But if you'd prefer the benefits of probiotics without the calories or sugar of yogurt, try probiotic supplements instead. An important tip for making sure you're getting the right type of probiotics is to make sure they're enteric coated. This special coating protects the probiotics so that they won't be stripped away by your stomach acid before they reach the large intestine where they will be most helpful. More and more evidence these days points to a healthy balance of microbes in your gut being the catalyst for a strong immune system. New studies have connected the importance of good gut microbes to everything from immune function to healthy moods to simple weight management. This makes the choice easy for supporting your immune system from the inside: Go with your gut.

Keep Clean and Rested

Along with supporting a healthy gut on the inside, there are several practical tips to help shield you on the outside during the holidays. Many of us tend to feel rundown during the holidays from work deadlines, travelling, shopping, last-minute gift wrapping, or socializing. Your busy schedule can be the catalyst for a weak immune system. We all know the body needs proper rest, but the holidays can be especially taxing. Making sure you're getting a healthy night's sleep before, during, and after the holiday marathon can keep your body on a rested and healthy cycle.

Hands Together for Health

While it's great to see family and friends during the holidays, the fact is, people carry germs. Think of all the handshaking, hugging, and handling of food that goes on at social gatherings. Hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing can be your best friend this time of year. Keep some hand sanitizer in your pocket and make sure to wash your hands consistently with soap to keep potential holiday germs at bay. Of course, there are many choices in hand sanitizers out there, so when choosing a hand sanitizer make sure it contains at least a 60% concentration of alcohol such as ethanol or isopropanol. Hand sanitizers with less alcohol may not be as effective.

Enjoy a Healthy Holiday

It is possible to enjoy the holiday season while keeping good health in mind. Sometimes it's the little things that can make a world of difference during this winter and holiday season. Try some relaxing herbal teas to wind down in the evening and be sure to stay hydrated throughout all of your holiday endeavors. The best gift you can give yourself going into the New Year is a clean bill of health, so remember to supplement, rest, and practice good hygiene so that you can take full advantage of the holidays.

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When It Comes to Immune Function, Go with Your Gut


When It Comes to Immune Function, Go with Your Gut"Probiotics are only good for digestion," or at least that's what most people assume when they think of these helpful microscopic organisms. However, the digestive system also plays a large role in immune function and according to researchers good bacteria are largely responsible for that relationship. In a new analysis conducted at Oregon State University (OSU) that was published in Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, scientists believe that communication between gut microbes and other cells is crucial to overall immune support. When there's a breakdown in communication between gut bacteria and immune cells, it may affect everything from immune function to moods to body weight.

What We've Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate

The human gut is home to millions of cells, including hundreds of types of helpful bacteria that can make up 3–5 lbs of an average adult's body weight. Other types of cells include T cells and other immune cells that make up about 70% of the immune system. Previous research has discovered that good bacteria, or probiotics, may influence the development of the immune system and help increase the number of T cells. According to Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, assistant professor and physician in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, communication between probiotics and immune cells that inhabit the digestive tract is crucial to help stimulate the immune system into action. However, she also points out, "There's an increasing disruption of these microbes from modern lifestyle, diet, overuse of antibiotics, and other issues. With that disruption, the conversation is breaking down." Besides affecting immune function and digestion, scientists speculate that miscommunication between probiotics and the immune system can affect other areas such as your mood and metabolism. When gut bacteria become accustomed to a high-fat diet, they also learn to "prefer" these types of food, leading to increased fat absorption and body weight.

Balance Gut Health in Your Favor

Dr. Shulzhenko and her fellow researchers hope that by having a better understanding of how gut bacteria influence immune function and overall health, future health care may include examining a person's gut bacteria and prescribing probiotics in addition to antibiotics to help correct any gut imbalances. It's also a good idea to take a probiotic supplement daily to help keep up the numbers of helpful microbes that populate your digestive tract. While good hygiene and sanitation are definitely important to everyday health, peoples' overreliance on antibacterial cleansers, antibiotics, and fear of all things germ-related may be largely responsible for many health challenges that can be traced back to gut imbalances. That's why it's important to make the distinction that while there are germs that can cause illness, there are also bacteria that help you in your day-today life. So be good to your gut because the benefits are worth it.



Taking Probiotics with Medications Can Be More Beneficial to Gut Health


Taking Probiotics with Medications Can Be More Beneficial to Gut HealthBad bacteria can negatively impact your health in a number of ways. While most bad bacteria can be dealt with by taking medications, most drugs aren't able to differentiate bad bacteria from the good bacteria that your digestive system needs to help break down foods, support your balance of healthy bacteria, and promote a healthy immune system. According to scientists at The Cochrane Collaboration, an international nonprofit health care organization, probiotic supplements could help replenish the good bacteria in your digestive system that are eliminated by some medications.

A Delicate Digestive Balance

The digestive system is a mini ecosystem within your body populated by good and bad bacteria. Harmful bacteria may enter your system through environmental exposure or ingestion, but the good bacteria that aid digestion usually overpower these bad bacteria. Researchers found that people who have taken medications are more susceptible to a type of bacterium called Clostridium difficile, which can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach discomfort. However, after reviewing data from 23 clinical trials involving 4,213 patients, they found that only 2% of patients who were given probiotics developed C. difficile-associated digestive symptoms.

Probiotics May Provide a Preemptive Strike

Dr. Bradley Johnston, who was part of the Cochrane research team, stated that evidence supported the theory that probiotics may be useful in promoting healthy digestion after administering medications. In his opinion, "Implementing the appropriate dose and strains of probiotics in hospitals could provide cost savings and improve quality of life." The review also showed that probiotics caused fewer unwanted side effects than the placebos, such as stomach discomfort and nausea. Although the study authors noted that additional research needed to be conducted to find out which probiotic strains worked best for specific symptoms, growing evidence shows that probiotics are not only useful against warding off bad bacteria, but are useful to everyday health as well.

Good Bacteria Comes in Many Forms

There are a number of probiotic supplements currently available such as yogurt, probiotic shakes, and tablets. Some of the newer tablets feature a special coating designed to dissolve in your large intestine so that the good bacteria are protected from your stomach acids on their way to your digestive system. Whatever form you choose, probiotics can be a valuable daily addition to your diet for continued good health.