Williams Icare Blog

Probiotics: Your Guide to Gut Health

Jon Scheer, R.N., C.N.P

Posted by Jon Scheer, R.N., C.N.P
on Wed, Feb 15, 2017

Balance is everything, and probiotics help to improve the balance of your gut.

We're all used to the idea of microorganisms being bad, but in reality, they're necessary for the health of our stomach and intestines. Bacteria break down foods and produce certain vitamins, such as vitamins B12 and K, and they're essential for our well-being. Indeed some bacteria even hunt down and prey on dangerous bacteria that can otherwise harm us. Probiotics can help restore or maintain that balance.

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

Typical signs of an unhealthy gut include:

  • Gas or Bloat
  • Cramping
  • Regular diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Indigestion

Often, these are the result of the food we eat, but in some cases, probiotics can help.

Probiotics: Your Guide to Gut Health

The 4-R Program

The 4-R program consists of four steps:

  • Remove
  • Replace
  • Reinoculate
  • Repair

Remove

The first stage is to remove items that could be affecting your gut health. Typically, foods heavy in tannins (coffee, tea, chocolate) can act as gut irritants. In addition, certain medications can have a negative effect, particularly NSAIDs such as ibuprofen. Other issues include food sensitivities, which may require you to undergo a food elimination program to determine whether you have any allergies or sensitivities to food.

One of the biggest issues is lactose, as many people are fully or partially lactose intolerant. Removing lactose from your diet can help your gut health significantly, particularly if you regularly experience indigestion and similar issues.

Alcohol is another major irritant, so removing this from your diet can help your gut health significantly. In addition, alcohol is effective at removing all sorts of bacteria from the gut, which means it unbalances your gut bacteria, potentially leading to stomach upset and recurring issues.

Other steps include checking for certain infections, such as Helicobacter pylori, and low-grade parasites that can cause significant gut irritation.

Replace

The next stage is to replace nutrients and acid in your stomach. These can include taking digestive enzymes, such as peptase, amylase, and protease, and replacing acids in your diet in order to stimulate acid production. This helps promote a healthier balance.

Reinoculate

This is a longer-term program where you gradually reinoculate your gut with a variety of bacteria. These foods can help rebalance your gut health and ensure that you're receiving regular infusions of beneficial bacteria. Healthy probiotic-containing foods include:

  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha

You can often make these at home in order to ensure that you're receiving the full benefit of these foods and ensure that they're made so that they contain the right amount of bacteria for your needs. In addition, there's a certain satisfaction in making your own beneficial foods. All these foods are natural gut health promoters.

Repair

Repairing your gut and its health requires good nutrition and can take around six months. It takes time to rebuild the cell wall and each of the individual sections of the gut and may require a variety of supplements, such as:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamins B5, B12, and D
  • Zinc
  • Glutamine

 

Restoring your gut health is a long process, but it can make your life a lot more pleasant. In many cases, optimal gut heath can be achieved by following these steps. A good diet plan, removing issues that put stress on your gut, and ensuring you replace the healthy bacteria and nutrients can work wonders.

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