By: Dr. Ken Redcross, M.D., Medically Reviewed by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. 5/2022
How many times have you said, “I should have gone with my gut?” This saying may be referring to your intuition, but your gut is actually considered your second brain. So going with your gut is always a good idea, but how can you support it so it is working for you and not against you?
Your Mighty Microbiome
Minus a healthy gut, it would be impossible to get the nutrients you need to perform at your best. The gut, or your microbiome, is not just part of a technical food processing system. It also functions to rid the body of toxins and protect against harmful bacteria and viruses that may trigger infection. In fact, did you know that 70% of your immune system lives in your gut?
Your blood sugar levels, heart health, mood and weight are all influenced by the health of your microbiome. If your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is not in superhero shape, it can really throw your whole body off its game. Home to more than 100 trillion bacteria that perform a wide range of critical functions, your GI tract, or this collective bacterial community, known as your microbiome, contains both beneficial and harmful bacteria. The ratio between the two makes a major difference. A healthy gut typically contains about 85% beneficial bacteria that keep in check the other 15% of harmful bacteria, or pathogens. However, maintaining a healthy microbiome does not just boil down to a math equation. Diversity among your beneficial bacteria is critical too. Studies document that the more diverse your microbiome is, the better.1 Bottom line, having more strains of beneficial bacteria in the microbiome improves health.
Villians of the Gut
There are many factors that can destroy the balance and diversity of your microbiome, including diet, alcohol, certain medications, harmful chemicals and chronic stress. Take inventory of these gut disruptors:
- Low-quality diets that consist of low in fiber, few nutrients, and packed with refined sugar and chemical additives.
- Too much alcohol, which can lead to bacterial overgrowth and trigger bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea.
- Regular use of gut disrupting medications such as antibiotics, antacids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Exposure to toxins, including: nicotine, mercury and mold.
- Ongoing stress, which negatively modifies the gut’s nervous system.
However, do not be dismayed, you can easily counter these risk factors by making a few changes to your daily routine.
The Superpowers of Probiotics
One of the simplest ways to support a healthy microbiome is with a probiotic supplement. There are dozens of friendly bacterial strains found in probiotic supplements and they all assist the body in different ways. For example, Bifidobacteria bifidum strengthens gut immunity while Bifidobacteria breve reduces intestinal inflammation and Bifidobacteria longum works to counter antibiotic-resistant bacteria and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Lactobacillus gasseri, however, produces vitamin K for healthier bones and arteries, as well as antimicrobial substances that help prevent indigestion, diarrhea, and even vaginal yeast infections. Some studies also suggest that this particular probiotic strain may help reduce belly fat and lower your BMI.
According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, a gut microbiota that lacks diversity is associated with all variations of allergies, especially seasonal allergies. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study2, of 200+ participants in their mid-20s, who self-identified as having seasonal allergies, Kyo-Dophilus probiotics were taken to determine whether consuming Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and B. longum MM-2, compared with placebo, would result in beneficial effects on rhinoconjunctivitis (of which symptoms include: nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing and red eyes) during allergy season. After eight weeks, the study concluded that this specific combination of probiotics improved rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life during allergy season for healthy individuals with self-reported seasonal allergies. The study was conducted by the University of Florida, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and registered in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
A comprehensive probiotic supplement can contain a variety of strains, some include prebiotics, too. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the proliferation of your good gut bacteria. While we do get some prebiotic fibers through our diet, it is still challenging to get enough on a consistent basis to reap the health benefits. Prebiotic fibers also play an independent role in good health, including improving your gut’s immune response.
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Supercharge with Synbiotics
Probiotics and prebiotic supplement combos are known as synbiotics. Incorporating a comprehensive synbiotic into your daily supplement routine, like Pro+ Synbiotic is a simple way to improve and supercharge your gut and immune health. Pro+ Synbiotic contains a proprietary a-gluco-oligosaccharide prebiotic designed to support bacterial diversity for a healthier gut. In addition to promoting a healthy immune response, the right synbiotic also supports an improved mood. Additionally it can help relieve constipation and bloating.
To find a high-quality synbiotic, look for one that contains a variety of well-researched probiotic strains and prebiotic fibers, while documenting that the bacteria can survive the distance through your stomach to arrive alive and active in your gut.
Boost the Good Bugs
Beyond supplementation, there are other proactive ways to boost the good bugs in your microbiome, including:
- Eat more greens. Fresh vegetables are loaded with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that the gut bacterium needs to thrive. High-fiber veggies can also keep you regular. Try adding artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, kale and spinach. And bonus: these veggies also contain prebiotics!
- Add fermented foods, a method of preserving foods with bacteria and yeast. Sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha and miso can provide some beneficial bacteria. Just be aware that some brands of commercial yogurt may not contain live, viable probiotics that contribute to a healthy microbiome, so do not replace these fermented foods for your probiotic supplement. Take both to stay supercharged!
- Sip green tea. Polyphenols in green tea may help fight “bad” bacteria like E. coli and calm symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and peptic ulcers. Polyphenols can also promote the growth of good gut bacteria.
- Hit the snooze button. Shortchanging the amount of shuteye you get or having an erratic sleep schedule can increase the risk of an imbalance in your microbiome called dysbiosis and boosts the odds of gut inflammation. Go for at least eight hours of high quality sleep each night.
- Get up and get going. Physically active people have healthier, more diverse microbiomes - studies prove it. Plus, regular workouts help ease stress that can disrupt a healthy gut.
Your gut is your body’s superhero when it comes to your health! Combining a well-researched synbiotic probiotic/prebiotic combo supplement, in addition to practicing these gut-friendly daily habits, will supercharge your overall health. And when it comes to your health, it is always best to go with your gut.
- Deng F., Ying, L., & Zhao, J. The gut microbiome of healthy long-living people. Aging: Open-Access Impact Journal on Aging. 2019;11(2):289-290.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;105(3):758-67.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.
Ken Redcross, MD, is author of, “Bond: The 4 Cornerstones of a Lasting and Caring Relationship with Your Doctor,” (2018) and founder of Redcross Concierge, a personalized medical practice designed to enhance the patient-doctor relationship while providing convenient access to a full spectrum of healthcare services and holistic and wellness counseling. As one of the first full-service concierge, personalized medical practices in the United States, Redcross’ patient portfolio includes C-level business executives, athletes and professionals in the entertainment industry, as well as individuals from all walks and stages of life including college students, young professionals, busy parents and retirees. His focus on developing the patient-doctor bond is a unique characteristic of his concierge services that allows for a more strategic and customized approach to each patient’s healthcare plan.
Redcross earned his medical degree from the prestigious Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, specializing in internal medicine. During his training, he participated in fellowships in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, to fulfill his passion in serving the underserved while enhancing his medical fluency in Spanish. After completing his residency, Redcross co-founded and served as president of Medi-Stop, an urgent care, walk-in clinic in California, treating minor medical ailments. He is based in New York, but travels across the country as his concierge practice requires. Redcross is an advisor for Probiotics.com and is on the scientific advisory council for Organic & Natural Health Association.