The Good Guys in our Gut
What is probiotics?
The prefix “pro” means good, as in “pros and cons”. The last part, - biotics, basically means living things, such as bacteria.
So probiotics means good bacteria.
Our intestines are filthy, not clean and full of bacteria, yeast, etc. Got the picture? In fact, there are between 500-1,000 different species of bacteria in the intestines, mostly large intestines. Small intestines contains only a small amount as it is close to the acidic content of the stomach.
Let’s get back to our bacteria in the large intestines. Actually there are more than just bacteria. There are also fungi or yeast and protozoa. Of course, there are good ones and bad ones too.
Let’s start with why there is bacteria in our intestines. Who would have thought of that?
Actually, these bacteria are scavangers in our system. As we all know, we ingest food, digest food, then absorbs the nutrients from the food. These all happens in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
We always think that this is a very highly efficient system at least it has stayed pretty much the same over last millions of years with the first human on earth.
Anyway, food particles are not 100% digested and absorbed. When the leftover food gue gets to the large intestines or colon, someone has to take care of that. Just like we have garbage man who takes care of our garbage in the city.
The intestines provide the perfect environment for these critters to survive – moisture, nutrients and protection to outside threats.
The only threats they have antibiotics.
Anyway, while our intestines provide a nurturing environment for these critters, they’re also working for us.
Obviously, these bacteria are eating our leftover undigested food scraps. Here’s the difference between good bacteria (probiotics) and bad bacteria.
They both have their own very distinct diet.
The good bacteria (probiotics) prefers healthy foods, and they break down the undigested carbohydrates and produces short-chain fatty acids that our body can use for energy. Kind of like recycling, and renewable energy.
The good bacteria can also make vitamin B’s and vitamin K. And they also help with metabolizing bile acids, sterols and xenobiotics.
The bad guys feed on junk food. And you know what I’m talking about. The byproducts that they produced are harmful to our body. And some studies is showing that having a well-fed robust population of bad bacteria in your gut is the probable cause of obesity.
So how do we get more of the good probiotics guys and get rid of the bad guys?
The way I frequently explained to my families is an analogy to keeping a house pet.
We all know kitty eats cat food. And doggie eats dog food.
Since we know the good and bad guys eat a different diet. We’re going to feed more of the healthy diet that the good guys prefers, and restrict the bad guys’ diet of junk food.
When this happens, the bad bacteria will soon die because of lack of food for them. And the good bacteria will continue to flourish on the healthy food, and less environmental competition from the bad bacteria.
Also, taking a probiotic supplement is a good ways to add more good bacteria to your intestines. This will also help crowd out the bad bacteria.
Remember, taking the probiotics supplement is not enough. You need to feed your “pet” (probiotics) with a healthy diet. Otherwise, they’ll keep dying of hunger and starvation. And you’ll be wasting your probiotic supplements.
What are some good ways to add probiotics to your diet?
The best sources of probiotics are in fermented foods and beverages. It sounds quite disgusting, but these products actually taste pretty good.
Kefir. Kefir is a fermented yogurt drink made from milk. You can also get Kefir made from coconut water, if you’re allergic to milk. You can purchase your own kefir grain, and make your own kefir from organic milk or coconut water. The kefir grain can last up to couple of years.
Kefir is different from the commercial yogurt drinks (ie Danimals), which has only sprinkles of probiotics.
KombuchaFermented tea. I think you get make your own, but I wouldn’t trust myself with this one.
Kim chee This is a spicy fermented vegetables in Korean cuisine. The vegetable is usually marinated and fermented in Korean chili pasta and salt. The most common kim chee is made with Napa cabbage. But you can also get cucumber kim chee.
Probiotics supplement Start with at least 1 billion colony forming unit (CFUs). Don’t waste you time and money with anything less.
Just a word of caution. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria. That’s why a course of probiotics during antibiotics therapy is beneficial. Be sure to take the probiotics and antibiotics at least 2 hours apart from each other.