With over 70% of your immune system living in your gut, you can see how a healthy digestive system is core when it comes to good health. An unhealthy gut is strongly linked to inflammation, illness and chronic disease, and many of us suffer from some kind of gut imbalance. It's far more common than you might think.
Anyone aware of the importance of gut health knows the advantages of taking probiotic supplements to promote healthy gut microbiota. But it's not necessarily that straightforward.
Creating the right environment is essential if you want to maintain a healthy gut and encourage the right microbial strains to thrive. And while they are a valuable asset, this involves so much more than just taking probiotics.
A unique collection of gut bacteria for a very unique you
Your gut microbiota is as unique to you as your fingerprint. You have a mixture of good and bad gut bacteria, including over 1,000 different species with more than three million genes. Being at such an epic level, many experts regard this exceptional colony an organ in its own right.
It appears that healthy people do have particular species and combinations of them in common. If you wish to protect your immunity, prevent disease and maintain healthy digestion, your one-of-a-kind collection of gut microbiota must be a healthy one.
What's a healthy gut environment?
To create and maintain a diverse range of microbiota, you must eat well. Consume a wide range of fruits and vegetables, making sure you eat several different colours every day.
Add pre and probiotic foods to your diet on a regular basis and ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of healthy omega-3 fats, nuts and seeds, pulses and legumes. Fibre is also essential for encouraging healthy gut bacteria.
Other pillars of good gut health and ways to encourage the right gut environment are electrolyte balance, a healthy gut pH, circulation, oxygenation and nutrient flow, and the right body temperature.
When choosing a probiotic, you need to get a premium quality supplement with the right microbial strains that cultivate within your gut and take root.
Here are six ways to create the right environment for a healthy gut.
1) Look after your electrolytes
Electrolytes are essential for maintaining normal body function and are critical to your overall health and wellbeing. They are minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and chloride, that carry a slight electrical charge and power your cells.
If your electrolytes are low, you may experience symptoms like muscle weakness and cramping, anxiety, swelling, joint aches and pains, fatigue, dehydration, sleep problems, headaches, tingling and numbness.
If you have an electrolyte imbalance, you may also develop digestive issues.
Poor electrolyte levels can lead to reduced stomach acid (otherwise known as hydrochloric acid or HCL). Without sufficient levels, you’re more susceptible to any harmful bacteria you might ingest, and you’re also less able to break down, digest and absorb nutrients from your food.
Added to which, if your digestion is out of whack, your gut environment suffers and healthy bacteria is stifled while unhealthy microorganisms get to dominate.
Symptoms of low stomach acid or Hypochlorhydria include indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, wind, belching, nausea, tiredness, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), other gastrointestinal disorders and infections, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
If you are worried your electrolyte levels are low, consider taking an electrolyte supplement to re-mineralise.
Progurt Chloride is an advanced, highly absorbable multi-mineral concentrate, that’s ideal if you have poor mineral status. If you’re concerned about your digestion, you can take it in tandem with other supplements from the Progurt range which is focused on maintaining optimum gut health.
Other ways to look after your electrolytes include avoiding unnecessary medications of any kind and bypassing processed foods that are high in sodium but low in other electrolytes.
You can also eat electrolyte-rich foods including coconut water, pink Himalayan salt, bananas, kiwi, watermelon, leafy greens, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados and bone broth. Don’t forget to replenish your electrolytes if you’ve been unwell or do high-intensity training.
2) Protect the delicate pH balance in your GI tract
While it’s essential to maintain a balanced blood pH to avoid illness and disease, the pH throughout your gastrointestinal tract is of equal importance. Without the correct acid/alkaline balance, you can’t maintain the complex equilibrium of digestive enzymes and microorganisms needed to support your gut integrity.
This causes your GI tract becomes weak, inflamed and impaired. You may start to experience digestive problems and the risk of intestinal permeability where harmful particles can leak from your gut into your bloodstream.
Any kind of digestive impairment means that you are less able to absorb the nutrients from your food. The more chronic and deep-rooted it becomes, the weaker your immunity and the greater your susceptibility to illness and disease.
It’s interesting to note that electrolyte and pH balance are closely linked. If you have low electrolytes, they can negatively affect your digestion and gut pH. If your body pH is unbalanced, it will leach electrolyte stores from your bones, tissues and organs.
This impacts your digestive system, gut pH and puts further stress on your immunity.
To maintain the acid/alkaline balance needed to keep your GI tract functioning optimally, you need to look at lifestyle and diet.
Learn to manage your stress effectively, exercise regularly and keep moving. Avoid exposure to environmental toxins and unnecessary medication.
You can also take a supplement specifically designed to optimise gut acid/alkaline levels such as Progurt PH Caps.
3) Maintain healthy circulatory and respiratory systems
Your body is a finely tuned machine. It’s the master of masking things, compensating and functioning well under duress. But time takes its toll, and if underlying issues are not noted or addressed, the cracks start to show.
To break down and digest food, and do all the other jobs it needs to do, your GI tract needs oxygen. To do this effectively, you need efficient circulation and respiration.
Oxygen is transported to your GI tract in your blood (circulation) from your lungs (respiration). The oxygen enables the muscles in your digestive tract to contract and obtain all the nutrients from your food, which among other things, feeds your respiratory system so it can function efficiently. A healthy circulatory system carries these vital nutrients via the blood.
So, you can see how your digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems all work together, helping each other. Each one needs to operate optimally, so this constant cycle can keep your gut functioning the best it can.
Poor circulation means you’re not getting adequate oxygenation of gastrointestinal tissue leading to impaired gut function and slow digestion.
Consequently, the respiratory system doesn’t receive all the nutrients it needs to function correctly and send oxygen back down to your intestinal tissues. This puts continued pressure on your digestive system, your microbiota cannot thrive, and your body starts to suffer.
If you’d like to boost your circulation and enhance blood flow, Progurt Enzymes may help. These are active natural plant protein isolated from probiotic bacteria. The supplement is specifically designed to optimise nightly circulation while also aiding your digestive system.
A proper diet is necessary when it comes to cultivating robust respiratory and circulatory systems. If you eat varied, wholesome foods, you should get the nutrients you need to keep them in check.
Vitamins B12 and folate are essential in this instance, so ensure you’re eating foods that provide these. If you are vegetarian or vegan, be especially aware of your vitamin B12 intake, which often comes from animal sources. It may be beneficial for you to supplement with it.
You also need to ensure you are getting enough iron. If you eat a plant-based diet, make sure you always team vegetarian iron-rich foods with vitamin C foods which will help to increase your iron absorption.
Stress hormones can negatively impact your oxygen resources and inhibit circulation, so remember to breathe, be kind to yourself and find ways to feel calm throughout your day. Exercise is also essential to get your circulation moving and improve oxygenation, as is avoiding toxins as much as possible.
4) Speed up sluggish digestion
You need to encourage an optimal nutrient flow for a healthy digestive system. Slow transit times lead to unprocessed food that sits in your intestines, quickly stagnating and becoming toxic.
If you struggle to digest your food and suffer from constipation, your gut will be a breeding ground for toxicity, and it will be hard for healthy microbiota to populate.
Meanwhile, you are in danger of increasing less healthy bacteria and other microorganisms and obtaining adequate nutrients from your food will become more challenging.
To encourage more efficient digestion, eat plenty of fibre, especially insoluble fibre (found in whole grains and nuts) which bulks up your stool and speeds up the passage of foods through your digestive tract.
Eating pre and probiotic foods daily will also help. Progurt also has a Prebiotic syrup which is vegan-friendly and made of non-digestible fibre to stimulate probiotics in your gut and help them to thrive.
A clean, well balanced and varied wholefood diet is essential and proper hydration is crucial.
Without adequate water intake, your stools become hard, dry and difficult to pass and food and toxins start to back up. Drinking ample amounts of water will soften your stools, and things will flow a lot easier.
Exercise will increase metabolism and encourage peristalsis (intestinal muscle contractions). Relieving anxiety and stress will release tension and promote better digestion too.
5) Be aware of your body temperature
Your gut microbes need a normal body temperature, between 97? to 99?, to maintain a healthy balance. Although it could be argued that warmer is better (healthy gut bacteria flourish in incubation), a balanced temperature is vital.
Research is ongoing, but some studies have found that increased temperature from regular exercise may be linked to leaky gut.
Body temperature increased by as little as 2? could encourage weakened gut tissue and jeopardise gut integrity. Some bacteria may also thrive more than others depending on external temperature, and it might be that if you are sensitive to the cold, your gut microbes may find it harder to adapt to colder temperatures and become deficient.
If you feel that your body doesn’t effectively regulate your body temperature, seek the advice of a health practitioner as there may be an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.
Practical steps would be to strip off and take measures to cool down if you’re feeling hot and adding layers if you’re feeling cold.
Address any digestive issues, and eat a diverse mixture of plant-based foods to encourage a wide variety of healthy microbiota. Also, consume plenty of pre and probiotic foods to promote healthy gut bacteria.
Eat raw fermented foods daily such as sauerkraut, raw fermented gherkins, kimchi, kefir or kombucha. Eat lots of garlic and leeks (including raw), onions (raw and cooked), cabbage, asparagus, sweet potatoes and yams, beans and pulses, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, apples and bananas (slightly under-ripe).
You can also try taking a high strength probiotic supplement.
6) Take a probiotic supplement made from Human Probiotic Isolates
Probiotic supplements can complement a healthy diet and lifestyle and help to ease problematic digestive issues.
However, if you have a chronic digestive complaint, you need to find the underlying cause to determine the best diet and supplement plan.
So, in this instance, it would be best to seek the advice of a health professional such as a nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner.
Probiotics are live bacteria designed to populate your gut with healthy microbial strains, helping to restore balance, allowing optimal function. Depending on the strengths and strains of the supplements and your overall health, they may be useful in various circumstances.
These include re-balancing gut microbiota, easing the severity of acute attacks of diarrhoea, re-populating healthy gut bacteria after taking antibiotics, reducing allergy and eczema symptoms, boosting immunity, alleviating specific digestive issues, and relieving anxiety or depression.
Many experts believe that the stronger a probiotic supplement, the better. Evidence shows that human bacterial strains colonise in the gut, take up residence and become established. This differs from probiotics made using bovine probiotic strains which tend to be more transient.
Currently, the majority of probiotic supplements you’ll find on the market are bovine based. But Progurt Probiotics derive from Human Probiotic Isolates which are identical to those found in a healthy human gut from birth.
These are among the most advanced probiotics you’ll find. They are clinically tested and have an exceptionally high strength of one-trillion colony-forming units to populate your gut.
Each sachet contains a unique combination specially chosen to colonise in your GI tract and replicate. They include missing, colonising, upper and lower gut, fragile, synergistic, replicating, migrating, and birth strains.
As long as you remain healthy, without a bout of illness or trauma to upset the balance (in which case you’d need to take another course to re-populate), these human probiotic strains will stay put.
Establishing and maintaining the right environment is essential for your gut health. Eating a natural, balanced and diverse diet, exercising and looking after your mental health are all part and parcel of ensuring this.
Additionally, you might find it advantageous to take supplements to ensure your gut environment is tip-top, particularly if you feel that you’re struggling with any of the factors mentioned here.
The Progurt range is specifically designed to restore and maintain a healthy and balanced gut environment. For example, if you decide to try Progurt Probiotics and don’t notice any real difference after taking a few sachets, it may suggest that you need to tackle another issue. Progurt’s additional supplements cover the environmental factors raised in this article, and any one of these may help.
Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
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