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We have entered into an entirely brand-new year! While we still carry over some things from the previous year, the start of a new year marks the chance to grasp onto a wonderful opportunity. We are granted the chance to reflect on what has passed and set some intentions for the next twelve months or longer. Health and nutrition goals play huge into this concept. While losing weight, eating a cleaner diet, and getting in shape are all great goals to pursue it is important to point out that our overall health status directly correlates to our gut health. Poor gastrointestinal health automatically creates hurdles to overcome in order to achieve positive results. Whilst having a well-functioning gastrointestinal tract lays a foundation for the goals mentioned above to be just that much more attainable in 2018.
Our digestive system is both extensive and impressive. This body system includes the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and the GI tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus). The GI tract is very vital to everyday functioning and basic health; serving “as a large mucosal surface that bridges the gap between ‘inside the body’ and ‘outside the body’.”1 Thus, everything we eat and drink influences our gut. “More than 20 million Canadians suffer from digestive disorders every year. Those affected know how devastating this can be on your personal and professional life. However, because few people speak openly about their digestive symptoms, the magnitude of the problem is underestimated by government, employers and the general public.”2 The statistics prove that diseases affecting this particular area of the human body are increasing at alarming rates, so I think we can all agree that this is the perfect time to get our gut in check. In order to do so we must learn more about the power of probiotics and the benefits our bodies can experience from them.
The concept of probiotics goes back to the 1900’s1 and thanks to mainstream media the term ‘probiotics’ is not a foreign one. We are exposed to health concepts on a daily basis. Whether it’s from our social media feeds, daytime talk shows, or magazines in the supermarket checkout lines etc.
But what exactly are probiotics? “The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization define a probiotic as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.3 Prebiotics on the other hand nourish the ‘good’ bacteria aka the probiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics are closely related and rely on one another. Yet for this article I’m choosing to solely discuss probiotics.
“Most probiotics fall into the group of organisms’ known as lactic acid-producing bacteria and are normally consumed in the form of yogurt, fermented milks or other fermented foods.”1 Look on the product label of dairy products like yogurt for the strains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bifidus as these strains are proven to be more useful than others.4 Sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and pickles are other fermented types of foods to incorporate into your diet. You may also come across an assortment of functional foods now becoming available in the grocery stores. “Sports bars, soy-based ice cream, cholesterol-reducing margarines and calcium-fortified orange juice”1 are just a few examples. If getting this ‘good’ bacteria from food is a challenge taking live-probiotic supplements in capsule form is an option. Refrigerated capsules are the optimal choice since they are not exposed to heat or moisture, thus prolonging shelf-life.
Health professionals advise taking a daily probiotic supplement and including a variety of healthy foods rich in probiotics which will provide worthwhile paybacks for the body. A healthy gut is a happy gut. Get your gastro straightened out so you can go crush your 2018 goals!
1. The Journal of Applied Microbiology - Review Article. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. S. Parvez, K. A. Malik, S. Ah Kang, and H. Y. Kim. (2006).
2. Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. http://www.cdhf.ca/en/statistics
3. Consensus Statements. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Hill, Colin et. al. (2014).
4. Livestrong. Best Way to Consume Probiotics. https://www.livestrong.com/article/423608-best-way-to-consume-probiotics/
Author: Pharyne Hrywkiw
Nutrition Educator, FoodImpact
B.Sc. Nutrition and Food Sciences