One of my goals for the New Year is to focus on gut health. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’ve had horrible issues with my gut over the years. You can read more on my About page, but in short, I had a colonoscopy at age 18 and doctors wanted to put me on medication for life. I said uhhhh no thanks and started my journey towards finding a better solution. And that solution for me has been using diet and stress management to control my symptoms.
One thing I’ve added fairly recently to my diet is probiotics. I didn’t really know much about them, but when my gut issues flared up when I was living in Charlotte, one of my doctor friends suggested adding a probiotic to my diet. (Charlotte life was super stressful for many reasons, which likely triggered the flare-up.)
Probiotics have been a game changer for me. My digestion seems to be working better (if you catch my drift) and when my digestion is working, I’m MUCH happier.
The Perks of Probiotics
While I’m not trying to lose weight, there is research that shows our gut bacteria and the type of species we have in our digestive tract play a critical role in determining if we are lean or obese. And some studies show that an imbalanced gut flora can make us crave sugar – now THAT interests me. I go through phases where I’m craving sugar like crazy, and if I “feed” that craving with a treat, it gets worse day after day. Since I’m never going to give up sugar entirely, I like the idea that I can have more control over my cravings with a healthy gut!
(Coffee table details here)
How to Take Probiotics & the Role of Fiber
I’ve recently been taking Silver Fern’s Ultimate Probiotic in the mornings. I used to take my probiotic at night, thinking that it would have time to stay in my system, “working overnight” and benefit me more. But, I recently read that good bacteria in probiotics love fiber and eating a meal with the probiotic that’s high in fiber and low in sugar helps support the growth of the good bacteria. On the other hand, “bad” bacteria love sugar and simple carbohydrates. If you have too much bad bacteria, you’re more likely to get sugar and carbohydrate cravings.
Silver Fern has a fiber supplement you can take with probiotics. But, so far I’ve been getting my fiber from a high fiber breakfast rather than the supplement. I try to introduce only one thing at time to monitor any reaction (positive or negative). Their fiber is next on my to-try list now that I know their probiotic is working well.
How to feed the good bacteria
It’s not enough to eat a high-fiber diet, hoping to feed the healthy bugs already in your gut. Many of the “bad” bacteria that exist in your gut can also consume the fiber and turn that fiber into gas. And too much fiber can cause distress – you eat a bunch of “healthy” high-fiber foods and you get super gassy and bloating.
The reason that happens is because the bad bacteria in the gut convert the fiber into hydrogen and methane gas instead good compounds known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). If you eat low-sugar, high-fiber foods with the right probiotic, the fiber will be converted to SCFAs instead of gas. This seems like a critical step when you’re upping fiber, which a lot of us are doing with New Year’s Resolutions to eat healthier!
Which Probiotic I Take & Probiotic Fun Facts
I’ve been taking Silver Fern’s Ultimate Probiotic the past month or so and have been really happy with it. It’s the first probiotic on the market that has three of the world’s most well studied and widely used probiotic strains: Saccharomyces boulardii; Bacillus species (Bacillus subtilis HU58, Bacillus clausii, and Bacillus coagulans); and Pediococcus acidilactici. Don’t ask me how to pronounce them. 😉
Fun bacteria facts (I’m a nerd but I thought this was all so interesting!):
- Bacillus Coagulans is a powerful probiotic strain that is therapeutically prescribed to patients needing acute immune support in Israel, France & Germany.
- Research and clinical practice has shown strong evidence for b. coagulans’ ability to fight off invading viruses and pathogens.
- Bacillus coagulans typically lives in the digestive tract. It’s can help decrease abdominal pain and bloating symptoms caused by IBS
- B. coagulans is closely related to other soil-based-organism probiotics.
- B. coagulans was first discovered around 1930. It was even used in World War II to treat people with digestive issues such as dysentery.
One tip the folks at Silver Fern suggested was to consume all my calories for the day in an 8-10 hour window. Having a fasting period of 12+ hours in the day allows for beneficial bacterial growth. Our gut microbes go through a cycle like our circadian rhythm. And when we are in “fed” state for much of the day, we prevent the beneficial microbial recycling from happening. So, I usually eat dinner around 8:00 pm and breakfast around 8 AM. This provides a 12 hour window of “fasting” while I sleep, i.e. it doesn’t feel like fasting. (Note: I do most of my runs on an empty stomach in the morning. On extra-hard run days, I break this rule so I can have fuel beforehand!)
Gut health = Overall Health
I’m fascinated by all the new research being done about gut health, its impact on overall health and how probiotics play a role. I’d love to hear about your experiences with probiotics so be sure to share in the comments!
This post was sponsored by Silver Fern. As always, opinions are my own.