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Feeling Funky? Feed Your Flora!

by Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD September 17, 2018 3 min read

 Feeling Funky? Feed Your Flora!

Lurking inside of you is something scientists have dubbed a “virtual organ,”1 and your health may depend on how well you care for it.

This "organ" is actually a conglomeration of 100 trillion microorganisms living in your gut. Just as exercising your muscles creates healthy body mass, building up this tiny community (microbiota) in your gut can boost your overall health. Here’s why:

1. You can’t digest foods without these tiny intestinal squatters. They create something called short chain fatty acids (SCFA). One of these SCFAs, butyrate, keeps cells healthy in the body.1 Another, propionate, regulates appetite and can reduce body weight gain and insulin resistance.1 The fact is that these microscopic critters, if fed well, have been shown to support your immune system as well as improve your mood, maintain a healthy weight, support heart health and aid healthy blood sugar levels.1,2

2. Fiber is your friend — and theirs too. You may not be able to digest fiber, but guess who can? High-fiber diets feed these little guys, allowing them to produce the SCFA and other substances that make you healthy.1 But gut communities differ from person to person in how they handle the glycemic content that can come with fiber. That means that fiber foods that do the trick for your workout buddy may not work for you.

So what should you eat? A quick way to determine if the fiber you’re eating has a bad glycemic effect on you is to ask yourself: Do I feel really tired after I eat this? If so, it’s probably not good for you.3

3. Variety — more than just the spice of life. If you want to keep your gastrointestinal peeps healthy and happy, vary what you eat. One of the largest studies ever conducted on gut health found that people who ate more than 30 different types of plant foods each week had healthier gut communities than those who ate only 10 or fewer types weekly.4 Researchers think this is, in part, because people who eat fewer plant foods compensate with meat and processed foods, both of which can contain gut-damaging antibiotics.4 However, if meat is important to your diet, there is always the option of buying grass-fed organic meats.

4. It’s never too late. One recent study showed that changing your diet could have a positive effect on gut flora in only two weeks, so it’s never too late to change your dietary ways.1 Avoid the usual suspects of sugar and processed foods.2 Sweeten foods with Stevia extract — not to be confused with products derived only in part from the stevia plant, or artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame and saccharin.1,5 Also beware of gut-damaging food additives: Emulsifiers can increase white blood cell build-up in the body.1,6 Beneficial gut superfoods include fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, lassi (an Indian drink made with yogurt or buttermilk), yogurt, kefir, natto, miso soup, tempeh and kombucha tea.7

While some studies have shown that probiotic supplements are not always able to establish themselves in your gut, they are still considered beneficial.1 They boost health independently of the gut microbiota through direct effects on your body such as supporting your immune system.

Superfood Shakes offer a convenient way to add gut superfoods to your diet. It supplies your body with several important nutrients, including 100% grass-fed whey protein as well as green veggie, probiotics, prebiotics and digestive enzyme complexes. Blend it with yogurt, lassi or kefir for even greater gut benefits.

5. This is your gut on drugs. A large European study showed that certain laxatives, progesterone, TNF inhibitors (used to provide immune support) and rupatadine (used for head colds and allergic rashes) had the largest negative effect on gut flora.1 Other studies added proton pump inhibitors used for acid reflux.Better known bad guys are antibiotics, which not only damage gut microbes, but also have been linked to weight gain.

    How you treat the flora in your gut can mean the difference between feeling great and being sick. So think carefully about what you eat and drink, and the quality of the ingredients in the supplements that you take. One hundred trillion friendly microorganisms are depending on you.

    1 Valdes Anna M. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ.2018;361:k2179. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179. Accessed: Sept. 15, 2018.
    2 Mercola, Joseph. How to Develop a New Gut for the New Year. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/01/09/improving-gut-health.aspx. Accessed: Sept. 15, 2018.
    3 Guy, Lisa. Why Eating Makes You Tired. https://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/nutrition/nutrition-tips/why-eating-makes-you-tired/news-story/a9f0ea2fc41414598ed218f03794e17b. Accessed: Sept. 15, 2018.
    4 Sandiou, Ana. 'Largest' microbiome study weighs in on our gut health. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321821.php. Accessed: Sept. 15, 2018.
    5 Mercola, Joseph. What Is Stevia Good For? https://foodfacts.mercola.com/stevia.html. Accessed: Sept. 15, 2018.
    6 Goldberg, Max. Another Reason to Eat organic—no potassium bromate in your bread. LivingMaxWell. https://livingmaxwell.com/potassium-bromate-bread-health-risks. Accessed: Sept. 15, 2018.
    7 Mercola, Joseph. 11 Super Healthy Probiotic Foods. https://probiotics.mercola.com/11-super-healthy-probiotic-foods.html. Accessed: Sept. 15, 2018

    About the Author

     Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
    Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

    Ana Reisdorf has 12 years of experience as a registered dietitian. She has a passion for creating health and nutrition content. She is the author of two books, the “Lupus Cookbook” and “The Anti-inflammatory Diet One-Pot Meals.” Find her at anareisdorf.com.

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