What do heightened stress levels, seasonal illness and indigestion have in common? They’re all affected by gut health. Did you know that your gut makes up two-thirds of your immune system? Or that it’s made up of trillions of microorganisms that need to be nourished?
The health food shelf is cluttered with products and claims that can leave us with more questions than answers. To help us digest it all, we tapped Amber Lynn Vitale, Certified Nutritionist and Garden of Life Educator to make sense of those trillions of little friends we have living inside us.
What’s the gut’s role in overall health?
"The microbiota of the gut is now known to indisputably influence the health and balance of our immune system’s functioning." says Vitale. "To maintain a healthy gut and a functional gut lining—which acts as a barrier between the outside world and our bloodstreams—our gut’s microorganisms need to be nourished." What feeds those microorganisms? Good bacteria or probiotics, which can be found in healthy foods and clean dietary supplements.
How can probiotics help?
Probiotics are live, helpful bacteria that set up shop in your gut, benefitting your digestive system. But not all probiotics are created equal. "A probiotic must be composed of strains that occur naturally in the human microbiome and have a high enough live cell count (CFU) to support our intestinal integrity," says Vitale. All organisms have to be tolerant to both stomach acid and bile salts in order to survive the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
The brain-gut connection
You know the phrase "gut feeling"? Well, it’s pretty spot-on. The brain and gut communicate via the vagus nerve and the gut produces many of the same chemicals as the brain, including happy hormones serotonin and dopamine. When we're stressed out, the brain sends signals to the GI tract, which explains why you might spend more time on the toilet when you're worried or upset. The GI system also sends signals back to the brain.
If you’re interested in supporting your gut while combating feelings of stress, try Garden of Life’s Mood+ probiotic featuring Organic Ashwagandha and Alaskan blueberries.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate gut-friendly foods into your diet. Raw yogurt, kefir, kraut, sourdough, kombucha and kimchi, on the other hand, are great at supporting your microbiome.
Vitale says that you can turn any cold or room temperature dish into a probiotic haven by sprinkling it with the contents of a probiotic capsule. Or, add a scoop of Garden of Life Raw Organic All-In-One Shake to a smoothie.
What should you look for in a probiotic?
When choosing a probiotic, it’s important to consider the ingredients. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains prebiotic fibre or resistant starch. To reap the biggest reward, opt for non-GMO, which means the product’s effectiveness isn’t being affected by genetically modified foods. Avoid ingredients like silicon dioxide, magnesium stearate, vegetable lubricants, sugars and dyes. To remove the guesswork, Garden of Life has a full line of gender- and condition-specific probiotics made from entirely Non GMO project verified ingredients.
Looking for a professional grade lineup? Try Amber’s top picks to boost your gut and immune health:
Dr. Formulated Mood +: Powerful probiotic capsules that help to support mood and emotional health using organic Ashwagandha. The 50 Billion CFU blend of 16 probiotic strains plus prebiotic fibres supports overall gut health balance, and helps manage chronic stress.
Raw Organic All-In-One Shake: Available in Vanilla, Chocolate, Lightly Sweet, and new Vanilla Spiced Chai, this on-the-go shake powder keeps blood sugars stable and packs 20 grams of protein, 44 superfoods, 7 grams of fibre and 21 whole food vitamins and minerals per scoop.
mykind Organics Women’s Multivitamin: With an option specifically for the 40+ crowd, this daily vitamin is brimming with antioxidants. It can help prevent stress-induced inflammation and protect your immune system while supporting energy levels.
mykind Organics Vegan D3 Spray: Counter the cold weather with an added boost of vitamin D. This vanilla-flavoured spritz is a delicious way to get your fast-absorbing 1,000 IU hit each day.
Learn more about Garden of Life and their clean-ingredient products at gardenoflifecanada.com.
Disclaimer: It is not recommended to use probiotics if you have an immune-compromised condition. Consult a healthcare practitioner if you are unsure of what is right for you.