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Posted on 12-03-2016

Your Diet, Gut Health, and Probiotics

by Dr. Lawrence Hoberman

            Diets are always a topic of discussion with reference to weight loss, nutrition, and health. Add probiotics to the mix, and you’ve started a real conversation. In recent years, people have started to incorporate probiotics into their diets because empirical evidence supports the argument that probiotics provide many health benefits through diversifying the types of bacteria living in your gut and improving the health of your gut. Probiotics have been linked to heart health, mental health, the immune system, and cognition. To get the full picture, it’s crucial to learn how probiotics fit into your diet.

Probiotic-Rich Foods

            In an attempt to reap the benefits of a healthy gut, you may consider increasing the amount of probiotic foods you consume on a daily basis. The go-to choice tends to be yogurt, but other fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir also contain probiotics.

Increasing the amount of probiotics in your diet is a great idea because of the many health benefits, but simply adding probiotic foods to your diet won’t ensure your gut health or that your overall health will improve. When you eat probiotic foods, there’s no way to measure the amount of probiotics your gut receives, so you can’t be sure you’re consuming a significant amount of probiotics to make a difference in your gut health. You also can’t be certain which types of bacteria you’re consuming, or if they are beneficial at all.

To make sure you’re consuming a sufficient amount of beneficial bacteria you’d have to drastically change your diet. In studies that research the benefits of eating yogurt, participants that see improvement in their gut health generally eat yogurt at least two or three times per day. That kind of lifestyle change would be hard to maintain—not to mention you’d probably get tired of always eating yogurt. Typically it’s more common for a person to eat yogurt once a day or less often. An easier way to make a difference in the health of your gut is to add a daily probiotic supplement to a healthy diet and routine exercise.

Treats: Chocolate & Almonds

            The health benefits of eating dark chocolate—a flavanol-rich food—include improved cognition, lower blood pressure, and decreased appetite. Scientific research indicates that the flavanols in dark chocolate may also help prevent obesity, type-2 diabetes, and colon cancer (due to antioxidant compounds). These numerous health benefits start in your gut with the process of digestion, aided by the good bacteria living there.

There is research that shows a link between dark chocolate consumption and heart health. According to Katherine Harmon Courage, a contributing editor at Scientific American, “Microbes in your gut create anti-inflammatory compounds that have been linked to the cardiovascular and other benefits.” The chocolate you eat feeds bacteria in your gut, resulting in a fermentation of the flavanols and the production of anti-inflammatory compounds that are absorbed into the bloodstream.

The good news is you have an excuse to eat chocolate, but not just any kind of chocolate: dark chocolate. In moderation, dark chocolate is the healthier option because of the lower amounts of added sugar and fats in comparison to milk chocolate. The health benefits you get from eating chocolate are from cocoa, so the higher the cocoa content, the better. However, the differences in the composition of gut bacteria differ from person to person, “We can't be entirely sure each person's gut will undertake the same fermentation processes,” added Courage. Adding a probiotic supplement to your diet is a good way to promote the diversity of the bacteria in your gut, which in turn should assist the necessary fermentation process.

Almonds are another treat known for their nutritious value, and less well-known for the value they provide to the good bacteria in your gut. Almonds act as a prebiotic: non-digestible carbohydrates that fuel the microflora in your gut. In a study, a daily intake of almonds increased levels of beneficial bacteria in participants’ guts in six weeks or less, and the benefits lasted two weeks after participants stopped eating the almonds. An added benefit was the reduction of clostridium perfringens, a spore-forming, gram-positive bacterium that contributes to food poisoning.

Your Diet, Your Health

            It’s not news that your diet affects your health, but now, it’s clear why. The key is in your gut. A healthy gut helps your body receive the nutrients it needs, and reduces the levels of harmful bacteria in your gut. Unfortunately, the American lifestyle tends to include a diet full of saturated fats, sugars, and processed foods, which can be harmful to our gut and overall health. Probiotic supplements may be the answer to reducing their harmful effects, and increasing the benefits of the nutrients we consume.

With a medical career spanning more than four decades as a board-certified gastroenterologist, Dr. Lawrence Hoberman developed a holistic approach to treating gut-related health problems, which his multi-strain EndoMune Advanced Probiotic for adults nearly a decade ago, followed by EndoMune Advanced Junior for Kids. In 2013, EndoMune Advanced Junior became the first probiotic certified by the North American organization, Parent Tested Parent Approved. Learn more about Dr. Hoberman and EndoMune by visiting his EndoMune.com website. 

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