Gut

Gut Health and Probiotics – Do Vegans Need Them?

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Gut Health: Not All Bacteria Is Equivalent

A lot of people aren’t aware of how incredibly important gut health is for your overall well-being. Gut health affects nearly every other part of your body and life: your skin, your mental state, your energy level, your tendency to get sick from inflammation, and many more issues. Your gut is one of the first lines of defense against sickness; in fact seventy percent of your immune system is located in your gut. This means the health of your gut is not to be ignored, or you’ll start feeling the effects right away.

Contrary to popular belief, not all bacteria are bad.  The bacteria in the gut actually include both good and bad bacteria.  While some kinds of bacteria can cause all types of uncomfortable and dangerous conditions, other bacteria are absolutely crucial for your well-being.  Think of this as being similar to a typical food chain or ecosystem.  All ecosystems have pests, pest-killers, predators, prey, and so on.  Every creature has its role, whether positive or negative, and they’re all pieces of the puzzle.

bugs in gut

However, the issue arises when the puzzle pieces get mixed up and become out-of-balance.  For example, an ecosystem where there are more predators than prey would be in trouble of extinction quite quickly!  In the same vein, the gut “microbiome” — the ecosystem that makes up all the bacteria and other tiny organisms inside your gut — can be considered off-balance when there are too many bad bacteria, and the good bacteria are less able to thrive.

An unbalanced gut means that the good bacteria are unable to do their job, which is to facilitate digestion, manufacture the vitamins that your body needs to stay healthy, and strengthen your immune system to ward off invaders.  Good bacteria even have a positive effect on your mental health.

Recent research has uncovered even more evidence backing up the importance of gut health. According to scientists, the “brain of our gut” consists of two thin layers of millions of nerve cells lining your entire gastrointestinal tract.  This is known as the enteric nervous system (ENS).  The John Hopkins School of Medicine writes that “hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this ‘brain in your gut’ is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.”  Who would have thought that so much was going on in our digestive system?

Unfortunately, there are tons of things we do unthinkingly everyday that encourage bad bacteria to establish too great a stronghold our gut.  From poor nutrition to prescription drugs to alcohol, every day we consume things that encourage bad bacteria to proliferate in our gut.  When bad bacteria thrive, we feel tired and sick.  We get ill more often and feel anxious and depressed.  Believe it or not, issues stemming from poor gut health are responsible for many of the most common medical problems.

The good news is that even if your gut health is poor, it doesn’t have to be that way forever.  If you want to improve your gut health, you can start by taking a probiotic supplement, which will prevent the bad bacteria from taking hold and will encourage the good bacteria to grow.

happy seniors

Vegans, in general, are more likely to have well-balanced and healthy gut microbiomes. They generally consume healthier foods with a higher proportion of fruits and vegetables, eat more raw foods, and exercise more. They may also tend to be less stressed and consume fewer toxins like alcohol, cigarettes and prescription drugs.

Still, vegans need to promote the growth of good bacteria in their gut just like everyone else.  Vegans don’t consume one of the most frequently recommended probiotics, which is dairy yogurt or kefir.  However, there are a many probiotic supplements and foods that are vegan-friendly and easy to find.

Eat Fermented Foods or Consider Taking a Probiotic

There are many probiotics on the market. A probiotic is a live bacteria or yeast that is beneficial for your health; it’s simply another way to refer to the good bacteria that are so vital to your gut’s health. Some popular probiotic bacteria include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacteria bifidum and Bacillus subtilis; but there are far too many to list here.

Although probiotics are naturally found in your body’s ecosystem, you can give your body a boost by taking external sources of probiotics. This allows your gut microbiome to become balanced once again. Although bad bacteria will always be present, taking a regular probiotic allows the good bacteria to thrive.

Probiotics are available as foods or supplements. While supplements are a great way to obtain probiotics efficiently, the best natural sources of probiotics are food-based.

Here are few of my absolute favorite probiotics (just for your reference).

Probiotic Supplements:

Probiotic-Rich Foods:

  • Prescript Assist contains many strains of soil-based probiotic organisms. The most important is Lactobacillus plantarum, which has been shown to reduce wall permeability in patients with leaky gut syndrome.
  • Gut Pro is a fabulous probiotic for people who have an oversensitive digestive system and tend to have a bad reaction to probiotics. Many of my clients use this in conjunction with a probiotic such as Klaire, Custom Probiotics CP-1 or Renewlife50billion.

Additional Probiotic Sources Include:

  • Probiotic drinks such as Kevita
  • Coconut milk yogurt or coconut milk kefir
  • Cultured and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or kimchi
  • Kombucha

Conclusion

When it comes to maintaining gut health, eating nutritious foods and maintaining a positive lifestyle aren’t the only important steps. Gut health isn’t just about reducing the amount of bad bacteria in your gut — it’s also vital to give the good bacteria a chance to shine.

Eating probiotic-rich foods and/or taking a supplement regularly is like giving your gut a little gift each day; it’s fuel for the “brain of your gut” to do its job and keep your mental and physical health running smoothly. It brings your internal ecosystem back into balance, which allows all of your other hard work — a plant-based diet, regular exercise, detoxifying your body — to have an even greater effect on your overall health.

You may be interested in our 100% vegan, comprehensive, easy-to-follow Gut Restore Program that can help you rebuild your gut. Poor gut health is known to be the root cause of many chronic conditions including weight gain. This fabulous program takes you through eight weeks of rehabilitating your gut and reclaiming the life you deserve. 

Our program is designed around the concept of bio-individuality and will teach you which foods SERVE your unique body and which foods HARM your unique body. Learn more about this 8-Week Gut Restore Program by clicking here.

microbiome display

 

 

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Thriving on Plants is a resource for a whole food, plant-based way of eating and living. Here we celebrate all things plant and honor the power of informed awareness and a diet focused primarily of unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains to support good health and happiness. Discover what a little more plant can do for your life!

Disclaimer

This website is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing presented here should be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning any type of new diet (natural or conventional), it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed physician, nutritionist and/or healthcare professional.
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