Why Probiotics Aren’t The Key To A Healthy Gut

It seems like everyone has probiotics on the mind. These “friendly” bacteria are taken to improve gut health, something we now know is central to our overall well-being. While the growing awareness is amazing, probiotics should actually step aside for something better. Yes, you read that right: Probiotics aren’t the only answer. Don’t forget that probiotics are still foreign invaders. Sure, they mean well, but the body may not be prepared. It’s a lot like a friend showing up at your house without notice.

In the case of your gut, it’s a lot about the intestinal barrier. The mucus layer stops trillions of bacteria from constantly touching the surface. The stronger it is, the better everything will stay where they’re supposed to. Does that mean you should ditch the probiotics? Not really. Instead of depending on probiotics, focus on strengthening your intestinal barrier with certain foods.1

What Probiotics Do Best

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The gut houses both good and bad bacteria. When there’s a healthy balance, everyone gets along just fine. This also means that the gut, the body’s first line of defense, does its duty of supporting your immune system. It even controls appetite and regulates cognitive and emotional function through the gut-brain axis.2 3 4

But when there aren’t enough good guys, things get a little wonky. This can happen after taking antibiotics or dealing with a bad bout of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or other digestive issues. That’s where probiotics come in. By introducing good bacteria, the gut microbiome will be balanced again. Most probiotics are bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups, along with Saccharomyces boulardii, a type of yeast.5

The Power Of The Intestinal Barrier

The intestinal barrier is a natural defense against gut inflammation

Managing gut health doesn’t stop at eating probiotics. In fact, strengthening the intestinal barrier matters even more. The bowel has a thick mucus layer that prevents gut bacteria from invading the intestinal wall. Otherwise, that bacteria will intrude and cause inflammation, a tell-tale sign that the barrier has broken. Tummy troubles are sure to come.6

That’s

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where fiber comes in. Without enough of this nutrient, gut bacteria don’t have anything to eat, so they go for mucus glycoproteins. In turn, the mucus barrier becomes weak and thin, making it easier for harmful pathogens to sneak in.7

Fiber For Gut Health

Best fiber-rich foods include oatmeal, legumes, fruits, and veggies

By eating enough fiber, gut bacteria will have something to feast on. Adequate intake will also balance the bacteria living in the gut, to begin with. As an added bonus, you’ll also reduce the risk of weight gain, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Unfortunately, many of us don’t eat enough! The recommended intake is 20 to 30 grams a day, but most get 15 grams daily. The top sources include:8

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  • Vegetables and fruits, especially prunes
  • Whole grains like couscous and brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Legumes and nuts

Just don’t eat too much fiber too fast. It’s a perfect setup for constipation, so increase intake slowly.9 Drink lots of water so the fiber has something to absorb. Your gut will love it.

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