There is no denying that modern lifestyle often promotes habit dependencies incompatible with a healthy gut profile. Gut bacteria diversity is often reduced while the so called “bad” bacteria populations gain an edge at the expense of “good” bacteria – probiotics. Given that about 75% of the immune system is rooted in the gut, repercussions from such unbalancing act can range from minor to almost life threatening health issues. Yet, this does not have to be so.
One of the hardest things for people to do is to go beyond taking probiotic pills or foods and implement some lifestyle changes along with that. Such changes are an option for certain conditions and a required necessity for many others. So, how can a person help themselves by reforming old habits?
The most reasonable approach is behavior modification using baby steps. The idea is to introduce a desirable, good practice, one at a time while eliminating a bad one. Keep this routine until it becomes a habit. Then move to another beneficial practice and so on and so on. Most of all be persistent, patient and keep it simple.
For example, attempt to alter your daily diet with foods that promote probiotics and change a habit that destroys them. Pickled, fermented foods make a great choice. Greek yogurt is also great. At the same time attempt to give your self at least a seven hours sleep period. If this sleep time is not a reality for you, make an attempt to increase your current sleep period, even if it is by a 30 minute longer interval. Then, stick to this routine until it becomes a habit. This alone can give you and your “good” bacteria a boost.
For pickled foods, strive to ideally consume daily 2-3 portions of at least 2 different items such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha or other. Even that part though, needs to be implemented in stages, starting with small portions, giving your body time to adjust over time.
There is though additional information that deserves your attention. Sauerkraut for instance, has a wide commercial availability but most of it will not provide you with any tangible benefits. Read the label carefully. If the product was pasteurized, canned or heated then there is a good chance many of its probiotics are killed off. If the product contains sugars, sweeteners, vinegar or preservatives then leave it on the shelve, where you found it. Instead, look for a refrigerated product, with a recent production date or with the longest expiration date (measured from your date of purchase), containing cabbage, vegetables, salt and maybe even other seasoning spices. Health food stores or a farmer’s market may offer you the better choices. The best option though is to prepare your favorite pickled food yourself. It is a very simple process. You just have to let it ferment for a while.
For yogurts, check the label as well. Avoid artificial ingredients, be careful of additives and stay away from any sugars, including the ones that are not listed on the label but the ones that you are planning to add while you are consuming the product. If that is impossible for you, strive to reduce the load of sugar your normally add. Change the habit. Also, look for the yogurt to contain not just probiotics in general but lists specific strains of bacteria, like lactobacillus bulgaricus for instance.
Add needed fiber to your diet. Certain fibers act to nourish your probiotic colonies in your gut. We call them prebiotics. Common examples are, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, beans, chicory roots, green bananas (unripe), oats, legumes etc. Such prebiotic foods can go a long way to promote an increase probiotic population, diversity and longevity with direct benefits to your health outlook.
Other diet factors, acting to promote your gut bacteria diversity, include polyphenols, as obtained from consuming plant-based foods as vegetables, dark chocolate (look for at least 70% cacao or more), cocoa powder, nuts, beans, red wine, tea etc.
Fortunately, there are many options to entice one to a healthy change of habits and some options are tastier than others. Do not be afraid to experiment and partake of the many real benefits such change may entail. Then again, if new habit forming is an impossible exercise and you need quick intervention, you always have the option of a high quality commercial product such as the fortified ProBion line of probiotic supplements, free of soy, gluten, wheat or dairy and formulated using a truly innovative and effective tablet matrix. We will be happy to answer your questions.