Did you know that there are approximately 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells in the human body? That means that microbes within us outnumber us 10 to 1, 90% of the cells within us are not ours. We depend on these microbes for our survival.
What are probiotics? They are often referred to as nature’s antibiotics. We have 3 to 4 pounds of good bacteria in our gut that help us to digest our food and get the vitamins we need. It is wise to have probiotics either in fermented foods such as yoghurt or in supplements every single day to promote health and prevent disease.
What are prebiotics? “Prebiotics are the foods that feed the good bacteria, examples include bananas, onions, garlic and artichoke. These are non digestible, fermentable carbohydrates that stimulate and promote activity of beneficial gut bacteria. Research also suggests that if you have a large percentage of good bacteria in your gut, you are more likely to be able to get leaner and lighter. In a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, obese women who took a probiotic supplement lost twice as much weight and fat over about six months — and were better at keeping it off —as those who took a placebo. Probiotics may have helped by controlling the women’s appetites, which seem to have waned as their microbiomes changed.
Unhealthy gut bacteria also produce food cravings. A recent study suggested that some microbes may drive us to eat tempting treats. These gut bugs appear to send chemical messages to the brain which can sway our appetite and mood meaning we can find ourselves reaching out for that doughnut!
Having healthy gut bacteria is essential to maintaining normal weight and metabolism which is important to endurance athletes so make sure you take full advantage of the good bugs. I’ve put together some tips for you to follow to ensure your gut has the bacteria it needs and that they are kept happy and healthy.
1. Make sure that include plenty of probiotics and prebiotics in your day to day eating to introduce fresh populations of bugs daily.
2. Eat ‘live’ products such as greek yoghurt or kefir but make sure that the products you chose contain less than 15g/100g of sugar. Sugar will feed the bad bugs.
3. Make sure you have a good variety of foods daily. This will make sure that you have a diverse population of good bacteria. In French research studies, people with diverse gut microbiomes were less likely to be obese or at risk of diabetes. Their intestinal ecosystems were home to fewer pro-inflammatory bacteria.
4. Minimise the foods which will kill your good bacteria and enable the bad bacteria to grow. This includes meat and cheese as well as fatty refined foods.
5. Eat plenty of good fats including omega 3 fats and monounsaturated fats – such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocados or almonds – to improve healthy gut flora. Inflammatory fats, like omega 6 vegetable oils, promote growth of bad bugs that cause weight gain and disease so these should definitely be avoided.