Inside your body there are trillions of little tiny bugs alive and swimming around, going about their daily wiggles and squiggles inside your intestinal tract. They eat, reproduce, and multiply, having an effect on your inner workings - all probably without your knowledge. Yuck!
And if that doesn't make you want to run right out to the doctor - well then - good!
We're not sure what you thought we were talking about, but we're on the case of your intestinal microflora; the army of beneficial bacteria and yeast cultures that aid your body in digestion and immune function, playing an important role in much of your body's systems, including your skin!
Probiotics are Beneficial
Right. You read that right. We said "beneficial bacteria." While the idea sounds counterintuitive, there are multiple strains of "bugs" that live inside your intestinal system. They play a huge role in helping your gut break down food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate toxins, so they're valuable to our health and our ability to fight off disease. It's estimated that there are more than a thousand different types of microbes in your body.
Most of their numbers are relegated to your large intestine, and some in the last part of your small intestine, making up approximately 60% of your stool.
Their direct role is two-fold: they can support the immune system and provide metabolic help. They can help provide direct protection for the lining of our large intestines, keeping any substances that may be harmful to us from being absorbed. They can also help to combat and fight back against disease-causing (harmful) bacteria. Through digestion, your microbiome plays an important role in providing you with vitamins and other nutrients. It also interacts with carbohydrates (like resistant starch and FODMAPs) that were not digested in the small intestine, providing further nutrients, encouraging epithelial cell growth, and modulating fat storage.
When Your Gut Is Unbalanced
There's a delicate balancing act that goes on within your digestive tract, pitting the good bacteria against the bad, and ensuring that even the good bugs don't take over the joint. But when your overall health is compromised and those numbers get out of whack, you could be left with issues that extend beyond your digestion. Health problems that seem to have a direct link to an unhealthy balance of gut flora include:
- Atopic diseases (like eczema and psoriasis)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Metabolic syndrome
- Chronic inflammation (a cause of acne and other skin problems)
A variety of things can contribute to this imbalance such as illness, medications like antibiotics (which kill more than just harmful bacteria), poor diet, and more.
See how even your skin can be drastically compromised when your gut's microbiome is damaged?
To Supplement or Not?
This store of tiny little digestive army men is replenished and fed when you eat a variety of healthy foods that contain viable probiotics and nourishing prebiotics which can work to provide backup support for the microflora. Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh and miso provide a nourishing environment in which healthful bacteria can thrive.
But eating healthy isn't always easy, especially when you're on the run. The trend is to visit your local health store or pharmacy and stock up on a bottle of this, or a bottle of a that, popping a couple of capsules and telling yourself you're doing the right thing for your body. But, in most cases that's far from the truth. The truth of the matter is that probiotic supplements just can't hold a candle to taking in valuable probiotics the natural way.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, while there are about 1,000 different microbes residing and functioning (to your advantage) in your gut, even a good probiotic supplement will only provide a handful of varieties. To complicate matters, different varieties seem to be implicated in differing situations and problems. What may be a good solution if you are having diarrhea issues may not be the same solution for fighting chronic inflammation. Just like with a proper diet: variety is key to a good balance. Without it, you're always going to be lacking something important somewhere.
Second, in order to get into your lower digestive tract, these beneficial microbes must make it past your hostile stomach (acidic) environment. Not all probiotic supplements are up to the challenge. The key is finding one that can ensure your little army men will survive the trip and be viable by the time they land in the right place.
Healthy gut bacteria plays an important role in your life and the way your body functions, having a direct effect on your skin. Understanding that you hold the key to your skin's overall health in your hands is important in ensuring you pay attention to your gut's health.