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Strengthen Probiotics' Performance With a Workout Plan

7 minute read

We have all heard how great probiotics are for keeping your gut healthy. Through fermented foods like yogurt, or as a supplement, including probiotics in your diet has many benefits. We have a strong symbiotic relationship with the bacteria that resides in our gut; they need us to live and vice versa. Something you probably did not know is that this beneficial flora can also help with your exercise and diet plans.

| Related: Healthy Gut 101: What Are Probiotics |

A healthy gastrointestinal tract involves having trillions of microbes, which are greater in number than the total number of cells we have in our body. These bacterial strains are not pathogenic and as you know, actually protect us from the pathogenic strains.

Many of these microbes are not only beneficial but they are essential to your overall health and well being. Given that many circumstances can reduce our natural stores of microbes such as antibiotics and illness, it is important to have probiotics as a way to replenish what we lose.  

In recent years, our digestive tracts have shown a decline in the diversity of bacteria living there. Excessive hygiene, overuse of antibiotics and dietary changes has all contributed to the dwindling numbers of flora in our gut. This is not a good thing, because our exposure to dangerous bacteria increases as our protective friends decrease in numbers.

Why We Need Probiotics

The most important benefit bacteria can provide for us is as digestive aids. Probiotics break down indigestible proteins and assist with the absorption of nutrients. The digestive system produces bile to help break down food particles, and this can be corrosive to the lining of the gut.

Probiotics act to protect the lining from the potential damage that causes a 'leaky gut'. This dangerous phenomenon means that food particles can leak through the lining into the bloodstream, triggering autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease.

Probiotics are also involved in the production of hormones which travel through the body. These compounds can help other organs like the brain and can even have benefits for certain mental health problems. "Given that 80% of our immunity comes from the gut, probiotics have a major role in supporting our immune systems," says Emily Bailey, Director of Nutrition for NutriFormance. By reducing inflammation, we are protected from many serious diseases.  

Probiotics and Your Weight

Now to the exciting information you have been waiting for. Probiotics can work with your diet to help your weight as well as help you to recover from exercise. While lifestyle, genetics, diet and the environment all contribute to obesity, there is something probiotics can do.

Studies have shown that specific bacterial strains are present in the gut of obese individuals. When microbes from non-obese mice were transferred into the obese mice, their weight began to decrease. This is not to say that probiotics are magic and will automatically cause weight loss. It does indicate however, that for those trying to lose significant weight, including probiotics is an easy and beneficial addition.  

Probiotics and Exercise

Regular exercise is good for our whole body, but has particular benefits for the gut. Not only does it help to burn belly fat away, but it also speeds up digestion. This means harmful bacteria that is ingested will be passed through your system much quicker, giving it less chance to do any damage. You need to be careful not to overdo it because too much exercise can be disruptive to your gut. Just get outside and having fun is enough to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing.

Endurance athletes typically get more GI problems than regular individuals. Including probiotics can regulate metabolism and hydration levels so can benefit athletes and non-athletes alike. Too much exercise combined with restricted food usually occur together during intense training. This combination can diminish bacterial levels. Taking probiotic foods or drinks can help to offset this reduction.  

Sources of Probiotics

Yogurt is always the first recommendation. But what about those who are lactose intolerant. The good news is that yogurt is not the only source for the good microbes.  

Yogurt and yogurt-based products: Not all yogurts contain live cultures, so e sure to always check the label before you buy.  You want to buy a product that contains live, active strains and also lists the strains inside.  

Pickled foods: Foods like sauerkraut, pickles and pickles vegetables all contain active cultures. The pasteurization processes used in processed versions kill off the bacteria, so you are better looking for 'raw-fermented' products or come up with your own recipe.

Fermented foods: There are a number of fermented foods that contain live cultures; dairy and non-dairy versions of kefir, kimchee, miso, tempeh and sourdough bread.  

Probiotic Supplements

While it is ideal to get your probiotics from natural food sources, our diets may not always allow for that.  Supplements are readily available from health food stores to help.  These are particularly useful for the elderly who may have very restricted diets or a lack of appetite as well as individuals with depleted GI bacteria levels from over use of antibiotics.  There are a few important factors to consider when getting a probiotic supplement.

CFU's: These are the colony forming units, and the most effective numbers to look for are between 15 and 25 billion.

Expiration dates: Probiotics do not necessarily go bad like food, but over time the bacteria can die which makes them less effective.

Keep them cool: Bacteria need cooler temperatures to survive, so refrigeration is the est storage option.

More is better: Look for a supplement that has multiple strains.  The ideal ones to look for are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Since certain strains are beneficial for specific conditions, it is advised to research the different strains and look for what you need.  

Micro-encapsulated: Having a coated supplement will ensure that the probiotics make it through the stomach, so as to reach the gut where they are needed.

(2) Bermon, Stéphane, Bernardo A. Petriz, Alma Kajėnienė, Jonato Prestes, Lindy Castell, and Octavio L. Franco. “The Microbiota: An Exercise Immunology Perspective” ResearchGate, n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to taking a probiotic, you should first check with your physician to make sure there is not some serious underlying problem that needs to first be addressed. In general, probiotics are not going to harm you so they are a smart addition to your daily regimen.

What you want to pay attention to is making sure you have a variety of cultures because they have individual benefits. The wider the selection is in your gut, the better your overall health will be. Get your probiotics from varied sources to ensure you get a wide range of strains. In this case; the more, the merrier.

Read Next >>>Can Daily Probiotics Help With Irritable Bowel Syndrome?


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