Our digestive tract is home to trillions of microorganisms and they not only digest food, they are also responsible for our immune system, for production of necessary neurotransmitters, for optimal brain function, and for the balance of our whole system.
Balance = Health
To maintain a good homeostasis we need a healthy diet and if we feel that our body is out of balance we can add food supplements to our diet. We need probiotics which are so-called good bacteria. Good source of probiotics is fermented food such as tempeh, kombucha, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut etc. When you take probiotics as a food supplement you may experience bloating and notice a change in your stool, which means they are working.
Prebiotics are types of indigestible dietary fiber that ferment in our gut and are food for probiotics. To increase our prebiotic intake we need to add plant based fiber to our diet. We find these types of fiber in apple peel, asparagus and beans. We usually don't need to add prebiotics as a food supplement when our diet is diverse, nutritional, and plant based.
The need to supplement various bacteria increases with age
To care about our microbiota means caring about our aging process. Gut bacteria are responsible for balancing processes in our whole body, but for that, the bacteria cultures need to be diverse. but there is a significant difference in bacteria cultures in our system. The diversity of gut bacteria is decreasing with age and this causes some of our physiological processes to suffer which leads to more risk for age related diseases*. The older we get the larger is the possibility for certain bacteria to be dominant in our gut, meaning they push out other bacteria. This is why we need to be careful that our probiotics contain a diversity of cultures and at least 1 billion colonies. It is advised that our supplement contains Lactobacillus spp., Bifidobacterium spp. and Saccharomyces boulardii spp. cultures, among others.
Healthy Gut = Healthy Brain
Serotonin, dopamin, GABA, and melatonin are just a few of neurotransmitters that form in the gut and need a healthy microbiota. At the same time metabolites are formed in our gut as a result of digesting food which can harm the optimal function of our brain and the whole organism. Metabolite formed in meat digestion -TMAO, was connected to higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease**. As a result of an improper diet, inflammation springs in the gut and consequently affects the inflammatory condition of our brain and the whole organism. It is scientifically proven that there is a symbiotic connection between our gut and our brain. Better still, we can have control over it with a healthy diet.
Microbiota as Elixir of Life
Proper manipulation with microbiota can be seen in our whole organism. The research on Nothobranchius furzeri spp., species of fish with similar microbiota as humans (similar quantities of the same cultures), has shown that proper proportions of cultures can prolong our life expectancy and increase our life energy***. Older fish that had been given bacteria cultures of younger fish, were more active and had lived longer than fish of the same age that didn't receive culture supplement. The state of microbiota therefore reflects the state and biological age of an organism.
When we take probiotics, it is highly significant that there are live bacteria with various types of cultures, therefore it is advised we pay attention to what kind of supplements we are buying. Some cultures are already damaged by gastric acid, so we need to buy supplements which are supported by research and are intended for the right condition of our body. Probiotics we take after an antibiotic treatment are different in cultures from those given for leaky gut syndrome.
*Maffei et al. (2017) ‘Biological Aging and the Human Gut Microbiota’, The Journals of Gerontology.
**Xu et al. (2016) ‘Towards understanding brain-gut-microbiome connections in Alzheimer’s disease’.
*** Smith et al. (2017) ‘Regulation of life span by the gut microbiota in the short-lived African turquoise killifish’ 10.7554/eLife.27014