Should You Supplement: Probiotics for a Healthy Gut?

In the spirit of another Easter Sunday coming and going this past month, I have decided to resurrect my Should You Supplement nutritional series.  These articles are getting progressively more difficult to write since I have tapered my supplement use over the years.  Nowadays I am trying only to use, what I believe, are the essentials that I am not completely obtaining through my diet and what I use has to be safe for consumption with no potentially harmful ingredients, side effects or ill effects if taken in too high a dose.

I have always primarily advocated establishing a diet from a wide variety of healthy whole foods first before considering the need to supplement.  As we know the world does not spin perfectly and neither do our actions.  Vacations, dining out and the occasional junk food pangs can leave us needing more foundational nutrients than we are consuming and proper supplementation can help.

It is difficult to know exactly how much solid nutrition we are obtaining from our food, even if we eat healthy, buy organic and balance our fats, carbohydrates and protein.  Like our daily lives, daily changes occur from the amount of work we do, the amount of sleep we get, the amount of weight lifted and the amount of nutritionally dense food consumed.

Supplements are just that; supplements.  They should be seen not to replace anything you decide to avoid consuming; rather they should be used as an insurance policy to assist your healthy lifestyle and build up a healthy reserve for days that you cannot eat optimally.

By clicking on these links, you can find out more about the supplements I use as my insurance policy ranging from essential fats that are frequently missing in our diets, a little extra vitamin C  for immunity and cell growth, nutrient dense, whole food based multi-vitamins and even some muscle building BCAAs.

Should I Even be Concerned with Gut Health?

The gut consists of the intestinal digestive tract where a majority of digestion and absorption of nutrients occur.  The digestive tract consists of good bacteria or flora consisting of about 100 trillion microorganisms which is about 10 times the amount of cells in the human body.

Gut Health

With that amount of flora in the human gut its function is highly important in digestion and proper health balance of the body.  Keeping these flora levels optimal can be difficult to maintain.

These bacterial microorganisms are essential for a number of healthy processes within the body including:

  • Fermenting unused energy substrates
  • Enhancing the immune system
  • Preventing growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria
  • Regulating the development of vitamins and hormones

Maintaining these good microorganisms is not an easy task.  Natural processes of digestion including the use of digestive acids and enzymes can reduce the good flora in the gut. Illnesses further decrease the amount of gut flora due to inflammation.  Taking medication and antibiotics also reduce the amount of good flora in the body.  Heavy metals and artificial ingredients found in our foods also reduce the amount of gut flora.  If this number gets too low or creates an imbalance, digestion will be compromised and eventually problems may occur that can lead to inflammation of the gut, illness and even chronic disease.

Chronically high levels of inflammation due to compromised digestive health may cause swelling and pain and damage tissues.  Diseases including Psoriasis, Ulcerative Colitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are all disease in which inflammation is thought to play a role.

Benefits of Probiotic Supplementation

Probiotics are supplement form of good bacteria and have shown to have health benefits.

There are several studies touting the positive effects that probiotics significantly reduce inflammation in the human body compared to a placebo. It has also shown to be effective against ulcerative colitis and also has helped patients who are on antibiotics when they were taken before their antibiotic treatment.  The probiotic supplementation reduced the risk of developing antibiotic-associated diarrhea by about 60 percent.

Proper digestive health begins in the mouth and many of Americans suffer from oral health issues with one of the biggest being bleeding and inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria.  This is also known as Gingivitis.  Taking a probiotic supplement has shown to reduce inflammation in the mouth and decrease the effects of Gingivitis.

Conclusion: Should You Consider Using a Probiotic?

There are plenty of studies and support out there which provide some conclusions that probiotic supplementation is best for people who have issues with their digestive system due to poor diets, illness, chronic disease or taking medication that eliminates the good bacteria in the gut.

My typical approach is to first make sure that I have my diet in check and consume foods that have high levels of probiotics.  Many dairy products primarily yogurt, mike and cheese are full of healthy bacteria.  If dairy does not agree with you or you are looking for an alternative try various fermented foods including sauerkraut and pickles.  Of course you want to get these foods in their least processed state to get the highest health benefits out of these foods.

fermented foods

When these foods are not enough and I am sick, traveling or not digesting well due to the Super Burrito I had on a Saturday night, I like to aid my healing with a probiotic supplement and my supplement brand of choice is Jarrow Brands Jarro-Dophilus® + FOS

Jarrow Dophilius

I do not use this supplement daily but when I am in a pinch I have found it very helpful in getting my digestive tract back to normal quickly.


NBC News: Probiotics Do Ease Gut Problems, Several Studies Show

Nutra Ingredients USA

Wikipedia/Gut Flora

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Monday, April 29th, 2013 Nutrition No Comments

Ask Me Anything: Muscle Recovery

Q:  I have questions about muscle recovery: Are there any hard and fast rules about the amount and types of protein I should consume after a workout? How soon after a workout should I eat? Are they a necessity, a luxury or am I wasting my money on ready-made protein drinks like muscle milk and EAS?

Also, what about muscle recovery as it relates to rest and time off in between workouts? I’ve been told that because your muscles need the time to recover and grow, you should not exercise the same muscle group two days in a row. Is this true? On my off days from weight training, I try to do a cardio workout, some stretches for flexibility and some push-ups and planks. If I worked chest and abs the day before, am I working against myself by doing the push-ups and planks?

Recovering from Reps-

A:  Thanks for the questions.  These are two good ones that come up quite often.  In regards to post workout nutrient consumption I feel that it is important to get something into your system immediately especially if your goal is to build muscle.  It may be difficult to consume whole food sources right after a tough workout, so a post workout drink may be best.  Your goals will determine what types of nutrients are in the shake.  If you are trying to increase your bodyweight/build muscle then you will want a shake that is high in protein and carbohydrates.  If you are interested in muscle maintenance then a very low carbohydrate protein drink may be right for you.

We All Know What Happened to Cartman When He Took Weight Gainer 4000

In terms of brands I would do a little research on reputable companies and then get a simple whey protein that is low in sugar for maintenance and one that has more carbohydrates for muscle building.  Check out this protein calculator that allows you to add your specific goals to the formula and it can give you an estimate of how much you should take in daily and per meal.

My diet is one of high protein and I occasionally supplement with some whey protein after a workout.  I do try to get most of my protein for the day through whole food sources.

Adding some Whey Protein May Help Build Some Muscle

Shifting gears to your training questions it comes down to your goals and how you are training.  If you are trying to add muscle, splitting up body parts, and doing multiple exercises, sets and reps for these specific body parts then it may be difficult to work those muscles soon after.  If you are training differently and keeping the volume (number of sets and repetitions) low then you should not have a problem doing similar exercises the following day.

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Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 Articles, Restoration and Recovery No Comments

Should You Supplement? Get your Diet in Check First

A major part of my job as a trainer is to freely discuss healthy lifestyle choices with my clients. Naturally people are curious and want to pick your brain about what you do and what you think they should do. I feel a personal responsibility to provide my clients with objective and factual information so they can then make their own informed decisions. I have noticed that there are a few recurring questions that always come up. Besides the old, “How do I get rid of this,” it seems like the second most popular question goes something like this; “What supplements should I be taking to help me with _____?”

Honestly I can’t say I blame them; supplements are a multi-billion (yes billion) dollar annual industry and companies are hard at work advertising and marketing to make sure it stays that way. It’s inevitable that people are curious about different supplements and I would be hard pressed to find people who have not taken some.

If you train with kettlebells and look like this, you may need supplements

But before I make any recommendations I always ask, “What’s your diet like?” I usually get the “I’m eating pretty good, you know, Healthy.” Then I ask “what is healthy?” Long story short most do not eat as healthy as they think, many lack some serious vegetable consumption for starters.

Before even considering supplements I always start people with getting their diet in check, and by diet I mean you DON’T follow a new fad of the week that got some Hollywood star ripped in 4-weeks drinking some special berry drink. I am talking about a healthy, long-term diet that you will create, accept, maintain, tweak slightly, and live by for the rest of your life.

Most people already know what healthy food choices are but they just don’t consume them often enough or they think they are limited with healthy food choice options; they could not be more wrong. If you are serious about your life and health, get: The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why by Jonny Bowden Ph.D. C.N.S.

This is the best book I have seen on the topic of healthy eating because it is NOT a diet book. It is simply the best foods to eat broken up into their food group categories. No calorie counting and marco-nutrient ratios to confuse you. The book simply identifies what to eat and why you need to eat it. You will also gain a better understanding of where your food comes from and how that affects your body as well. You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

But the question still remains, “Do people really need supplements”? The answer can be a simple No and/or Maybe. If your diet sucks no supplement in the world can make up for it. Remember, Supplementation is not Substitution. In a perfect world your diet is balanced, optimal for you and all the required nutrients are obtained; then supplementation would not be necessary. However not all of us eat correctly every day. We can’t always get wild, free range or organic fruits and vegetables which provide the highest quality nutrient content. This is when supplementation can be used to support all the vital vitamins and minerals you need on a daily bases.

In the next few posts I will talk about the products I use and you can decide if they are right for you. I will try to keep the information basic and easy to digest (pun intended). Nothing I write about will be unnatural or have harmful side effects. All of the products I refer to are endorsed by me though research and experiments I have done on my own; I do not get paid to endorse any of these products.  Now go get your diet in check and in the next edition I will talk about my favorite supplement and how it may benefit you.

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Saturday, February 20th, 2010 Nutrition No Comments


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