Learn more about Kristen Ziesmer.
Kristen Ziesmer: Gut flora is made up of a bunch of different microorganisms. So, bacteria, fungi, and viruses, but really the research is focused more on the bacteria. You actually have more bacteria in your body than you do human cells. We have 40 trillion bacterial cells within our body and only 30 trillion human cells.
By having a healthy gut flora, having a good number of healthy bacteria, one, it can lead to good brain health. So, it is directly responsible for CNS (central nervous system) function, which is directly responsible for your muscles contracting, and that can obviously lead to better performance. Also, obesity is a big thing. They are finding that if you don’t have enough healthy bacteria in your gut and you have more unhealthy bacteria in your gut, that can lead to something called “gut dysbiosis.” And, so, that can actually lead to obesity or people gaining weight. They’ve actually studied identical twins on this and have found that one identical twin could be overweight and the other could be thin and a normal, healthy weight, and it all led back to their gut bacteria. And it’s not a genetic thing, it’s just, really, how you fuel your body.
Also, immune function is another big thing. About 70 percent of our immune system lives in our digestive track. So, making sure that you have good, healthy bacteria in there is actually going to improve your immune function, as well as heart health. They are finding that the more unhealthy bacteria that you have in your gut, the more likely you are to have heart disease, or a heart attack, or something to that effect later on in life.
You can have a lot of bloating, gas, constipation, stomach pain, pretty much the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and, if it’s not treated, it can lead to something called “leaky gut,” which is where the bacteria is basically seeping through the gaps of the intestinal wall. And that can cause a lot of other problems like extreme fatigue, even hair falling out, poor performance, that type of thing. So, the first symptom really would be having a lot of trouble with your stomach, a lot of stomach cramping, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, that type of thing. And that would be your first sign that you need to really pay attention to this and fill your body with that good, healthy bacteria.
There are many ways that parents can help to increase the number of healthy bacteria into their child’s gut, and that is by feeding them an overall healthy diet. So, not cutting out any food groups and really focusing on high fiber foods. So, things like brown rice, wild rice, sweet potatoes, lots of fruits and vegetables. And then, adding in healthy sources of fat like avocado, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. But then, they can also add in other healthy foods like anything that’s fermented, so kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, even pickles are great. And that will help to populate a lot of healthy bacteria within their gut. If that still isn’t working, then they could take a probiotic supplement that does contain bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. However, really, the overall healthy diet and getting those fermented foods in is really the first line of defense.