We really do need to begin giving credit where it is due. That is, start looking beyond the macronutrients like proteins, fats and carbohydrates and begin focussing instead on boosting the population of the minute bacteria residing inside out gut (stomach and intestine). Yes, right beneath those washboard abs you so desire. ‘Coz the fact is that unless we score the right ratio of bad vs good bacteria, all our efforts to stay healthy and thin will come to a nought. And unfortunately, due to stress, pollution and our wrong eating habits we tend to mess up this ratio every day and that’s why it is important to replenish them regularly too. So how does one do it? Well, there’s enough research coming in now that says eating probiotics is the easiest way of replenishing the good bugs. So should one eat probiotics?
Yes, as the benefits are many and myriad. For starters, they can keep you thin. Some research shows that probiotics help you slim down because they make the intestinal walls less permeable (thus ensure that obesity causing molecules do not get in the blood stream). But that’s not all, besides good digestion, a thinner waist and lower weight, probiotics deliver great skin too. It has been shown that in about 50% of cases of acne, the natural balance of the gut bacteria has been disrupted, which is why there is a dramatic improvement in the skin with regular usage of probiotics. Plus probiotics also ensure that the skin receives more of the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals it needs, to stay pretty, and glow.
There’s more! Probiotics help cut fatigue too. It takes 80% of our energy to digest and eliminate our food. Since probiotics improve digestive health, they leave us with enough energy to get on with the more important things in life. And of course, they are great when traveling as then we are bombarded with new organisms that the body finds difficult; probiotics can help stabilise the gut micro flora and keep us healthy.
How to score them
The best, most natural forms of probiotics are yogurt, probiotic milk and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), and pickles. Make sure you eat at least one good probiotic source every day; maybe to begin with pencil in these foods two or three times a week and then build up the frequency.
Next step is to combine probiotics with prebiotics (foods that probiotics feed on) to add more power to the effort. Prebiotics are the foods that consist of nondigestible food fibres and complex sugars that specifically stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the bowel. Prebiotics are found naturally in small amounts in foods such as wheat, oats, bananas, asparagus, leeks, garlic and onions. Breast milk is also rich in prebiotics, which explains why breast-fed babies are healthier and less vulnerable to infections.
In addition you also need to skip bad-news foods to keep your gut flora fit. So while you add on the gut friendly eats in your diet liberally, also make sure to cut back on offenders like too much of refined foods (these lack fibre and can actually help the bad bacteria to thrive) and animal protein (feeds bacteria that have been linked to inflammation). All that junk food we eat excessively these days is a big offender too. It is usually low on fibre, which messes up the motility (movement) of the intestines. Plus excessive fat intake and preservatives in them suppress good bacteria and increases bad ones in the stomach. Antibiotics too kill good bacteria in the intestines (along with the bad), so be wary, and replenish promptly after an antibiotic course.
So go the bugs way to boost your looks and health both.
Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan