By now, you or someone in your family has most likely experienced one of many digestive disturbances, like diarrhea, bloating, or other conditions such as eczema, yeast infections and other illnesses. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to better digestive and immune health. So, we’ve made it easy for you to identify your gut type and breakdown exactly what you should do to get you feeling like yourself again. We call this: Gut-o-logy 101.
The Everyday GutSymptoms
If you don’t suffer from too many digestive complaints, count yourself as one of the lucky ones. However, there are still lots of reasons why you’d want to look after your digestive health. By building up a healthy bacterial environment in your gut (known as the “microbiome”), you’ll ensure your body is better protected when you do get sick, are travelling, or have to take a course of antibiotics.What to do
Many people think of yogurt as being a good source of probiotics. However, yogurt often provides a low potency of probiotics compared to a supplement and for that reason, does not deliver the same therapeutic benefits. Yogurt may also contain sugar, artificial sweeteners and additives which can reduce probiotic effectiveness. To get more probiotics from the diet, boost your intake of fermented foods which are naturally rich in probiotics, such as kombucha, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and kefir, or a probiotic supplement.
The Antibiotic GutSymptoms
One in four people who are prescribed an antibiotic to fight off a bacterial infection will end up with diarrhea at some point during or after finishing the course of medication. Most antibiotics are broad-spectrum, meaning they kill off not only the “bad” bacteria causing the infection, but also the good bacteria that’s in your gut. Even if you don’t end up with antibiotic-induced diarrhea, it’s still important to replenish the probiotics in your system to ensure optimal digestive health.
What to do
A high potency probiotic supplement is your best bet to combat any potential side effects from antibiotic treatment. It is important to note that antibiotics and probiotics should be taken at least two to three hours apart. Ideally you want to begin taking both antibiotics and probiotics on the same day, and then continue to take probiotics for at least seven to ten days after the course of antibiotics is finished, to help with re-colonization of beneficial bacteria.
The Sick GutSymptoms
We’ve been hit with a bad cold and flu season this year, and many people are stuck at home feeling unwell, which is par for the course during the cold and snowy months of winter. When your immune system is compromised, you may be suffering from overall fatigue, stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea.
What to do
Take it easy – if you’re feeling unwell, stay home from work and get plenty of rest. Your body needs it in order to recover. If you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids such as water, clear broth and hot tea. You can also help replenish the health of your gut with an easy one-a-day probiotic supplement.
The Bloated GutSymptoms
If you frequently suffer from gas, bloating and abdominal pain or cramping, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common disorder that affects the intestines. Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world and estimates suggest that over five million Canadians live with IBS.1 Nutritional habits may play a role in the development of IBS, and an abnormal microflora (bacterial environment in the digestive tract) has been found present in many people living with IBS.2
What to do
Symptoms of IBS can be improved with dietary changes, such as eating a diet that is high in fibre, low in fat and avoiding sugary foods such as pop and candy. Eliminating certain foods and then re-introducing them one at a time may help you to determine which foods most aggravate symptoms. You can also learn more about the FODMAP diet to manage IBS symptoms, which may involve eliminating foods such as dairy, apples, broccoli, beans and caffeine. If these issues persist, consider supplementing with a probiotic strain specifically found to help reduce these symptoms.
The Traveller’s GutSymptoms
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traveller’s diarrhea, which occurs if you consume food or drinks contaminated with bacteria, is the most common illness among international travellers, affecting approximately 10 million people each year. And what a way to ruin a vacation meant for fun and relaxation!What to do
Practicing food safety is of upmost importance to prevent traveller’s diarrhea. When travelling to destinations where the tap water is of unknown quality, avoid drinking the water or using ice cubes made from it, and skip the raw veggies (like lettuce) that may be washed in untreated water. You may also want to think twice before purchasing food from the inviting street vendor serving under-cooked meat, or consuming potato salad that’s sat at an outdoor buffet a bit too long. If you want to be extra cautious when travelling, consider bringing this item along with you, just in case you do get hit with the unexpected traveller’s gut.
The Baby/Kids Gut
If you’ve got a baby or young child/children at home, you’ll understand what it means to feel like they’re always sick. Children’s immune systems don’t fully develop until they are about five to six years of age, so it makes sense that the germs they come in contact with are more likely to make them ill compared to an adult with a fully developed immune system. Probiotics can help build a more ideal microbiome (bacterial environment) in their digestive tract and support overall immune health.
What to do
Kids should be taught to wash their hands with soap and warm frequently, especially before eating and as soon as they get home from daycare, school or playdates. However, try to avoid overuse of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. While you want your child to be clean, you don’t want to create a sterile environment on their skin as they need to come in contact with some germs in order to build up their immune system. To make it even easier, a baby or kid’s probiotic can be easily incorporated in a child’s diet to give them that extra protection.
- Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Accessed from: http://www.cdhf.ca/en/disorders/details/id/12
- Niedzielin K, Kordecki H, Birkenfeld B. (2001). A controlled, double-blind, randomized study on the efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum 299V in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 13: 1143-47.