While most of us have experience with making sure we’re eating clean, healthy foods (especially if we’re trying to lose weight), we tend to overlook a major factor in actually getting the nutrients from these foods.
And this major factor is: gut health.
You know the saying, “You are what you eat”? This is definitely true to an extent, but I would take it even further and state: “You are what you digest.”
Aside from getting in the right nutrients and balancing carbs, proteins, and fats, we also have to think about digestion itself when it comes to being truly healthy, since if we aren’t digesting foods properly, we aren’t actually unlocking and absorbing their nutrients!
So how can we ensure our guts are healthy and digesting food efficiently?
By making sure we’re getting enough enzymes (which help break down food), probiotics (which help fight bad bacteria and send positive or negative signals to our brain, affecting our mood, while also helping digestion), and prebiotics, which feed those probiotics to keep them happy and thriving.
In truth, there are millions of friendly bacteria living and working in our body, and the bacteria living in our intestines is especially important when it comes to our digestive health. This colony of bacteria, known as the gut microbiome, plays a big role in digestion and brain function.
And what’s more: it looks like they can actually help us lose weight and manage a healthy body composition!
Making the effort to eat right can still fall flat if you aren’t giving your gut health any attention, so let’s dive into the details about probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes and cover why they’re important for your health and body weight.
To maximize the health of your gut microbiome, you need to make sure that it’s full of “good” bacteria species that can help with digestion and other important body functions. The kinds of bacteria we have in our gut can vary based on a couple of environmental factors … and one of the best ways to ensure you have enough “friendly” bacteria in your gut is by ingesting them.
Probiotics are just that: live bacteria, yeasts, and other microbes that you can get from your diet or supplements. They then go on to populate your gut with the beneficial colonies of bacteria you need to support a healthy body.
They’re also important for replacing any good bacteria you lose (for example, from illness or poor diet) and for taking up space so that “bad” bacteria can’t establish their own colonies.
The Benefits of Taking Probiotics:
- Promotes healthy digestion. Having a healthy gut microbiome is crucial for aiding the digestion of the foods you eat. Probiotics are so important for this process that they’re even good for promoting healthy bowels and preventing both diarrhea and constipation. [*]
- A healthy gut can equal healthy body weight. While there’s still more research to be done, because the bacteria in our gut has been shown to affect the way our bodies metabolize and use energy, several studies have proven that certain strains of probiotics, especially the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium kind, can actually promote a healthy body weight! [*]
- Can help your immune health. There are some studies that support the idea that introducing probiotics into your diet can actually help with reducing the symptoms of some allergic reactions. [*]
You can get probiotics naturally in your diet, especially when you reach for fermented foods like kimchi, non-dairy yogurt, and sauerkraut. If you don’t get enough probiotics from your diet alone, there are also supplements you can take to give your gut health a boost!
To get your daily dose of probiotics, alongside digestive enzymes and prebiotics, try Onnit’s Total Gut Health here! Use CODE: PRIMAL for 10% Off.
If you’re concerned about promoting the healthy bacteria in your gut, you need to be feeding them right and getting plenty of prebiotics in your diet.
Prebiotics can essentially be thought of as the “food” for the bacteria in your gut microbiome. They’re special plant fibers that your body can’t digest on their own – however, the bacteria in your gut microbiome can put them to use and digest them themselves. It’s food for bacteria!
Benefits of Prebiotics:
- Promotes a healthy gut flora. Because the bacteria in your gut can break down and digest these special fibers, getting enough prebiotics is crucial for maintaining good digestive and gut health. In other words, you shouldn’t have probiotics without prebiotics!
- Promotes weight loss. The studies around prebiotics are promising when it comes to weight loss. In fact, one study found that introducing prebiotics into the diet of obese children resulted in reduced body fat! [*]
You should be getting a decent amount of prebiotic fibers in your diet already if you’re eating a balanced diet since it can be found in lots of veggies, fruits, and things like sunchokes and dandelion roots. There are also prebiotic dietary supplements you can take to maximize the growth of your healthy gut bacteria (again, you can find them alongside probiotics and enzymes in Onnit’s Total Gut Health, the supplement I personally use!).
There’s another important player in the digestion game: digestive enzymes. These enzymes are proteins that are responsible for breaking down your food during digestion.
The three main digestive enzymes are:
- protease, which breaks down protein
- lipase, which breaks down fats
- and amylase, for digesting carbohydrates
This is your body’s natural process for breaking down your food, and as such your body already creates digestive enzymes on its own. However, supplementation of digestive enzymes is proving to be an interesting method for boosting your health and promoting weight loss.
The Benefits of Digestive Enzymes:
- Essential for digestion. Because these enzymes are crucial for breaking down your complex nutrients into smaller and more absorbable forms, digestive enzymes can go a long way in assisting your normal digestion process. Otherwise, these nutrients wouldn’t absorb at all! They’re especially helpful if you don’t produce enough digestive enzymes on your own, which could lead to uncomfortable symptoms like bloating. [*]
- Great for the gut microbiome. Along with prebiotics and probiotics, taking digestive enzymes also look like a good way to promote a healthy gut microbiome, which we now know is great for promoting a healthy body weight. [*]
- Fights off digestive trouble. Because digestive enzymes can help digest foods that you would otherwise have a hard time with, taking supplements can help to improve conditions like IBS and heartburn. In addition, there are also other digestive enzymes like lactase that may be included in any enzymatic supplements you take, which is helpful for breaking down lactose – perfect for alleviating lactose intolerance!
The Bottom Line
• You are what you digest; if your gut health is not up to par, you may not be absorbing nutrients efficiently, even if you are eating healthy.
• Probiotics are “good” bacteria that populate your gut, helping with digestion, weight loss, and absorption of nutrients
• Prebiotics help “feed” the good bacteria in your gut, so that they thrive
• Enzymes help break down all food in your gut, and help extract nutrients. They can assist with bloating and breaking down hard-to-digest foods.
• Research shows that probiotics, enzymes, and prebiotics can help with weight loss alongside optimizing your digestion