Tag: microbiome

The Best Natural Probiotic (Hint: It’s Not Yogurt)

apple core

I recently talked about how important it is to have good gut health. Your gut plays such a huge role in your overall health. But in the article, what I didn’t really focus on was how to achieve a healthy gut. And we’re not talking about crunches so you can have chiseled, six-pack abs here. Rather, we’re talking about hosting a multitude of good bacteria and a diverse amount of different bacteria species inside your gastrointestinal tract (the microbiome). 

So what’s the easiest and best way to do that? In the article on gut health, I mentioned taking a probiotic. If you eat a low-fiber diet rich in processed (junk) food, then you should definitely be taking a high-quality probiotic. 

But there’s an even easier, and perhaps healthier way to achieve a healthier microbiome. It turns out that the best probiotic source is …. Wait for it … wait for it…..

Best natural source of probiotics

So, is the best way to get lots of friendly, diverse bacteria in your gut by eating lots of yogurt? How about kombucha? Or is the best source of probiotics some other fermented food like kimchi or sauerkraut or kvass? 

Turns out it’s none of these. 

An article in The Atlantic, which references a study in Frontiers of Microbiology, suggests that the single best natural source of probiotics is: an apple. 

The average apple, the study says, contains about 100 million bacteria. 

Now, after I read that fun fact, my first reaction, I’ll admit, was the following, “Big deal, my probiotic supplement contains 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units).” That’s right, my probiotic supplement, in just one tiny little capsule, contains almost 10,000% more bacteria than an apple. 

But here’s the thing. It turns out that eating the apple might be better for you than popping a pill. The reason why? For the same reason eating unprocessed whole foods (especially fruits and veggies) is better for you than vitamin supplements. 

Makes sense, right? After all, whole foods offer the whole puzzle of interlocking health pieces, from micronutrients, antioxidants, as well as fiber, which the good bacteria feed on. On the other hand, supplements, perhaps probiotic pills included, represent, only a few pieces of the total health puzzle. 

In other words, just like in many other aspects of life, it’s quality that usually matters, not quantity. The 100 million or so bacteria in the typical apple are comprised of a myriad of different types of bacteria. Compare that to the average probiotic supplement, which contains maybe a few different friendly microbe species.

Work On Your Core – Apple that is

Now, before you rush out to your local supermarket and stock up on apples, there is a catch. Approximately 90% of the bacteria in the apple is contained, not in the skin, or the juicy main part of the flesh, but in the core. 

If you’re like most people, you probably throw the core away. And when you do that, it’s like throwing away the world’s best probiotic pill down the toilet. 

So from now on, it’s all about the core. Eat the seeds, too. They actually contain a trace amount of the natural toxin, cyanide. But if you eat an apple or two a day, core included, it’ll still keep the doctor away. 

Do you struggle to get enough vegetables in your diet? If so, don’t feel bad. You’re in good company. Approximately 9 out of 10 people don’t eat enough veggies, especially green leafy ones, which most nutritionists (like myself) consider the healthiest kind. 

The good news is that if you’re not getting enough leafy greens in your diet or can’t stomach the thought of eating apple cores, I have an easy solution for you….

Organic Green Drinks (Core Included)

Chef V’s Organic Green Drink is the easiest way to get your full day supply–and then some–of dark, leafy greens veggies. Containing two kinds of kale; collard greens; green leaf lettuce; curly parsley; green chard, and dandelion greens, Organic Green Drink is raw and cold-blended. This means the fiber and micronutrients are preserved for optimal nutrition and, yes, gut health. Fresh produce, suggests The Atlantic article, might just be the best source of natural probiotics in general. (But that finding seems like a no-brainer in my opinion.)

And guess what else is in Chef V Organic Green Drink? That’s right … an apple! Core and all. 

For every 16 oz of Green Drink you consume, you’re gut benefits from hundreds of millions of good bacteria. And remember, it’s not just the quantity of good bacteria that matters, it’s the diversity. 

As Dr. James Hamblin, author of The Atlantic article on probiotics puts it, “Food is the main way that our gut biomes are populated throughout our lives, and microbe-rich foods [especially the 7 certified organic greens in my Green Drink] seem to be important to maintaining diversity.”

Best Source of Natural Good Bacteria: Conclusion

Remember, when it comes to eating apples, don’t think if you throw away the core that you’re still getting a decent amount of probiotics. In fact, it’s only by eating the core that you’ll get the same strains of bacteria that are sold in pricey probiotic pills.  

Eating a plethora of fresh produce every day supports the intricate interconnectedness of the immune and digestive systems. By eating a wide variety of fresh produce, we feed our gut microbes the fiber and sugars they need to support our health. We scratch the bugs’ back, they scratch ours. 

And whether you eat a huge fresh salad everyday or not, Chef V Organic Green Drink is the perfect way to gently wake up your digestive system in the morning, and gently cleanse your vital organs, and, of course, feed the friendly microbes in your gut.

Chef V’s Favorite Supplements For Improving Gut Health

Did you know there’s a non-stop party in your gut? It’s true. In your microbiome—the home of your trillions of bacteria, both the friendly and unfriendly kind—your gut bacteria are constantly eating our leftovers. If only we could claim them as tax dependents! So how can you make sure you’re feeding the good guys in your gut and not the bad? Chef V has one simple solution and offers her 3 favorite gut-supporting supplements…

It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie and it’s kind of creepy if you think about it…

In your gut, there’s a constant war going on. It’s a 365/24/7 battle between your good gut bacteria and your harmful bacteria. Your good bacteria craves things like green leafy veggies to your diet—whether you eat or drink them. That’s how they grow and multiply and crowd out the unfriendly bacteria. 

When we eat and drink unhealthy food, it’s the potentially-harmful bacteria that thrives in the gut. But never ever blame yourself for indulging. You see, it’s not you, it’s your unfriendly microbes—they have a huge impact on what you decide to eat. 

Besides sipping on Organic Green Drinks every morning instead of eating a big, typical breakfast, I have a few other ways for you to support your gut microbiome. I’m not usually one to be a big promoter of supplements. But having a healthy gut microbiome is so important. Because after all, health starts in the gut! 

So here are my top 3 gut health supporting supplements.

collagen

Collagen Protein

Who hasn’t heard of collagen by now? But I’m not talking about collagen implants for your gut. Nope, your lips are beautiful enough. And I’m not talking about collagen cream for wrinkles. The collagen I’m talking about for gut health comes in powder form that you can add to smoothies or even your morning Green Drink. 

But there’s something all collagen products have in common. They are formulated to help your own body make more collagen. And what is collagen? It’s the most abundant type of human protein in the body. What makes you, you is tens of thousands of proteins. There are different types of collagen but just know that collagen is king when it comes to your body. 

And here’s what collagen does. It’s basically the glue that holds all of your skin, muscles, organs and tissues together. Gut lining included. 

The problem is that after age 40, your levels of collagen start declining. And the collagen you do have gets weaker. So by taking collagen powder, we can support our gut health by strengthening the protective barrier of the gut so nothing leaks out of it that’s not supposed to. 

leafy greens

L-Glutamine

If you have frequent bloating, constipation or other digestive issues, L-glutamine is another powder that can help support your gut. While collagen is a protein, glutamine is a building block of protein (an amino acid). 

So you already know that collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Well, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the protective barrier of your gut. Roughly one-third of your body’s glutamine goes to your gut. 

And if you have a lot of stress going on, that stress could gobble up a good amount of glutamine. In light of this, it might help to take an L-glutamine supplement. (L-glutamine is just glutamine in supplement form.)

Marshmallow Root

Another supplement that can be great for your gut microbiome is not the same kind of marshmallows you roast by a campfire. Back in the day, before modern food processing methods were invented, marshmallows were actually made with the root from the plant. 

Marshmallow root has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy for all kinds of things. And the cool thing is research studies support it for gut health. And here’s how it works. 

Marshmallow root soothes inflammation in the gut lining. Beyond that, it might help to build back up the sticky layer of mucus that surrounds the gut barrier. 

So if you want to improve your gut and, by extension, your overall health, try marshmallow—just not the candied kind. 

These are by no means all the supplements that may help support your gut microbiome. And you don’t have to take all three at once. I just love giving you a few options so you can achieve your health goals. 

Love, 

Chef V

What Is Leaky Gut & Do You Have It?

leaky gut

Leaky anything never sounds good: Pipes. Faucet. Radiator. Can you think of a situation where leaking is a good thing? I can’t think of one. The worst leak of all, one that affects millions of people’s health and happiness is leaky gut. 

How Do You Fix Leaky Gut?

Fixing a leaky gut isn’t easy and it takes time. Unlike calling a plumber, you can’t call a GI handyman to fix it fast. This is especially true if you’ve been experiencing the above symptoms for many years. 

The first step in conquering leaky gut is to stop it from leaking more. And to do that, you need to stop eating and drinking things that will continue to weaken it. For this, I recommend two options. The more accurate but more expensive way is to get a food sensitivity blood test. That takes the guesswork out. If you want to go the cheaper but longer route, follow an elimination diet. That’s where you avoid all potential allergenic foods like gluten for at least 4 weeks and then reintroduce them one by one to see if you have any allergy symptoms. 

There are certain foods like bone broth and collagen protein that may actually help repair the gut lining. But you can’t just sip a cup of bone broth and continue eating allergenic foods expecting miracles. 

As a certified nutrition therapist, I wish I could work one on one with you to help repair your gut. But one recommendation I have for you—besides replacing the typical American breakfast every day with my Organic Green Drink—is working with a functional medicine doctor or naturopathic doctor. Through diagnostic testing and supplement recommendations, these natural health experts can help you overcome leaky gut and get you living your best life. It’ll cost a pretty penny but isn’t looking and feeling your best worth it?

Gut: Not The Same As Belly

You’ve probably heard of leaky gut but aren’t quite sure what it means. In order to understand what leaky gut is, it’s important to first understand what the gut refers to. 

Many people think the gut is the stomach or abdomen. But your belly is just a small part of your gut. Your gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) tract actually begins in your mouth. Digestion begins even before you take the first bite of food. When you so much as look at or even smell what you’re about to eat or drink, saliva starts forming, ready to soften food for transit down the digestive tract. Eventually, what you eat is eliminated through your backside, which is where the gut ends. 

So now that you have a clear definition of what the gut is, let’s focus on a specific area of the gut that heavily influences your immune system, mood and overall health… 

Your intestines are home to trillions of bacteria. It’s also here that 80% of your immune cells reside. Some people believe that in order to have strong digestion, you need a strong stomach. But actually, the part of your body that has the most influence on your health is called the intestinal mucosal barrier. 

stomach mucosa - leaky gut

The Mucosal Barrier & Gut Health

Years ago, when I first heard the term mucosal barrier, I was kind of grossed out. When you hear the word mucus what do you think of? Disgusting runny noses, right? But it turns out that mucus is one of your best friends. Your intestines are lined with a mucosal barrier. This barrier protects you from potentially-disease-causing pathogens like harmful bacteria, viruses, fungus, etc. In addition, the barrier interacts with immune cells, absorb nutrients and is also responsible for directing waste out of the body. 

Your mucosal barrier is lined by epithelial cells. A healthy mucosal barrier has tight junctions between the cells. 

Leaky Gut Explained

So here’s where we get to leaky gut. Because of several reasons I’ll mention in just a sec, the tight junction can weaken over time. And when this thin intestinal mucosal wall leaks now you have a leaky gut. What exactly is leaked? Undigested food particles, toxins and microorganisms (bacteria, etc.). 

leaky gut

What Happens When You Have Leaky Gut?

Bad things. Autoimmune disorders can arise. A weak gut lining can cause rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other imbalances in which the body attacks itself. 

Why does the body attack itself? It’s because when these undigested food particles, toxins and bacteria flow unimpeded through the bloodstream, the immune system mounts a defense and tries to destroy them. This creates a high inflammation response in the body, leading to painful joints, skin and digestion problems and more…

Why Hasn’t My Doctor Told Me About Leaky Gut?

Because leaky gut isn’t an officially recognized medical disorder. The closest thing to it is “intestinal permeability.” But in order to get diagnosed with that, you need to undergo a biopsy, in which a slice of your intestinal tissue is removed. 

There is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario with leaky gut. Did the weakening of the mucosal barrier cause an autoimmune disease or is it the other way around? 

I’m convinced that because of various factors, leaky gut causes inflammatory conditions, not the other way around. 

probiotics

Symptoms of Leaky Gut

You don’t have to have an autoimmune disorder to have a leaky gut. Other signs that your intestinal wall has gotten weaker include:

  • Brain fog
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Acne, eczema and rashes
  • Anxiety and depression

Causes Of Leaky Gut

If you have any of the above symptoms do you relate to any of the following causes? 

  • Frequent antibiotic use
  • Gut dysbiosis (not having enough friendly bacteria, having too many harmful bacteria)
  • Chronic stress 
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals like glyphosate
  • Excess alcohol
  • Consuming too much sugar
  • Eating foods to which you are allergic or sensitive, e.g. gluten, dairy. (This is also a chicken or egg question: are you allergic because of leaky gut or did leaky gut cause the allergy? Hmmm.)

There are other causes of leaky gut but these are by far the most common. 

Go With Your Gut: 3 Ways to keep your microbiome healthy

your microbiome

Scientists say that the state of our gut is vital to good health and influences our ability to lose weight. Each of us have a “microbiome” in our belly – our own set of bacteria. Staying mindful of the impact of what we eat on our gut and following a healthy diet  has a huge impact on how we feel. The good news is that most of the bugs in your gut are friendly. But when the bad ones start multiplying, that's when your skin and digestion can suffer. Here's 3 things you need to know about your microbiome.

It's kind of creepy when you think about the fact that there are about 100 trillion bugs (bacteria) in the human gut.

Imagine looking under a microscope and seeing all those critters swimming around in your belly, enjoying a buffet of the food that's in your gastrointestinal tract.

If you think you're human, think again. We're actually more bacteria than we are human. In fact, your body has at least 10 times more living organisms in your gut alone than your whole body has human cells.

your microbiome - bacteria

1. Your Gut controls your health – understand it.

Think about that. All the cells that make you, well, you, including skin cells, bone cells, and muscle cells, all over your body is tiny in comparison to the number of bacteria that's living inside of you. Scientists consider your gut so important that they call it your “second brain”.

The good news is that the majority of the bacteria in your gut is friendly. Friendly microbes play an important part of your immune system.

But because of several factors including genetics, antibiotic use and lifestyle choices (poor diet), you may have too many unfriendly bacteria.

Researchers just a relative blink of an eye ago have discovered that the bugs in your gut more than anything else including diet and exercise determine your health.

For example, we now know that obesity isn't just linked to eating too many calories and junk food. It's also a consequence of lacking certain beneficial bacteria. (Want to read more on this topic? Here's a good article.)

weight and your microbiome

image courtesy Custom Probiotics Inc

The Gut Health Overall Health Connection

In addition to the examples of the overall connection between bacteria in the gut and overall health, here's another one: joint pain.

It used to be assumed that joint pain was a result of simple wear and tear. But now, researchers believe that the bacteria in your gut can determine whether or not you develop osteoporosis and other joint disorders.

The bugs in your gut can also determine how healthy your blood vessels are and whether or not you'll develop hardening in your arteries.

Moreover, all kinds of inflammatory disorders such as autoimmune disease and cancers of the GI tract may be caused by poor gut health.

Your mood can also be directly related to your gut bacteria. Anxiety and depression may not only be the result of circumstantial, external factors, but also because of your internal environment.

As you can see, having a diverse amount of good bacteria is perhaps the biggest influencer of  overall health. Gut health can even determine skin health.

If you spend a lot of time and money on skin care products, perhaps you need to rethink your skin care regimen entirely. That's because poor skin, from excessive dryness to acne and other skin conditions can be traced to what's inside your gut.

skin health and your microbiome

2. Feed Your Gut Good Stuff – Probiotics & Green Drink

But if genetics is a major determining factor in your bacteria portfolio, is there anything that can be done to change what's inside your gut?

The good news is there are a few simple things you can do to boost the number of beneficial bacteria.

For starters, if you're not taking a probiotic supplement, buy one today and start taking it every day. It should contain at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per serving (usually one or two capsules).

Like any other supplement, not all probiotics are created equal. If you buy a cheap one from Rite Aid it might not be effective. Do some research before you buy.

Another easy thing you can do to improve your gut health is having 16 oz of my Green Drink every morning. Good bacteria love to feast on the seven certified organic green leafy veggies in my Green Drink. The veggies contain prebiotic fibers. You can think of prebiotics as food for probiotics (good bacteria).

You can take the most expensive probiotic supplement in the world, but if you're not feeding the good bacteria with prebiotics, they're not going to flourish and multiply and colonize your gut.

Which is why if you haven't been eating healthy lately, I also recommend doing a Chef V Cleanse. With a Chef V Cleanse, you get four Green Drinks per day plus a detox soup for dinner and two vegan protein shakes in between. The soup and shakes also are loaded with prebiotic fuel to stimulate beneficial bacteria in your gut.

probiotic

3. You can reset your Gut Health with a Detox

Diet is crucial for gut health. Even if you eat a large salad with organic veggies every day, if you're also drinking beer and eating bread and other foods that are rich in either white or wheat flour, your good bacteria won't flourish.

That's because drinking beer and eating baked goods causes yeast overgrowth in the gut. Too much yeast results in the good bacteria not being able to do its job effective of protecting your immune system and fighting inflammation.

Bloated belly, foggy brain, chronic congestion and indigestion … all these are symptoms of poor gut health. And yeast overgrowth (especially from the species, candida albicans) is often the culprit.

If you need a longer digestive system overhaul that will keep the yeast at bay, I recommend trying my 21 day detox challenge. It's easy to follow. I provide all the coaching and instruction you'll need to easily finish it through, and give your gut the fuel it needs to populate good bacteria.

After your 21 day detox is over, you won't be tempted by eating yeasty, sugary foods again. And I'll teach you what to eat after the detox is over to ensure that your success will carry over and your good gut bacteria will thrive.

In the meantime, to boost the friendly bacteria in the gut, you can also eat foods that are rich in probiotics. Drinking kombucha is an easy way to get some probiotics. So, too, is eating fermented foods  like kimchi (Korean cabbage), tempeh and sauerkraut. If you happen to live in a town with good farmers markets, look for stands that sell fermented foods and drinks.

Here's to your (gut) health….

Love,

Chef V

21 day detox from Chef V

SIBO: The Number One Reason You Shouldn’t Snack All Day

SIBO - snacking

How many times a day do you do it? 

You’re not really hungry but you stroll into the kitchen and open the fridge or pantry…

It’s not like new food has magically materialized. 

Yet you find something to snack on. 

But even when you’re done eating the last crumb, you’re already thinking about the next snack. 

And all day long, it doesn’t stop. Popcorn on the couch at 11:00 at night while you’re binge-watching your favorite show. 

Nothing wrong with unwinding after a hard day’s work with some mindless show. 

But because I know about SIBO and how it can cause terrible bloating, constipation, gas, and skin problems, I avoid snacking almost entirely—especially after dinner. 

gastritis from SIBO

What is SIBO? 

SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. 

Because of the popularity of probiotics, lots of people know about the importance of having a healthy gut microbiome. 

Not sure what a gut microbiome is? 

It’s everything in your gut that’s not you, like bacteria and fungus. 

It’s important to have enough of these invisible friendly freeloaders in your gut. That’s because they help metabolize food and release byproducts that keep you healthy. 

In other words, if you take care of these microscopic critters, they will take care of you. 

Many people know it’s important to have enough friendly bacteria in the gut to keep the potentially disease-causing bacteria and yeast from overwhelming the immune system. 

But what few people are aware of is exactly where the good stuff should be. 

Yes, in the gut … but where exactly? 

The answer is your colon. 

And, no, the colon is not the same as the rectum, where poop comes out of; the colon is another term for the five-foot long large intestine.

Gut bacteria should predominantly be present in the large intestine. But when you snack a lot, it can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine or SIBO. 

colon

What Causes SIBO?

There are other root causes besides snacking. But not giving your digestion enough of a break is one of the biggest culprits. 

Chronic stress, medication, serious illness, surgery, hormonal imbalance (excess estrogen) … these are some of the other contributing SIBO factors. 

But I want to focus on snacking here because almost everybody can relate to it and it’s really easy to correct. 

So here’s why snacking can cause SIBO…

The bacteria in your small intestine normally gets literally swept down into the large intestine several times a day by a process called the migrating motor complex or MMC. 

Not to geek out on this highly complex function of human physiology but the basics of the MMC are important to understand. 

If the majority of your bacteria sits in your small intestine, you will not be able to absorb nutrients very well. 

Malabsorption of nutrients can cause autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, mood disorders and lots of other health concerns. 

So you really need the bacteria to migrate from the small intestine to the large intestine. Otherwise, the friendly bacteria (probiotics) can’t digest their favorite food—prebiotic fiber—that eventually create short-chain fatty acids. 

Short-chain fatty acids improve gut-brain communication. And basically every factor of health such as immunity is determined by gut-brain communication. 

intermittent fasting

Why Snacking Causes SIBO

But it can take up to 4 hours in between meals for most of the bacteria to be swept into the colon. 

You probably already know that frequent snacking is bad for managing blood sugar levels and keeping insulin levels low. 

Now that you know about the MMC, add it to the list of why you really should never snack in between meals—unless you have a medical condition such as type 1 diabetes that necessitates eating frequent small meals. 

SIBO is another good reason to give intermittent fasting a try. I like the routine of finishing my dinner by 8 p.m. and then breaking my fast 16 hours later with Organic Green Drink. 

Doing a 16 hour fast will help your body not only sweep all the excess bacteria down into the large intestine, it will also help your body get back in balance. Digestion requires an enormous amount of energy and resources. When you deprive your body of food short-term, it can focus on other tasks like self-repair. 

 (Fasting for 12-14 hours will also yield positive results but build up your temporary daily fast to 16 hours eventually.)

How To Get Tested For SIBO and Fix It

You have to get diagnosed for it by a medical doctor. You can also find a functional health practitioner who can run some diagnostic tests and assess your gut health. 

Fixing SIBO requires dietary adjustments, probiotics and prebiotic fiber, for starters. You may have to eliminate all added sugars, gluten, processed soy, white flour, and wheat flour for the time being. Eat a plant-based diet consisting of real food (nothing packaged or processed) and stop snacking. And stop walking past the fridge and pantry so much! 

Chef V and kale

© 2021 Chef V, LLC.