Did you know that your intestinal (GI) tract contains over 1000 species of bacteria?[i] Humans carry around more cells of other organisms than human cells and many are in the colon. These bacteria eat what you eat, and a surprising amount of the microbial digestion products make it into your blood stream and body. Different species of digestive tract microorganisms thrive on different foods. Thus when we alter our dietary intake of things like fiber, simple sugars, protein, fat, and many other nutrients, we are literally either feeding or starving different populations of gut bacteria!
Healthy Diet, Healthy Bowel, Healthy You
Thankfully, studies are revealing that the vast majority of microbial species that positively affect human health thrive on what are considered healthy diets for humans.[ii] On the other hand, the bacteria that produce metabolites harmful to human health thrive on unhealthy foods. Thus by changing what we are feeding them, we can feed the good bacteria and starve out the bad, or we can do just the opposite. And this will either boost the health-promoting byproducts of microbial activity in our digestive tract or increase the toxic metabolites of 'bad' bacteria.
Unfortunately, the diets of most people leave something to be desired. For a variety of reasons, many people have a sub-optimal balance of good and bad bacteria in their digestive tract. The medical community has long suspected that something microbial was involved in gastrointestinal health problems. For many years, doctors have used fecal transplants in cases of difficult gastrointestinal problems in order to transfer the benefits of a healthy bowel to a diseased one. But only recently has research begun to reveal the full impact of gut microorganisms on human health.[iii] For instance, studies have shown a shocking correlation between gastrointestinal problems and serious mental illness. Researchers at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England, observed that 90% of the patients who repeatedly sought treatment for digestive tract symptoms had at least one current psychiatric diagnosis - 48% had at least two.[iv] The billions of little molecules released into your bloodstream by the bacteria in your own body (digesting whatever you give them) can have a significant impact on almost every aspect of your metabolism and your health.
So...eat your vegetables and maybe replace a few sweets with some probiotic yogurt! It's not only good for you, but it is good for the populations of bacteria that you want to thrive in your gut - the good ones.[v] But even your best efforts at lifestyle change can use a boost, especially if you have reached the point where you have health problems that need correcting. It takes a lot of time and effort to change the entire bowel ecosystem. Thankfully, there are ways to speed up the process.
One way to influence the populations of bacteria in your gut is to alter what you eat - what you feed them. Products using this approach are called "prebiotics." Prebiotics are an increasing focus in the food and supplement worlds. A second way to change your gut 'microflora' is to insert some more of the bacteria you want and help out-compete the bad guys for resources and living space in your colon. Products that do this are called "probiotics" and they are also increasingly popular.
Science Helps Us Make Better Choices
At Hardy Nutritionals® we have carefully chosen a blend of both healthy probiotic bacteria and the prebiotics they need to feed on to thrive, in order to bring you a powerful tool that you can trust to help you regain and maintain a healthy bowel. Since some of our customers prefer to mix this goodness into their smoothies and food rather than take a capsule, we are proud to announce that we will soon be offering our Greens & Probiotics in a powder form! To celebrate this event, we want to walk you through some of the ingredients and review what they can do for your gastrointestinal health, and therefore your overall health!
Hardy Nutritionals® Greens & Probiotics is a rich blend of green Superfoods that combines beneficial bacteria, botanicals, algae, and enzymes designed to maintain and promote a healthy digestive system, stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms, and promote digestion and GI motility. Greens & Probiotics can be used alone or in conjunction with Hardy Nutritionals® Olive Leaf Extract.
Greens & Probiotics has several helpful categories of ingredients:
- Emulsifiers and surfactants which help to break up fats and help hold water/moisture in the intestines
- Anti-foaming agents which lower the surface tension of gas bubbles helping them to disperse
- Fiber which help to increase the viscosity and volume of stool
- Demulcents which form a soothing film over mucus membranes which may help to relieve minor pain and inflammation
- Cleansing agents that help remove toxins
- Antifungal and antibacterial activity to help keep a healthy balance of beneficial microflora
- Natural deodorizers
- Fructooligosaccharides which serve as a substrate (food) for healthy microflora
- Agents that help to reduce inflammation
- Agents that help increase overall antioxidant status
- Enzymes to help digest starches and proteins
Alfalfa contains a class of chemical compounds called saponins. Saponins are soap like agents, or emulsifiers/surfactants that have hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties. They play a possible role in enhancing the penetration of macromolecules such as proteins through cell membranes, and helping to disperse fat globules. They may also have some antifungal activity.
Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides (short-chain sugars) produced by many types of plants including apples. They belong to a class of fibers known as fructans. Inulins are polymers composed mainly of fructose units, and typically have a terminal glucose, unlike starch which is composed entirely of glucose. The simplest inulins are called fructooligosaccharides.
Lecithin has emulsification and lubricant properties, and is also a surfactant. Lecithin can be totally metabolized by humans, so is well tolerated by humans and non-toxic when ingested.
Besides being a source of dietary fiber pectin is a complexly branched inulin. In the diet it helps to increase the viscosity and volume of stool. Apple pectin was one of the principle ingredients in Kaopectate, a treatment for mild diarrhea, until 2002. As a demulcent it also forms a soothing film over mucus membranes which can help to relieve minor pain and inflammation. Pectin has shown a light antimicrobial action toward E coli, and it has been shown to be effective in removing lead and mercury from the gastrointestinal tract.
Barley grass by itself is a concentrated nutritious whole food. Barley grass (and wheat grass) is rich in chlorophyll. Besides being an antioxidant, chlorophyll slows the growth of certain anaerobic bacteria and has been shown to reduce ulcers and colitis. Chlorophyll has also been shown to deodorize the stool.
Spirulina is microscopic blue - green algae which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and increase total antioxidant status.
The general health benefits of wheat grass are comparable to barley grass
Chlorella is a genus of single-celled green algae. Daily dietary supplementation with chlorella may reduce high blood pressure, lower serum cholesterol levels, accelerate wound healing, and enhance immune functions.
Acerola berries are rich in ascorbic acid, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids (polyphenols). Acerola polyphenols were found to have radical scavenging activities and very mild effects on hyperglycemia.
Carrots are a source of fiber, phenolic acids and also carotenoids (beta-carotene and lutein). Traditional dietary preparations for diarrhea include carrot soup based on absorbent power that do not diminish intestinal loss of water and electrolytes.
Bee pollen is rich in amino acids, vitamin C, B-complex and folic acid, (whole food vitamins and minerals) polyunsaturated fatty acids, enzymes, and carotene mono and polyunsaturated fats. Pollen has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties,
A preliminary report from the Ukraine on the use of flower pollen in humans with rheumatoid arthritis suggested positive effects on related disorders of the liver, gallbladder, stomach, and intestine.
Fennel seed contains an anti-foaming agent which lowers the surface tension of gas bubbles which some cultures use to prevent wind and upset stomach. The major constituents, which include the terpenoid anethole, are found in the volatile oil. Anethole and other terpenoids inhibit spasms in smooth muscle, such as those in the intestinal tract. Fennel is also thought to possess diuretic (increase in urine production), choleretic (increase in production of bile), pain-reducing, fever-reducing, and anti-microbial actions. Fennel was formerly an official drug in the United States and was listed as being used for indigestion.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea polyphenols have been shown to stimulate the production of several immune system cells, and have topical antibacterial properties--even against the bacteria that cause dental plaque. Tea flavonoids given by capsule reduced fecal odour and favourably altered the gut bacteria.
This special blend of 8 probiotic cultures acts to restore and maintain a healthy microbial environment in the digestive tract and improve overall bowel function.
Licorice extract is used for flavouring. It is also a demulcent (soothing, coating agent) in the digestive tract. The two major constituents of licorice are glycyrrhizin and flavonoids. Glycyrrhizin has anti-inflammatory actions and may also have antiviral properties, although this has not been proven in human pharmacological studies. Liquorice flavonoids help to heal digestive tract cells. They are also potent antioxidants and work to protect liver cells. In test tubes, the flavonoids have been shown to kill Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that cause most ulcers and stomach inflammation.
Peppermint has been used as a general digestive aid and employed in the treatment of indigestion for many years.
Peppermint leaves contains natural oils which yield menthol (29-48%) and menthone (20-31%). Peppermint oil is classified as a carminative (prevents and relieves intestinal wind). It may also relieve spasms in the intestinal tract.
Royal jelly is a special form of honey produced by bees that is used to feed all larvae for a short time and queens for their whole life. The overall composition of royal jelly is 67% water, 12.5% crude protein, including small amounts of many different amino acids, and 11% simple sugars (monosaccharides), also including a relatively high amount (5%) of fatty acids. It also contains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, some enzymes, antibacterial and antibiotic components. It has been reported to stimulate the growth of glial cells and neural stem cells in the brain.
Spinach is rich in chlorophyll and fiber. It is also a rich source (> 20% of the Daily Value) of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate and iron.
Starches are complex carbohydrates that need to be broken down by digestive enzymes. Amylase is an enzyme that helps to break starch into its simpler sugar components, which are converted by other enzymes to glucose to supply the body with energy.
Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme (enzyme capable of digesting protein), from the pineapple plant. It is widely believed that most orally ingested enzymes are destroyed by the digestive juices prior to being absorbed. However, there is evidence that significant amounts of bromelain can be absorbed intact.
Papain is another proteolytic enzyme from unripe papayas an may help to reduce wind, bloating, and fullness after a high-fat meal.
Milk thistle seed extract
The dried fruit of milk thistle contain a flavonoid complex known as silymarin. Milk thistle extract may protect the cells of the liver by blocking the entrance of harmful toxins and helping remove these toxins from the liver cells. As with other bioflavonoids, silymarin is a powerful antioxidant. Silymarin has also been shown to regenerate injured liver cells.
Eleuthero root extract
Eleuthero or Siberian ginseng is an "adaptogen" (an agent that helps the body adapt to stress). It is also thought to help support adrenal gland function when the body is challenged by stress.Eleuthero contains complex polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules) which may support immune function. Eleuthero may also support the body by helping the liver detoxify harmful toxins.
Bilberry fruit extract
Historically these dried berries have been used to treat diarrhea. Bilberries are recognized as a good source of flavonoids, which have antioxidant activity.
An excellent source of fiber and chlorophyll broccoli, contains a compond know as 3,3'-Diindolylmethane which is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity.
Ginkgo leaf extract
Ginkgo flavone glycosides, which typically make up approximately 24% of the extract, are primarily responsible for GBE's antioxidant activity and may mildly inhibit platelet aggregation (stickiness).
Ginger is the rhizome, or root, of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed whole as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. The characteristic odor and flavor of ginger is caused by a mixture of volatile oils (gingerrols) that compose one to three percent of the weight of fresh ginger. In laboratory animals, the gingerrols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have antibacterial properties. Ginger has been found effective in multiple studies for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy.
Grape seed extract
Grape Seed Extract has antioxidant activity and plays a role in the stabilization of collagen and maintenance of elastin--two critical proteins in connective tissue that support organs, joints, blood vessels, and muscle.
[i] Zhang, Wei; Jiang, Shu; Qian, Dawei; et al. Analysis of interaction property of calycosin-7-O-b-d-glucoside with human gut microbiota. J. Chromatogr. B: Anal. Technol. Biomed. Life Sci. 2014, 963: 16-23.
[ii] Zhao, Liping; Zhang Chenhong; Fei Na; et al. Research development in gut microbiota-targeted nutritional intervention of metabolic diseases. 2014, 14(1): 1-5.
[iii] Specter, M. Germs Are Us; Bacteria make us sick. Do they also keep us alive? Annals of Science. October 22, 2012.
[iv] Bass C., Frequent Digestion Complaints May Point to Psychiatric Disorders. General hospital Psychiatry Jan 1999.
[v] Selma, Maria V.; Espin, Juan C.; Tomas-Barberan, Francisco A. Interaction between Phenolics and Gut Microbiota: Role in Human Health. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2009, 57(15): 6485-6501.