We hear athletes frequently frustrated with set
backs due to digestive problems, frequent colds,
or sub optimal recovery. Multiple studies in
recent years have shown the benefits of
probiotics to remedying these ailments, especially
for endurance athletes.
I believe these studies translate to all of us, not
just the high level competitor. In every day life
we find ourselves running to catch a plane, huffing
and puffing behind the mower, or moving heavy
boxes around the attic.
Maybe you aren't training for a competitive
sporting event, but if you are training to be your
best in your everyday life will find benefit here as
The fame of probiotics has grown recently. They
are taking up more and more space on the drug
store shelves. The pharmacists this winter
recommended a high dose for my kids during a
round of antibiotics to minimize side effects. My
dog was even given a probiotic by our veterinarian
recently for some tummy trouble.
Unfortunately, the common knowledge about
probiotics generally stops at digestion. Let's
explore how the gut and it's bacteria effects the
rest of our body and how it performs.
Here are the 3 ways probiotics can make you
fitter, faster, and free of pain:
1. Improves Immune Function
A 2005 study showed "a probiotic a day keeps the
doctor away" by decreasing by half the number of
sick days taken by employees. Illness is decreased
because probiotics increase the bodies natural
virus fighters. This is especially important for
athletes who experience a decrease in immune
function as they fatigue during training.
By improving your immune system, the average
person will be able to remain active and steadily
improve their fitness. With less sick days and
fatigue, the athlete will be able to continue to
travel and compete.
2. Improves Recovery
Athletes tested with probiotic supplements were
found to have decreased inflammation after
training. The more quickly this
inflammation is removed from the body the faster
you can safely return to the activity.
In addition, decreased inflammation resulted in
athletes being able to run, cycle, or perform an
endurance activity longer before fatigue. The
result was increased strength, improved
performance, and faster times in competition.
For the average person out walking their dog,
decreased inflammation will result in more fluid
pain free movement throughout the rest of the
3. Improves Digestion
Symptoms of constipation or diarrhea are both
signs of imbalance in your gut bacteria (we want
more good bacteria to fight off the bad). Even
without tummy trouble, probiotics improve
digestion and overall health.
They help increase absorption of proteins and
beneficial fats in your body. The more active you
are (or want to be) the higher your nutrient need.
During periods of recovery from illness or injury
you need even more of these nutrients to rebuild
Not yet convinced that you need probiotics?
Improved gut health through probiotics is also
linked to improvements in bone density . . . or
decreased risk of osteoporosis. This is due to
improved absorption of necessary vitamins and
minerals for good bone health.
This is also true for muscle health with a
decreased rate of sarcopenia (muscle loss) and
improved ability for muscles to perform
everyday. These benefits not only translate to
better sports performance but also improved
wellness and movement as we age.
The Amazing Microbe . . .
As you can see the probiotics, or healthy bacteria
that lives in our gut, does much more than we
often give them credit for. Unfortunately, most of
us don't get enough probiotics in our diet.
There is no "recommended daily requirement" like
for other nutrients since it varies so much between
individuals and circumstances. Despite the varying
need in each of our bodies, the fact is none of us get
enough probiotics by accident.
A daily habit of eating fermented foods, consuming
kefir or raw dairy products, or taking a quality
supplement is necessary to ensure that the good
microbes in your gut out number the bad.
The use of probiotics is just one way to optimize
your nutrition, movement, and performance for an
active pain free life. We will continue this discuss
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