Importance Of Probiotics And Protein Within Your Diet
You're probably aware of the importance of protein in your diet. Protein is vital for the growth, repair and maintenance of body tissues including muscles, organs, skin, hair and nails. It is also used in the creation of some hormones, such as insulin, and to make enzymes that are involved in a multitude of processes in the body, including digestion. Protein also forms antibodies that protect us from infections.
When protein from food enters the digestive system it gets broken down into amino acids. These amino acids need to be replaced regularly as they are constantly being used up by the body.
Everyone needs to get protein from their diet but during times of growth or when recovering from illness or surgery protein needs are increased. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding have slightly higher protein needs, as do some athletes undergoing heavy training regimes.
However, it's not so much how much protein is eaten as how much protein is digested and absorbed that makes a difference to health. There are various factors that can have a negative effect on protein absorption including:
- Low stomach acid
- Lack of digestive enzymes
- Insufficient chewing
- Use of antacids or proton pump inhibitors
- History of antibiotic use
- Overeating or grazing all day
- Drinking too much water during or after meals
- Stress, especially during mealtimes
- Lack of sleep
What is less well known is that the gut bacteria also play a part in how well protein is absorbed.
Bring on the Bacteria
Collectively the organisms in the gut make up the microbiome. In a healthy person this will be made up of largely beneficial organisms. There are always some unhelpful organisms but this is not a problem if there are enough good guys to counteract the negative effects of the bad guys. There is increasing evidence to show that the range of organisms in an individual's intestines has wide ranging effects on many aspects of health including digestive and immune health, mental health, weight and metabolism.
The beneficial organisms in the gut are called probiotics. Some probiotics produce their own enzymes, enabling you to digest your food more thoroughly. For example, certain strains of bacteria produce lactase, the enzyme required to digest dairy.
Another beneficial strain is Bacillus coagulans which can withstand the acidic environment of the stomach to reach the intestines where it germinates. It has been discovered that administering Bacillus coagulans with protein increases protein absorption (1). This is potentially good news for people whose protein absorption is less than optimal, such as older people, those with compromised digestive function, or those who have a higher need for protein including people recovering from illness and athletes.
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