Here’s news that will make you want to take your probiotic every morning: Research suggests a serious correlation between gut health and cardiovascular fitness.
Study after study has proven that a healthy gut microbiome—what researchers call the bacterial ecosystem of the stomach, small intestines, and large intestines—improves overall health. And the newest research suggests that the more diverse and robust your gut bacteria is, the better shape you’ll be in. In a study published in Microbiome, researchers found that participants with more diverse gut bacteria had better VO2 max levels, indicating that they were in better aerobic shape than their non-diverse counterparts. The finding is correlative, suggesting that if you’re in good shape you probably have a healthy gut … or that taking a regular probiotic can increase your physical fitness. But how do you know if you even have the good kind of healthy bacteria?
“Let’s first start by answering the question of why having the diversity of gut bacteria is a good thing,” explained Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain. “The more organisms in the gut, the better it is for health. Beneficial gut bacteria reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and reduce leakiness of the gut.”
Because inflammation is linked to diseases like depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer, getting gut health in check and eliminating chronic inflammation is crucial for long-term health. But according to Dr. Perlmutter, many of our everyday habits can mess with our microbiome: “Taking NSAIDs like ibuprofen can damage gut bacteria, high sugar diets are terrible for bacteria. If you’re not taking a regular probiotic and eating prebiotic and not taking probiotic foods, your gut bacteria is probably off.”
Pretty scary, right? Don’t fret—all you need to do is pick a proper probiotic for your body. Dr. Perlmutter weighs in on how to choose the right one.
“This is the most important thing—make sure it’s not expired. Every bottle will say it has “viable organisms” over a period of time, but make sure it’s shelflife-stable for at least 1 to 2 years.”
“Diversity of species is very important—something with 5 or 6 different species is pretty good, but I’d like to see at least 14 different strains of bacteria in any given probiotic formula.”
“You’re putting this in your body—you want it to be the cleanest, best possible option. The only answer is organic and non-GMO.”