What You Need To Know About Gut Health and Osteoporosis
Did you know your gut is home to over 100 trillion microorganisms?
There’s literally an ecosystem of microbes going to work for your health, every day. And there’s a lot of them. Your gastrointestinal tract contains 10 times as many bacteria as cells in your body! (1)
While researchers are still in the early stages of understanding the gut microbiome, research has revealed that gut health is critical to your overall health, digestion and absorption of minerals. (2)
So what can affect your gut microbiome? Things like your diet, antibiotics, personal hygiene and even your environment.
Because your gut microbiome is complex, yet fluid, slight imbalances can alter its composition.
So if your gut microbiome is healthy, you should be too. But if it’s not, it can lead to diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, diabetes and even osteoporosis. (2)
Two Important Aspects of A Healthy Gut
When it comes to the health of your gut, there are two important aspects. The first is known as…
#1 The Gut Microbiota (formerly known as gut flora). This is the name given to the microbe population living in your intestine. (3) These microbes, also called bacteria, have important functions like:
- Helping with the function of some vitamins such as vitamins K and B
- Helping your body digest certain foods that your small intestine cannot
- Playing a crucial role in your immune system (by barrier effect).
In other words, a healthy gut microbiota also ensures proper digestive function. To keep it healthy you need to limit:
- Chronic stress
- Diets high in refined carbs, sugars, and processed foods
- Medications such as antibiotics
By limiting these, you can decrease digestive problems and maintain a healthier gut microbiota.
The second important aspect of a healthy gut is…
#2 The Gut Barrier. Your gut barrier gets to decide what comes in and out. When the barrier becomes permeable (also known as ‘leaky’ gut’) protein molecules will be let into the bloodstream. When these proteins are ‘leaked’ through and get into the bloodstream, your body responds by attacking them. Studies show that attacks like these can lead to autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. (4)
4 Ways to Maintain and Restore a Healthy Gut
Now that you know the importance of the gut microbiota and the gut barrier, the next step is to understand how to keep them healthy. We touched on a few of these points above, but let’s dig a little deeper…
- Manage your stress: Psychological stress has been shown to wreak havoc on your gut health by leading to changes in gut motility, epithelial barrier function and inflammatory states. (5)
“I have a gut feeling,” isn’t just a saying. Your gut plays an integral part of your nervous system meaning your brain can affect your gut. And while most of this process unfolds largely without conscious awareness, the two are connected. (6) So be mindful. When you are feeling stressed, don’t ignore it. Step back, assess the stress and solve it. While not all stress can be released immediately, recognizing where it’s coming from and how to minimize it is a step in the right direction.
- Eat fermentable fiber rich foods: Such as sweet potatoes and yams. When the microbes in your gut are starved for fiber, research has shown that they turn to the protective mucous lining of your gut and start to feed on this instead. (7) As a result, this can trigger inflammation and disease.
Bonus: Fiber can also be beneficial for weight loss. Studies have shown for a long time that increased fiber intake can help you lose weight – and your gut microbes seem to be a key player in this. (8)
- Avoid dietary toxins. Foods such as refined carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods should be limited. These foods can lead to ‘leaky gut,’ which we talked about before.
In addition, medications (steroids, antacids, antibiotics, etc.) can also destroy your gut microbiota. Ask your doctor for natural treatment options, if possible.
- Eat fermented foods or take a probiotic: Fermentation has been used for thousands of years as a way for humans to preserve foods. Now, they have become extremely popular for health reasons (more on this later). Case and point: you should easily find kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso at your local grocer’s – and these should also be an integral part of your diet!
As we age, our ability to produce digestive enzymes decreases. (These digestive enzymes help with proper digestion) So eating fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi can make up for the shortfall and help with digestive problems.
As you can see, diet is one of the main influences on your gut health. (9) After all, our microbes eat what we eat.
The Gut-Bone Connection
So what’s the connection between your gut and bones?
Well, we know that osteoporosis can result from intestinal inflammation, which has been seen with inflammatory bowel disease. (10)
This inflammation can destroy your healthy gut flora, tissue, and organs.
Specifically, inflammation sets off the production of a whole bunch of inflammatory molecules—one of which is osteoclasts (the cells that dissolve bone). For a more detailed explanation of this process, read the following post.
Ultimately, what you really need to know is that anything that promotes chronic inflammation, also promotes bone loss. And when your gut is in an unhealthy and inflamed state, it affects your bones.
Additionally, inflammation can inhibit absorption of important bone-building minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
So what can you do to combat inflammation in your gut? Probiotics…
Benefits of Probiotics for Bone Health
Probiotics are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for bone health.
Studies have indicated that strains of bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have the potential effect of increasing bone density in mice and rats – which can simulate postmenopausal conditions in women. (11)
One study, in particular, published by the Journal of Cellular Physiology, looked at the effect of probiotics on bone density. (10)
They gave healthy male mice a strain of probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri (which is known to reduce inflammation) for four weeks.
At the end of the four weeks, the researchers looked at the femurs of all the mice in the study and found significant increases in bone density.
Another study looked at the strains of bacteria: Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Lactobacillus gasseri. They found that the probiotic-fed rat group compared to the control group had increased calcium absorption and 35% higher bone weight. (12)
The probiotic strain, Bifidobacterium longum from fermented broccoli and yacon flour has also shown a significant effect on bone health. (13)
One study divided the rats into four groups. They received the following diets: control diet; yacon flour; standard diet + Bifidobacterium longum; and yacon flour +Bifidobacterium longum.
After 28 days the rats showed no difference in body weight, food intake, and feed efficiency. But the rats who were fed B. longum and B. longum with yacon flour had higher mineral content including calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), and magnesium (Mg) than the other two groups!
Now the benefits of probiotics for bone health haven’t just been studied in animals. Human studies have also been conducted.
One double-blind randomized crossover study looked at 20 postmenopausal women with a mean age of 65 and BMI of 26. (14) Participants were separated into two groups. One group was given Lactobacillus helveticus fermented milk, while the other group received a control milk.
The L. helveticus fermented milk group saw reduced serum parathyroid hormone and increased serum calcium compared to the control milk. In conclusion, the fermentation of milk with Lactobacillus helveticus had a positive acute effect on calcium metabolism.
These studies and others, suggest probiotics improve bone health by:
- Increasing mineral absorption, including calcium and magnesium
- Enhancing Immunity
- Reducing leaky gut and allergies
- Making milk more digestible (by reducing lactose)
What we can draw that from these conclusions, is that maintaining a healthy gut can lower inflammation and positively affect your bones.
How do you ensure you’re incorporating probiotic-richic rich foods into your diet?
Take a look at the list below.
Probiotic Rich Foods
The following table (15) provides a list of fermented foods and countries in which they are believed to originate. Most of these fermented foods can now be found anywhere, but some may be a bit harder to find. Are most of these in your local grocery store? Let me know in the comments below!
The bacteria that are in fermented foods are considered probiotics. Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as, “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
Fermented Foods and Main Constituents Country
|Yogurt—milk, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus||Greece,Turkey|
|Kefir—milk, kefir grains, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and L. plantarum||Russia|
|Kombucha—black, green, white, pekoe, oolong, or darjeeling tea, water, sugar, Gluconacetobacter and Zygosaccharomyces||Russia,China|
|Wine—various organisms particularly Saccharomyces cerevisiae||Georgia|
|Miso—soybeans, Aspergillus oryzae, Zygosaccharomyces, Pediococcus sp.||Japan|
|Sauerkraut—green cabbage, L. plantarum||Germany|
|Kimchi—cabbage, Leuconostoc mesenteroides||South Korea|
|Sourdough—flour, water, L. reuteri, Saccharomyces cerevisiae||Egypt|
|Pulque—beverage from agave plant sap, Zymomonas mobilis||Mexico|
|Dosa—fermented rice batter and lentils, L. plantarum||India|
|Crème fraîche—soured dessert cream, L. cremoris, L. lactis||France|
|Ogi—cereal, Lactobacillus sp., Saccharomyces sp., Candida sp.||Africa|
|Cortido—cabbage, onions, carrots||El Salvador|
|Cheddar and stilton cheeses—Penicillium roqueforti, Yarrowia lipolytica, Debaryomyces hansenii, Trichosporon ovoides||United Kingdom|
|Surströmming—fermented herring, brine, Haloanaerobium praevalens, Haloanaerobium alcaliphilum||Sweden|
|Fermented sausage—Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, or Micrococcus||Greece, Italy|
Maintaining strong and healthy bones involves many aspects: exercise, diet, and nutrition.
And a healthy gut plays a big role in that by increasing immune function, reducing inflammation and ensuring the absorption of bone-building minerals remains in tact.
To do this you need to supply your body with those bone-building minerals like calcium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K2, boron and trace minerals. As these nutrients support your gut and your bones.
Finding and consuming all of these nutrients from your daily diet is sometimes easier said than done.
That’s why AlgaeCal Plus offers a plant-based bone building supplement proven to increase bone density. It contains all the nutrients you need for strong, healthy bones, plus overall health. Find out more.
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- Jun Sun, Eugene B. Chang. Exploring gut microbes in human health and disease: Pushing the envelope. Genes & Diseases. Volume 1, Issue 2, December 2014, Pages 132–139
- Visser J1, Rozing J, Sapone A, Lammers K, Fasano A. Tight junctions, intestinal permeability, and autoimmunity: celiac disease and type 1 diabetes paradigms. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 May;1165:195-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04037.x.
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- Mayer EA1, Naliboff B, Munakata J. The evolving neurobiology of gut feelings. Prog Brain Res. 2000;122:195-206.
- Johansson ME1, Gustafsson JK, Holmén-Larsson J, Jabbar KS, Xia L, Xu H, Ghishan FK, Carvalho FA, Gewirtz AT, Sjövall H, Hansson GC. Bacteria penetrate the normally impenetrable inner colon mucus layer in both murine colitis models and patients with ulcerative colitis.Gut. 2014 Feb;63(2):281-91. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2012-303207. Epub 2013 Feb 20.
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- Flint HJ (2012). The impact of nutrition on the human microbiome. Nutrition Reviews 70 Suppl 1:S10-13. PMID 22861801
- McCabe, Laura, et al. “Probiotic use decreases intestinal inflammation and increases bone density in healthy male but not female mice.” Journal of Cellular Physiology. DOI: 10.1002/jcp.24340. Web. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcp.24340/abstract
- Kolsoom Parvaneh,1 Rosita Jamaluddin,1 Golgis Karimi,1 and Reza Erfani. Effect of Probiotics Supplementation on Bone Mineral Content and Bone Mass Density. The Scientific World Journal. Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 595962, 6 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/595962
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