Does gut health really matter? You bet it does. Somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of the human immune system resides in the gastrointestinal tract (1). This means, an unhealthy gut translates into poor health and often compromised immunity overall.
A healthy gut is thriving with good bacteria or digestive probiotics whose job it is to support immune system receptor cells. Probiotics benefits don’t stop here - they also help form a strong protective barrier for the colon and intestines. Yes, gut health does matter and the more attention we pay to support healthy bacteria, the healthier we are and the stronger our immune system is.
Having a strong immune system matters for all of us. We are all exposed to germs and various threats to our health on a daily basis. There is a constant war between good and bad bacteria happening in our body. A strong and thriving community of gut microbes can keep even serious threats to our health at bay and keep the army of bacterial defenders strong.
Probiotics Benefits and Jiu Jitsu Athletes
Healthy gut bacteria are especially necessary for athletes who participate in grappling sports such as Jiu Jitsu. Because of the nature of the sport, these athletes are at a much greater risk of developing irritating and sometimes dangerous skin infections. (2) Grapplers spend a great deal of time in very close contact with each other in a very hot and sweaty environment on mats - all of which creates the perfect conditions for bad bacteria to thrive.
This is when supplemental, high-quality probiotics become an important part of a healthy lifestyle. They help keep the numbers of good microbes in the gut high and on guard to defend health.
A healthy gut, loaded with friendly bacteria, provides a strong defense (3) against fungal infections such as ringworm that can spread like wildfire in Jiu Jitsu athletes.
What are probiotics good for? Here are five ways probiotics can benefit Jiu Jitsu athletes.
Healthy Immune Function
As mentioned above, a good supply of friendly bacteria is necessary for a strong immune system. Grapplers who have a strong immune system will be protected from contracting fungal infections in a much greater way than those whose gut health is compromised.
The intestinal lining is about the size of a tennis court. This is a lot of space for healthy gut bacteria to patrol. Beneficial gut microbes are critical for the development and maintenance of the gut lining. Friendly bacteria battle with less friendly bacteria. As long as there are plenty of good microbes, the battle inside the intestinal lining can be won and immunity strengthened. Friendly microbes join with immune cells to become a mighty force.
Supplementing with probiotics will ensure that you have plenty of friendly microbes to work with immune cells to supercharge gut health.
Like other athletes, those that participate in grappling sports expend a great amount of energy both in training and competition. Beneficial microbes absorb undigested starches, fiber, and sugars in foods and help with overall processing of food. Efficient conversion of these carbohydrates into useable nutrients helps provide energy for the body. Probiotics benefits don’t stop here - they also help with the body’s production of vitamin K and B vitamins and help with mineral absorption.
Just as important as absorption of the building blocks of energy and vital minerals, is the removal of waste. A body burdened by toxins is not energy efficient. Beneficial bacteria help metabolize and break down toxins. Jiu Jitsu athletes need as much energy as they can get. Waste removal plays a critical role in the maintenance of this energy.
Mental Clarity and Emotional Health
Not only is the gut tied to immunity but it is also known as the second brain. The gut produces more mood-impacting serotonin than the brain does. Research shows that probiotics can tighten communication between the gut and the brain.(4)
For Jiu Jitsu athletes, mental clarity is exceptionally important for focus in training and competition. Gut health plays a vital role in allowing athletes to remain focused on their task at hand.
Skin is the largest organ in the human body covering approximately 22 square feet weighing 8 pounds in adults. Dangerous organisms associated with fungal infections make their way into the body via skin to skin contact, the healthier the skin, the better the protection against nasty bacteria. A healthy gut, teaming with friendly microbes help to keep the skin’s protective shield strong and unwavering.
How to Keep Gut Health Strong
Whether you are an athlete or not, gut health matters. Because the numbers of healthy gut bacteria are constantly being depleted, it is important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of raw foods. This will help maintain a strong positive culture within the gastrointestinal tract. Here are some probiotic foods that are teaming with beneficial microbes:
Yogurt: This is one of the best sources of probiotics. (5) Made from milk that has been fermented with healthy bacteria, yogurt is a great breakfast food or snack.
Kefir: Kefir is a popular probiotic drink that is made by adding kefir grains to goat or cow milk. Kefir contains a number of strains of probiotics which make it a very diversified source of healthy bacteria. (6)
Tempeh: This Indonesian food is a fermented soybean product that has a unique earthy and nutty taste like a mushroom. Soybeans are high in phytic acid, a plant protein that interferes with the absorption of minerals including zinc and iron. However, the fermentation process lowers the phytic acid allowing for absorption to take place.
Kombucha: Kombucha has become popular enough in the western world that you now see if in almost all health food stores and even supermarkets. Many athletes drink kombucha prior to competing or training and find it gives them the extra edge they need. There are numerous flavors of kombucha but the common denominator in all of them is that they all contain fermented black or green tea that contains healthy microbes.
Gut Health Matters
Jiu Jitsu athletes need to pay particular attention to gut health. Consuming probiotic-rich foods and eating an otherwise clean diet, will help to replenish friendly bacteria in the gastrointestinal system and keep fungal infections at bay while boosting immunity.
1.Lotter, E. (2018). Your gut is the cornerstone of your immune system. [online] Health24. Available at :https://www.health24.com/Medical/Flu/Preventing-flu/your-gut-is-the-cornerstone-of-your-immune-system-20160318 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2018].
2.Gregoriades, N. (2018). BJJ and Grappling Skin Infections Part 1: Ringworm. [online] Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood - Grappling & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Videos and Techniques. Available at: https://www.jiujitsubrotherhood.com/bjj-ringworm/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2018].
3.Hemarajata, P. and Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. [online] PubMed Central (PMC)Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539293/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2018].
4.Marilia Carabotti, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2018].
5.Prasanna, P., Grandison, A. and Charalampopoulos, D. (2014). Bifidobacteria in milk products: An overview of physiological and biochemical properties, exopolysaccharide production, selection criteria of milk products and health benefits. [online] Science Direct. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996913006121 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2018].
6.Leite, A., Miguel, M., Peixoto, R., Rosado, A., Silva, J. and Paschoalin, V. (2013). Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: a natural probiotic beverage. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24294220 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2018].