Bugs in Our Gut – Benefits of Microscopic Critters

The health of the microbiome in out gut cannot be overstated.  Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, is famously quoted as saying that all disease begins in the gut – and this was 400 years before the birth of Christ!  This was a man ahead of his time. And now, in the 21st century, we have the ability to examine the DNA and culture bacteria and yeast from our stool to get a sense of the role they play. Science has helped us learn just how significantly they impact the health of our body.

These bacteria (and often an overgrowth of yeast and sometimes parasites too) have serious health implications – they create digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, belching, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, constipation and IBS-type symptoms; they can also contribute to systemic symptoms such as fatigue, acne, inflammation, hormone imbalance, adrenal exhaustion, and nutrient deficiencies.  This list goes on!

One of the first things I do with those I work with is optimize the digestive tract flora using fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc.) and probiotics.  Acidophilus and bifidobacterium are the top two main players that do only beneficial things for our bodies (many other strains can be beneficial but can also create problems in an imbalanced gut ecosystem).

Here is a list of what acidophilus and bifidobacterium do for us:

  • They modulate our immune system – they are one of the first things I recommend when patients complain of allergies, autoimmune disease and frequent colds and flus
    • Check it out: a study reported that antibiotic use in infants under the age of 12 months increased risk of asthma by 400 percent! The antibiotics altered the gut microflora which then negatively impacted the immune system and led to increased rates of asthma in these youngsters
  • They normalize the transit time throughout our gut, so we’re not pooping too fast or too slow
  • 10% of our energy requirements are met by the fermentation by-products of these friendly bacteria
  • They improve digestion and absorption of our nutrients
  • They produce B vitamins and vitamin K in our colon
  • They’re helpful for absorbing and improving the function of lignans, phytoestrogens and flavonoids
  • They reduce pathogenic strains of bacteria from colonizing our gut by:
    • Competing for space and food
    • Making antibacterial substances like hydrogen peroxide
    • Producing short-chain fatty acids which lower the gut’s pH; most pathogenic strains of bacteria and yeast cannot tolerate an acidic environment

Some of the best reasons to use probiotics are: during and after antibiotics (research shows a better outcome if you take probiotics alongside the antibiotics), IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gastrointestinal infections, constipation, dysbiosis (altered gut flora), lactose intolerance, intestinal permeability, and vaginal candidiasis.

Consider grabbing yourself a jar of unpasteurized sauerkraut from your local health food store to get started on improving your gut flora today!

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