The more I study health, the more I have come to appreciate how crucially important the bacteria in your gut are to your health. There an amazing list of more than 200 studies, which together explore more than 170 diseases which can be helped or treated with probiotics.
The conditions include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Allergic Rhinitis
- And even the common cold!
According to just one of the many studies linked on the site:
"The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid content and even mood itself, may have important implications ..."
Eating sugar actually nourishes the bad or pathogenic bacteria yeast and fungi in your gut, which may actually harm you more than its impact on insulin resistance. One of the major results of eating a healthy diet is that you cause your beneficial gut bacteria to flourish, and they secondarily perform the real "magic" of restoring your health. You may have noticed that probiotics are now featuring in articles relating to all sorts of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, depression and heart disease.
As explained by Russian neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a woman's gut flora can also influence the health of her child, and if your child's gut flora is compromised from birth, he may be at an increased risk of vaccine damage. In fact, this imbalanced gut flora may be the primary factor that contributes to children having an adverse reaction to a vaccine!
Fortunately, you can easily screen for this imbalance and if it is found, all immunizations should be avoided until it is corrected with strategies that are comprehensively described in Dr. McBride's book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which is in my opinion essential reading for all parents and parent-to-be. The simple and inexpensive screening she suggests could prevent a lifetime of suffering...
All in all, the research into probiotics indicates that supplementing with probiotics is probably more important than taking a multi-vitamin and its true importance for your health is likely right up there with vitamin D.
Your Inner Ecosystem Influences Countless Aspects of Your Health
Your body contains about 100 trillion bacteria -- more than 10 times the number of cells you have in your entire body. It's now quite clear that the type and quantity of micro-organisms in your gut interact with your body in ways that can either prevent or encourage the development of many diseases.
The ideal ratio between the bacteria in your gut is 85 percent "good" and 15 percent "bad." Maintaining this optimal ratio is essential for good health, as probiotics (healthy bacteria) has over 30 beneficial pharmacological actions that we know of, including:
|Anti-infective||Antioxidant||Antiproliferative||Apoptopic (cellular self-destruction)|
|Radio- and chemo protective||Upregulates glutathione and certain glycoproteins that help regulate immune responses, including interleukin-4, interleukin-10, and interleukin-12||Downregulates interleukin-6 (a cytokine involved in chronic inflammation and age-related diseases)||Inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitor, NF-kappaB, epidermal growth factor receptor, and more|
Probiotics are also essential for optimal digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, and they help your body produce vitamins, absorb minerals and aid in the elimination of toxins.
How Do You Know Your Gut is Out of Whack?
It's important to realize that your gut bacteria are very vulnerable to lifestyle- and environmental factors, such as:
|Celiac disease, leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome||Mood, psychological health, and behavior||Epstein-Barr virus||Chronic fatigue syndrome|
|Insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes||Common cold, influenza, and pneumonia||High cholesterol and hypertension||Acne|
|Eczema and atopic dermatitis||Liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and cancer||Herpes||Food- and wheat allergies|
All of these factors throw your gut flora out of balance, and, as you can see, many of these factors are pervasive and can be difficult to avoid. However, it's not impossible. Simply altering your diet to avoid processed foods and focusing on whole (ideally locally grown organic) foods will make a big dent! That change alone will dramatically reduce the amount of sugar and fructose you consume, as well as automatically limit your exposure to antibiotics and agricultural chemicals.
How can you tell whether your health is already starting to suffer from a lack of healthy bacteria in your digestive system? The following symptoms are all signs that unhealthy bacteria have taken over too much real estate in your gut, and that you probably need to add some healthy probiotics to your diet:
|Gas and bloating||Constipation or diarrhea||Fatigue|
|Nausea||Headaches||Sugar cravings, and cravings for refined carb foods|
Remember: Your Gut, Brain and Primary Immune Defense are All Connected...
Two additional signs that your gut flora may be adversely impacted are depression and lowered immunity. Both of these are actually common-sense side effects of poor gut health, but they're usually completely overlooked...Most people, including many physicians, do not realize that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain optimal health.
Furthermore, your gut is quite literally your second brain, as it originates from the same type of tissue as your brain! During fetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system, while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. Hence your gut and your brain work in tandem, each influencing the other. And this is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa.
This also helps explain the link between neurological disorders (including ADHD and autism) and gastrointestinal dysfunction. For example, gluten intolerance is frequently a feature of autism, and many autistic children will improve when following a strict gluten-free diet.
However, even more importantly, establishing normal gut flora within the first 20 days or so of life plays a crucial role in appropriate maturation of your baby's immune system.
Babies who develop abnormal gut flora are left with compromised immune systems, and this may be a crucial factor when it comes to vaccine-induced damage. As Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride explained in a recent interview, vaccinations were originally developed for children with healthy immune systems, and children with abnormal gut flora and therefore compromised immunity are not suitable candidates for our current vaccine schedule as they're more prone to being harmed. To learn more about this, please see this previous article. Another detail that helps explain how abnormal gut flora can impact your neurological status is that certain probiotics also appear to play a role in detoxing harmful chemicals.
How to Optimize Your Gut Flora
The best way to ensure optimal gut flora is to regularly consume traditionally fermented foods. Healthy options include:
|Lassi (an Indian yogurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner)||Various pickled fermentations of cabbage sauerkraut, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots||Tempeh|
|Fermented raw milk such as kefir or yogurt, but NOT commercial versions, which typically do not have live cultures and are loaded with sugars that feed pathogenic bacteria||Natto (fermented soy)||Kim chee|
Just make sure to steer clear of pasteurized versions, as pasteurization will destroy many of the naturally occurring probiotics. For example, most of the "probiotic" yogurts you find in every grocery store these days are NOT good choices. Since they're pasteurized, they will be associated with all of the problems of pasteurized milk products instead. They also typically contain added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, dyes, or artificial sweeteners; all of which will only worsen your health.
An added boon of traditionally fermented foods is that some of them are also excellent sources of vitamin K2, which is important for preventing arterial plaque buildup and heart disease. Cheese curd is an excellent source of both probiotics and vitamin K2. You can also obtain all the K2 you'll need (about 200 micrograms) by eating 15 grams, or half an ounce, of natto daily.
That said, I realize that a lot of people do not enjoy the taste of fermented foods. In this case, taking a probiotic supplement is definitely advised. While I do not generally advocate taking a lot of supplements, a high quality probiotic is an exception. I recommend looking for a probiotic supplement that fulfills the following criteria, to ensure quality and efficacy:
- The bacteria strains in the product must be able to survive your stomach acid and bile, so that they reach your intestines alive in adequate numbers.
- The bacteria strains must have health-promoting features.
- The probiotic activity must be guaranteed throughout the entire production process, storage period and shelf life of the product.
Through my years of clinical practice, I've found that no single probiotic supplement works for everyone. However, more people seem to respond favorably to Lactobacillus sporogenes than any other probiotic, so when in doubt, that's a great place to start.