The “Bugs” in Your Gut
There are very few structures and organs in the body that have far reaching health effects throughout every other system of the body. There are even fewer organ systems which are very sensitive to lifestyle and environmental conditions yet are relatively easy to optimize once you understand its importance.
The gut (small and large intestines) with its bacterial population is such an organ system. Many even think of this bacterial population, referred to as probiotics from the Greek term “For Life”, as a separate organ system.
The amount of bacteria in the gut has 10 times more bacteria than cells of the body and these bacteria are composed of good and bad or unhealthy bacteria. The ideal proportion of good bacteria to bad bacteria for ideal health should be about 85% good “bugs” to 15% unhealthy “bugs.”
It is important to understand the role of the gut and how far reaching the effect of the gut is above and beyond digestion and absorption of nutrients.
The nervous system controlling the gut and the brain were derived from the same fetal tissue and when born the brain and gut are connected by the Vagus Nerve (10th cranial nerve). As such the brain and gut continually communicate and what affects one affects the other. In fact the gut is referred to as the second brain.
The gut also is extensively surrounded by blood and lymphatic vessels so what happens in the gut will immediately impact the blood which circulates throughout the body and the lymphatics, the foundational detoxification system and our all- important immune system.
There are several factors affecting the health of the gastrointestinal (GI) system but none so critical as the bacterial population in the gut. These bacteria have a profound role in every function of the gut and without a healthy bacterial population the gut does not function correctly and affects all other systems of the body.
The good bacteria (includes many species) have many extensive functions in the gut. Several of these functions are also carried out by good bacteria in the sinuses, throat, lungs, vagina and other structures in the genitourinary system.
The following functions are performed by the probiotic population:
- Antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic
- Improve digestion plus produce vitamin K2 and assist nutrient absorption
- Function to eliminate free radicals (ie. anti- aging)
- Strengthens immunity
- Anticancer cell proliferation and assists with cancer cell destruction (apoptosis)
- Decreases systemic inflammation
- Protects the heart
- Protects against Heavy Metal and chemical toxicity
- Helps repair leaky gut and to some extent is brain protective
As you can see one of the tools to help fight illness and most infections is to administer high doses of probiotics (as high as 200 billion in a day).
Poor GI health and probiotic disruption has been associated with over 170 diseases (see www.Greenmedinfo.com). These include
- Irritable Bowel and Celiac
- Liver disease
- Increased blood pressure and increased cholesterol
- Pneumonia/ influenza/ colds
- Viral Infections such as herpes, Epstein Barr and others
- Mood and behavior problems
- Insulin resistance/ diabetes
- Many others
As you can see the compromise of the probiotic population has far reaching effects and probiotic therapy should be a tool for treating chronic illness or optimizing health.
The development of the probiotic population begins at birth and continues throughout life. Unfortunately lifestyle and environmental factors conspire to destroy the good bacteria while allowing unhealthy, “bad” bacteria to proliferate. The result is the development of chronic illness and opportune infections throughout the body. What destroys the probiotic population includes:
- Processed foods, sugar and fructose consumption
- Toxins such as heavy metal and chemical (eg chemotherapy)
- Chlorine / fluoride in public water
- Pesticides / Preservatives
Although it is difficult to control all of these, eating organic, un- processed foods, avoiding antibiotics, filtering water of chlorine and fluoride with regular cleansing and detoxification these strategies will go a long way to maintaining a healthy probiotic population.
One of the most important supplements and health strategies is to continually add to the good bacterial population. This includes both supplements and fermented foods. Fermented foods (eg. sauerkraut, Tempeh, Kefir) stimulate the growth of huge numbers of good probiotics. These fermented foods must not be pasteurized which destroys the bacteria within.
Probiotics supplements are critical to maintain the probiotic population or to reestablish it when that microbial population is damaged with antibiotics, infections or poor nutrition. When picking a probiotic realize that all probiotics are not created equal. The following qualities of probiotics are important for best health results:
- Independent labs showing high potency
- Stable, live probiotics at 2 years
- Not enteric coated
- 20-50 billion probiotic cultures
- Stomach acid and bile resistant
- Freeze dried
- Works with probiotics (FOS- fructooligosaccride- to increase bacterial growth)
- Contains multiple species including
Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS1
LB rhamnosus, LB salvarius, LB caseii, LB brevis, LB plantarims
Probiotics should be taken (Fructooligosaccride included) throughout life.
The following health signs indicate a critical need for extensive probiotic enhancement with supplements and fermented foods:
- Chronic headaches
- Other infections
- Sugar and carbohydrate cravings
- Gas and bloating
An important function with probiotics is demonstrated with infants. Research has shown that giving multiple vaccinations before an adequate probiotic population has developed in infants by 6 months of age increases the likelihood of vaccine damage such as in autism (ASD) and attention deficit (ADHD). When deciding on vaccinations for a newborn it would be a great long term decision to wait 6 months before vaccinating while accelerating probiotic development prior to any vaccination
Developing a healthy probiotic population throughout life is an indispensable factor in good health. Fermented foods and probiotic supplements are critical along with minimizing all factors that damage your probiotic population.
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Enjoy the Journey,