Friendly bacteria plays a important role in our body, keeping our digestive tract clean and effective. These bacteria called “probiotic” – supporting life and promoting health in a human organism. Probiotic flora has a strong influence on digestion, immune system, overall physiology and even psychology.
Symptoms of imbalanced gut flora
Imbalances in intestinal flora are very typical in our modern society and showing themselves in many ways. Excess body fat1, acne and mood swings2, eczema3, bad body odor, tooth decay, common cold, influenza and sugar cravings2, fatigue, poor short term memory, depression, allergies, bronchial coughs, bowel irregularities, urinary tract infections4, loss of sexual desire, vaginal yeast infections, diarrhea or constipation, cancer, type one diabetes5, obesity, autism, depression, autoimmune conditions, inflammatory bowel disease and many others.
On Green Med Info2
site you can find over 200 studies showing that gut flora is associated with 170 various illnesses. Here’s just a few of them in addition to listed above: chronic fatigue syndrome, psychological problems, and behavior, food allergies, high cholesterol and hypertension, leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, Epstein-Barr virus, pneumonia, celiac disease, atopic dermatitis, liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and cancer, herpes. Nearly every person with a blood sugar issue also has a leaky gut, a gut infection, or some other chronic inflammatory gut condition. Researches discovered6
that your gut flora significantly affects the way your body stores the food you eat, how easy or hard it is for you to lose stored fat, and how well your metabolism works. Other studies show that people who are obese and diabetic have unhealthy gut flora. On the other hand, people who have normal weight with no metabolic irregularities have prevalence of healthy bacteria in their guts. In another study scientists discovered that changes in the gut flora can increase the rate at which we absorb fatty acids and carbohydrates, and increase the storage of calories as fat.7
This means that someone with bad gut flora could eat the same amount of food as someone with a healthy gut, but extract more calories from it and gain more weight. On the other hand, bad bugs in the gut can increase the production of insulin, causing insulin resistance. The good news are that you can improve all these conditions by replenishing your friendly flora through consuming both probiotics and prebiotics. It is also important to have overall healthy lifestyle including movement, healthy food, good water, enough sleep and positive attitude.
Reasons of gut flora imbalances
The main reasons of gut flora imbalances are diet low in fermentable fibers, chronic stress, infections and consumption of gluten, milk, processed foods and meat products. Foods such as breads, industrial seed oils, refined carbohydrates, sugar, sodas, coffee, cakes, biscuits, deep fried foods are killing out our friendly flora. Even slight cooking kills good bacteria off the vegetables, so it’s always better for your digestion to eat veggies in their natural raw state. Chlorinated water, preservatives, additives, in supermarket foods and pasteurization are meant to kill out all the bacteria, bad and good. Conventional farming kill off bacteria in the soil (including B12 producing bacteria) by using pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Fruits and vegetables used to be a probiotic themselves but conventional ones are no longer sources of good bacteria, so try to buy organic or grow your own. Even more damage to good flora comes from antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs. Smoking, alcohol and caffeine are also killing out friendly flora and making people biologically older in no time.
Scientists also know that infants that aren’t breast-fed and are born to mothers with bad gut flora are more likely to develop unhealthy gut bacteria and become overweight in the future.8 Studies have also shown that as we age our populations of probiotic bacteria are reduced, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can easily repopulate your gut with friendly flora overtime by including fermented foods, fresh fruits and veggies and excluding bad foods and lifestyle habits.
Benefits of having friendly bacteria in your gut
Protection Beneficial bacteria is protecting our body from pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, allergies, infections, cancers and viruses. Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria help to inhibit potential pathogens, such as Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida and E. coli. Friendly bacteria produces natural antibiotics and antifungals that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi and prevents multiplication of other organisms, which helps to control intestinal infections. If there is lack of healthy bacteria in the intestines, immune system gets weaker and there is higher risk of getting diseases. Appropriate amount of probiotic bacteria, on the other hand will increase the number of immune system cells, crowd out pathogenic micro-flora and suppress it by producing specific chemicals. Healthy gut flora also helps to prevent tooth decay, colon cancer, colitis, candida, urinary tract infections and eczema, getting rid of molds, viruses, parasites and balances the immune system. In fact, two-thirds of the immune system is in the digestive tract. There are more neurotransmitters in the GI than in the brain and more nerve endings than in the spine.9
Healthy bacteria is breaking down proteins, carbohydrates and fats to make digestion and assimilation easier, providing enzymes to aid digestion, supplying and nourishing the correct intestinal bacteria.10 It also regulates gut motility, preventing constipation, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.11 Friendly bacteria produces lactic acid, which balances intestinal pH, maintains mucosal integrity, cleanses digestive tract and helps with healthy bowel movements. Another important function of friendly flora is production of vitamin B12, production of certain amino acids12, synthesizing the anti-viral amino acid, L-lysine, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, A, D, and K, and essential fatty acids12.
Also, healthy bacteria is reducing toxic waste at the cellular level, improving the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Bacteria in fermented foods increases bioavailability of the nutrients in the food we eat. It help us to absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Enzymes that are produced by the good bacteria in cultured foods help to neutralize toxins in the liver, removing waste products from cells, storing nutrients in the liver and muscles and building minerals into nerves, bones and blood. The more good bacteria in the gut, the more easily the body can produce enzymes. The activity of friendly flora makes the minerals in cultured foods more bio-available to the body.
Your digestive system is vital to your health and happiness. Friendly gut flora prevents and relieves mood swings, anxiety and depression, provides better sleep patterns, energy levels and feeling of well-being. Probiotic bacteria has shown positive influence on autistic children.
Healthy gut flora is stimulating the repair mechanism of cells, reduces toxic waste at the cellular level, helps to maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride level and rebuilds hormones. It also prevents osteoporosis, provides better growth in children, inactivates enterotoxins and has positive influence on urogenital flora.
Probiotic bacteria also protects us from environmental toxins such as pesticides and pollutants and eliminates toxic components from food including nitrates13.
How to replenish your friendly flora
To get all these wonderful benefits you can add fresh raw fruits, greens, veggies to your diet and exclude or at least reduce foods that are killing good bacteria like meat, gluten, milk products, processed sugar, yeasts in bread, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods and drinks, etc. To get real steady results you need to change your diet permanently. As soon as you will get back to unhealthy habits, your micro-flora will go off balance. It is also important to manage your stress with meditation, EFT or other techniques.
Another helpful step would be eating lots of foods containing fermentable fibers like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.
Cultures that are found in supermarket yogurt does not effectively constitute real homemade probiotic foods, because they usually do not survive stomach acids and bile. Probiotics from pills are not the best solution either, since they are usually weak and short-lived. If you take them, make sure you get a good brand with strong bacteria types and make sure they are vegan. But it’s even better to prepare your own fermented foods, like sauerkraut, nut and seed cheeses. Cultured foods have been in the diets of indigenous people around the world for centuries. Their main reason for doing that was preserving the food. Fermented foods can help to relief symptoms of dab flora and give you a temporarily relief, but bacteria living in fermented food cannot survive for long. The only way to permanently improve your flora is to eat lots of fruits and veggies, keep your diet clean and manage your stress effectively.