According to Dr. David Williams, the microflora that is present in the gut serves to benefit our health in many ways, such as helping with both the digestion and the absorption of food, helping us to digest dairy products, and even helping with the sorting out of bowel movements! But there is much more to probiotics than this.
Generally speaking, when an infection occurs, a round of antibiotics is prescribed to deal with the problem. The problem with these antibiotics, in most cases, is that it not only destroys the bacteria that cause the problem, but it also kills off the ‘good’ bacteria (probiotics) in our digestive tract. This lack of probiotics causes complications of their own such as bloating, nausea, and even diarrhea, not to mention other, less talked about side-effects. A deficit in probiotics can lead to a never-ending cycle where more drugs are prescribed to deal with a new problem that has cropped up, which then leads to another issue which is a side effect of the new drug, and so it goes on. Pretty soon you are wrapped up in a never-ending cycle of medications and symptoms due to side effects. All this, according to research, could have been anticipated by an appropriate use of drugs in the first place.
It is not, however, only medications that have an adverse effect on our gut bacteria – lifestyle and eating habits play their part as well. Today’s modern lifestyle which is fast-paced often results in our diet being less than what it should be. Fast and processed food has, in many cases, become the norm, leading to new problems such as obesity, heart conditions, and even, in many instances, diabetes.
What is interesting to note is that an imbalance in our intestinal flora is found in conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), some cancers, allergies, heart disease, asthma, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s! But research, at this time, is only scratching the surface of the important role that probiotics play in the proper functioning of the human body.
The latest research has found that not only do probiotics have a calming, stabilizing effect on our guts, but they play a much larger role in our general well-being, too. They can as play a role in weight loss/gain, depression, skin problems, and even hair loss, to name but a few.
Women, with their unique hormonal cycle and hormonal combinations, are probably more at risk of the adverse effect of a decline in beneficial gut bacteria, as a definite link has been found between the hormone estrogen and gut flora. This link leads to a set of implications that is unique.
Utilizing Probiotics for Better Health
Our guts have good and bad bacteria, each playing its role. The ‘good’ bacteria, or microbes, have an important function when it comes to protecting our body against infections, supporting the immune system, and the detoxification process. Depending on the microbe, they also play a role in preventing weight gain (or assist in weight loss).
The ‘bad’ microbes, on the other hand, tend to have an adverse effect. They play a role in certain chronic illnesses, obesity, and even with regards to inflammation. It is thus, therefore, vital that you keep your gut flora healthy and in balance.
One of the first ways in which to boost an immune system is by exposing it to bacteria. Reducing the number of anti-bacterial cleaners and sprays in the home is one way to reintroduce bacteria to your immune system.
Antibiotics are a ‘good’ bacteria killer. All too often beneficial bacteria in the gut are killed off along with the problem the antibiotic is prescribed which leads to an imbalance which a body finds tough to rectify. The body also does not have a chance to build up a resistance to the infection, therefore needing more and more antibiotics continuously with each occurrence while more and more beneficial microbes die off in the process. Thus, by limiting your intake of antibiotics, you are doing yourself a two-fold favor: less helpful microbes found are being killed off, while your body builds up immunity.
Diet is also a major contributing factor. Lifestyle and diet, to a large extent, has changed over the years. The first-paced world we live in has meant that people exercise less, for example, and consume more ‘quick food’ or ‘fast food.' Unfortunately, most of these solutions are made up of food that is unhealthy and heavily processed with many additives added. Although these foods may please the eye and the palate, they are major contributors to problems such as obesity, heart problems, and diabetes, to name but a few. Add to this the more sedentary lifestyle enjoyed by so many as opposed to that of our forefathers, and we have an unhealthy mix in the making, with more and more children being diagnosed with diabetes and obesity than ever before.
Many of these lifestyle-oriented issues start in the gut, and with that, the fact that the microflora present there has been severely compromised. Research has proven this. Add to this the number of toxins present in the air due to pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and even household sprays, the majority of which have an adverse effect on the beneficial bacteria that is present, and the situation worsens even more.
The only way in which to restore the balance in the intestinal tract is by taking measures to combat that which is causing the problem and by adding beneficial flora. This can be done by the oral use of probiotics, positive lifestyle changes, and correct eating habits.
The more beneficial bacteria you have in your gut, the stronger your immune system is. Of course, besides taking probiotics, one could also incorporate more food into your diet that contains these little microbes naturally. Not only are they beneficial to your overall health but help with the absorption of minerals and vitamins, such as iron, chromium, calcium and Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K, amongst others.
For the most part, fermented foods are a great natural supplier of probiotics. Much of the fermented foodstuffs available were historically created to preserve them, but the fermentation process has allowed for the growth of beneficial microbes as well.
Among those with extremely high-beneficial probiotic counts are:
• Raw cheese made from a sheep, goat or cow’s milk (unpasteurized). They are rich in bulgaricus, acidophilus, thermophillus, and bifudus bacteria.
• Live cultured or Greek Yogurt, which probably ranks as the best and easiest available probiotic-containing food. When buying yogurt, however, ensure that it is organic and made of either a sheep or goat’s milk and that the animals are grass fed.
• Kefir – Like yogurt, this dairy product is a blend of milk and fermented kefir grains. Records show that for more than 3000 years, Kefir was consumed in parts of Turkey and Russia. The term literally translates to "feel good". Kefir has acidic and tart flavors and includes from 10 to 34 probiotic strains.Sauerkraut (cabbage) and Kimchi (vegetables) are fermented vegetables. They do not have the quantity and range of probiotics that you find in fermented milk products. They are, however, extremely high in the organic acids which serve to support the growth of the good bacteria in our gut. Added to this, the high enzyme count present in them helps with the digestive process.
• Other possibly less-known sources are Kombucha, which is fermented black tea, and Kvass, which is a ‘beer’ made of rye or barley.
Generally speaking, by adding beneficial microbes or probiotics to the gut, and thereby getting your digestive system back in balance, not only does one have a long-term health benefit, but it would seem you succeed in building up your immunity while at the same time feeling good and looking younger.