Probiotics – Fundamental to Health

The more we learn about our so-called ‘friendly bacteria’ the more it is becoming apparent they are vital to not only good health, but also to the quality of our life.

There are so many things that won’t happen well if you don’t have good levels of probiotics, or have an imbalance in the type of probiotics in your gut.  Good gut health is fundamental to seemingly unrelated things:

  • You won’t make good levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin ‘the happy hormone’, so your mood will suffer
  • Gut health will be compromised from both the perspective of breakdown of food and absorption, leading to malabsorption problems, gut discomfort and potential nutrient deficiency
  • Your immune health will be poor, leaving you prone to all kinds of colds, illnesses and low grade infections
  • Your body will be unable to make important B vitamins at times of most need – particularly needed when stressed for a smooth functioning nervous system
  • You will be more prone to absorbing heavy metals from foods and pollution, with increased detriment to health
  • You will be more prone to infestation by parasites
  • Your liver is much more likely to struggle with efficient detoxification with a subsequent impact on every body system and your energy levels
  • Levels of inflammation in the body are likely to rise – inflammation underpins many disease pictures
  • Poor gut flora in children leave them more prone to eczema, asthma, glue ear and other childhood diseases
  • Yeast infestations such as candida have a chance to take hold
  • The likelihood or hormonal imbalances rises
  • There is a link with bone density loss

In addition to all this there is now research around the part played by poor gut flora and obesity, high blood pressure, hayfever, even nervous system disorders.

Research is still ongoing, and there is still a lot we don’t understand around gut bacteria, and the right balance of the different species that inhabit our gut – over 50 different species it is believed.  What we can say, and is clearly apparent from all the research, is that if you want good health, and the end of a wide variety of disparate health niggles you MUST pay attention to the state of your gut and your levels of friendly bacteria.

For thousands of years we have unknowingly nurtured these bacteria in our gut as our diet included a variety of fermented foods, as this was one way of preserving food through winter months.  Fermented foods contain these beneficial bacteria, as well as what are called prebiotics – the fibrous matter which essentially acts as ‘food’ for our colonies of probiotic bacteria, allowing them to thrive.

Very few people maintain fermented foods as a staple part of their diet nowadays.  Instead modern lifestyles have many aspects which are detrimental to gut bacterial health:

  • Processed foods
  • High sugar/carbohydrate diets
  • High protein diets
  • Drugs, food additives, tea, coffee and other stimulants
  • Antibiotics, the Pill etc
  • Periods of chronic stress
  • High levels of bowel conditions such as IBS, Chrons
  • Digestive disturbances are commonplace

In addition there is the catch-all of increasing age.  Many important aspects of what our body needs to work well decrease the older we get.  This is particularly true when body system imbalances have been rife for much of a person’s life.  A healthy old age is usually preceded by healthy adult years.

So what can we do to help ourselves besides starting to explore adding fermented foods back into our diet?  The obvious answer here is to supplement friendly bacteria as part of our daily routine – a simple solution which has benefited a large number of people.  There are plenty of supplementation choices out there, and if this is your preferred route, make sure that the number of bacteria per capsule are counted in the billions, not millions, and ideally it is a multi-strain selection.

But the easiest route by far is just to include far more fermented foods in your diet – sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, natural yoghurt, and kombucha for example.  You can either make your own (Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions is a great help here!) or find a good health food shop – some supermarkets now stock these as well.

Taking care of your levels of the right kinds of gut bacteria is increasingly being seen as vital if any degree of health is to be maintained.  Researchers are really just beginning to understand the many different ways in which they contribute to a healthy body.  So making a small adjustment to ensure these are included in your daily diet in some form, could reap long term rewards!

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