By now, we’ve all heard about “friendly bacteria” and the need to include probiotics in our diets. But what exactly is “friendly bacteria” and how do you know you are getting probiotics in your diet? On January 31,2009 Dr. Mercola (www.mercola.com) posted this wonderful explanation of the importance of “friendly” bacteria in your gut, the many beneficial ways they help your body and how to get probiotics into your diet.
“Your body is loaded with bacteria, of both good and bad varieties. In fact, about 100 trillion bacteria live inside you — which is more than 10 TIMES the number of cells you have in your whole body. The ideal balance between the bacteria in your body is 85 percent good and 15 percent bad. This ratio between the “good” bacteria and the other bacteria is one of the critical factors determining your optimal health, as the good bacteria are essential for:
• The proper development of your immune system
• Protection against over-growth of other microorganisms that could cause disease
• Digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
The probiotics in your gut also play a role in helping numerous bodily functions, such as:
• Digesting and absorbing certain carbohydrates.
• Producing vitamins, absorbing minerals and eliminating toxins.
• Keeping bad bacteria under control.
• Preventing allergies. Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.
• Providing vital support to your immune system. Beneficial bacteria have a lifelong, powerful effect on your gut’s immune system and your systemic immune system as well.
The microflora in your digestive system is also emerging as a major player in weight management. A baby’s gut bacteria is linked to his or her future weight, and babies that are given the best start nutritionally by being breastfed (the source of your first immune-building good bacteria) also tend to have intestinal microflora in which beneficial bifidobacteria predominate over potentially harmful bacteria.
One Washington University professor likened the functioning of this gut microflora in your body to that of an ant farm that works together as an intelligence to perform an array of functions you’re unable to manage on your own. One of those chores includes extracting calories from the foods you eat, so the microflora in your gut may play a key role in obesity.
Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than slim people, and it appears that the microbes in an overweight body are much more efficient at extracting calories from food.”
“In the past, and to some extent still today, people used fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut to support their digestive health, as these foods are rich in naturally beneficial bacteria.
Fermented foods are part of nearly every traditional culture. As far back as Roman times, people ate sauerkraut because of its taste and benefits to overall health. In ancient Indian society, it became commonplace (and still is) to enjoy a before-dinner yogurt drink called a lassi.
Bulgarians are known both for their longevity and their high consumption of fermented milk and kefir. In Asian cultures, pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots still exist today. ”
If you were to eat a diet rich in fermented foods that have NOT been pasteurized (this will kill the probiotics), then you could likely still enjoy great digestive health.
However, if you eat a lot of processed foods or rely on mostly cooked foods, the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract will have a hard time staying optimal. Sugar is also an incredibly efficient fertilizer for growing bad bacteria and yeast in your gut, so if you indulge in a lot of it you’re fueling the bad bacteria. Likewise, stress, pollution, and taking antibiotics can further upset the balance in a negative way.
Since helpful bacteria are increasingly absent in most people’s diets, it is important to purposely include foods that contain live probiotic bacteria in your diet, or take a probiotic supplement.”
If you’d like to have your nutrition & lifestyle assessed, feel free to contact us for a complimentary consultation. We’d love to hear from you.
Nutrition & Wellness Specialist
References: thank you to: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/01/31/wall-street-gives-big-thumbs-up-to-good-bacteria.aspx
photo: thank you to: http://bookbuilder.cast.org/bookresources/12010/glossary_7832.jpg