When you use antibacterial hand soap or take antibiotics, it’s easy to think of bacteria as bad guys. After all, Salmonella and E. coli can give you food poisoning, and Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) can cause pneumonia, meningitis or serious wound infections.
Bacteria aren’t all bad. Many are harmless, and some are actually very helpful. Over the past few years scientists have found that of all the bacteria in our bodies, the ones that generally do harm are by far the minority. In fact many bacteria, that are most of the time beneficial, have been discovered.
We Have More Bacteria Than We Have Cells In Our Body
The average size guy would be composed of about 40 trillion bacteria and 30 trillion human cells, calculate researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. That’s a ratio of 1.3 bacteria to every one human cell.
The trillions of bacteria cohabiting inside you are not restricted to your intestinal tract. They also colonize your skin—both on the outside and deeper beneath the surface layers—your mouth, saliva and more.
Most of the bacteria are in our gut. There they do a lot of good including:
- Making some of our vitamins, including vitamin K and some B vitamins
- 90% to 95% of serotonin, your mood regulator, is made in the gut
- 75% of our immune system is in the gut
- These gut microbes do everything from digesting otherwise indigestible fibers to guiding the development of the immune system to altering your metabolism. In fact, changes in gut bacteria can disrupt the hormones, such as insulin, that regulate appetite and energy. A healthy, balanced gut community is vital to your overall health.
However, not all organisms in the gut are friendly. Some are good, others are bad.
The bacteria ratio in the gut should be 85% good and 15% bad. On the high sugar Standard American Diet and many rounds of antibiotics, most people have taken over their lifetime, this ratio gets turned around. Sugar is a preferred food source for bad bacteria and fungi that produce yeast infections and sinusitis.
The gut flora is actually highly sensitive to modern insults, and studies show that an “unbalanced” gut flora is linked to numerous diseases. This includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression and many, many more.
If you suffer from inflammation look to your gut and balanced intestinal flora for relief.
“In fact, it’s become increasingly clear that destroying your gut flora with antibiotics and pharmaceutical drugs, harsh environmental chemicals, and toxic foods is a primary factor in rising disease rates.
The reason for this is because your gut is actually the proverbial gatekeeper for your inflammatory response, and inflammation tends to be a hallmark of most chronic diseases.
The inflammatory response starts in your gut and then travels to your brain, which subsequently sends signals to the rest of your body in a complex feedback loop. It isn’t important that you understand all of the physiology here, but the take-away message is that your gut flora’s influence is far from local. It significantly affects and controls the health of your entire body.” Dr. Mercola
Antibiotics translates to anti “against” + biotics “life” = Against Life
When people take antibiotics, especially for long periods of time, they often suffer from diarrhea for a long time after the infection has been eradicated.
This is because the antibiotics kill many of the natural bacteria in the gut, which shifts the balance and allows the “bad” bacteria to thrive. Antibiotics cannot target only the bad bacteria, it kills all of the bacteria. As the bacteria repopulates the bad bacteria feeds off the sugar and takes over causing health problems. It is always a good idea to take probiotic supplements for 30 days after taking a round of antibiotics.
Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
Avoid antibacterial soap, as they too kill off both good and bad bacteria, and contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistance and super bugs.
Avoid conventionally raised meats, eggs and dairy products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora.
Artificial food additives, GMOs in our foods, chlorinated and fluoridated water, and use of antibiotics are all detrimental to healthy gut flora.
Probiotics translates to pro “for” + biotics “life” = FOR LIFE.
Dozens of studies have provided strong evidence that probiotic supplements can help cure antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Probiotics have also been shown to be beneficial against IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, a very common digestive disorder. They can help reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms.
Some studies also show that probiotics may be beneficial against inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Probiotics may also be useful against Helicobacter pylori infections, the main driver of ulcers and stomach cancer.
When probiotics are taken in sufficient and therapeutic amounts they can do the work of crowding out pathogens and using the nutrients and space that would otherwise be used by the pathogens.
If you currently have digestive problems that you can’t seem to get rid of, then a probiotic supplement is something you should consider.
There is some evidence that probiotics can be useful for acne, rosacea and eczema, as well as other skin disorders.
Consistently reseeding your gut with healthy bacteria may be crucial for the prevention of virtually all disease, from colds to autoimmune disorders, to psychiatric disturbances and even cancer.
Get your hands dirty. Garden in the dirt where an unimaginably vast reservoir of ‘good bacteria’ reside
Open your windows
Don’t over wash your fresh picked fruits and vegetables picked out of your garden
Available at supermarkets, health food stores and pharmacies, probiotic supplements may be a convenient way to replenish the beneficial bacteria that naturally live in our body.
Every over-the-counter probiotic product is unique in the bacteria strains and amounts they contain. Some are shelf stable and others have to remain refrigerated. They are not all created equal and it can be confusing to choose which one to buy. A good probiotic is costly, cheap is not the way to go.
Choosing a reliable company will ensure the effectiveness of the supplement and whether it can benefit you. If you have any doubt, it’s always good to consult with your doctor or natural health care practitioner for further information about the right type of probiotics for you.
Another option is to consume traditionally fermented, living probiotic foods like:
- fermented vegetables
- raw apple cider vinegar
- kefir or yogurt. There is coconut milk and goat’s milk which is relatively hypoallergenic
Some of the beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are also excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides, which will also have a beneficial health effect by reducing your toxic load.
Most high-quality probiotic supplements will only supply you with a fraction of the beneficial bacteria found in homemade fermented veggies, so it’s your most economical route to optimal gut health as well.
Probiotics in our bodies, cultured foods and raw food ultimately derive from the soil, where an unimaginably vast reservoir of ‘good bacteria’ reside, assuming your soil is not saturated with petrochemicals. And really fresh, organically produced raw food picked right out of the garden or off the tree is an excellent way to continually replenish your probiotic stores. Food is always going to be the best way to support your health, probiotic health included.
Prebiotics are not alive. They are insoluble plant fiber which provides food for good bacteria while giving it a structure upon which to multiply. These include legumes, whole grains, onions and garlic, and fruits and vegetables, preferably raw. The best way to get your fiber is through food but there are prebiotic supplements to help you out if needed.
Since this fiber cannot be digested in your small intestine, it passes through your GI tract and remains undigested as it enters your colon. This is where your friendly gut bacteria begin to breakdown or “ferment” the fiber, allowing them to grow and repopulate.
Prebiotics and probiotics have somewhat of a “symbiotic relationship,” where neither can survive without the other. And as the nutrient that feeds your probiotics, prebiotics also help your friendly bacteria do their jobs more efficiently.
If you’re getting enough prebiotics, you should notice benefits in the form of less bloating, better digestion, and improved regularity; healthy weight loss; a general feeling of “lightness” complimented by more energy; and sustained blood sugar levels.
The Standard American Diet is rich in processed foods that contain little to no fiber, which means many people have a serious lack of prebiotics in their diet. Without prebiotics many of the probiotics will pass through the intestines without colonizing. This is why it’s no surprise that the occurrence of illness and disease is higher today than ever before.
You have the power to heal yourself, it is your birthright. And it is my mission to help you learn the many ways available to you.